A tremen­dous ef­fort

First-time Winch Chal­lenge events don’t get much bet­ter than the re­cent Hawke’s Bay event. NZ4WD mag­a­zine’s Ashley Lu­cas ex­plains why!

NZ4WD - - HAWKE’S BAY WINCH CHALLENGE - Story and pho­tos by Ashley Lu­cas.

It was long over­due on two counts; firstly a Hawke’s Bay Winch Chal­lenge and se­condly a re­turn to what could only be re­garded as a proper winch chal­lenge for­mat with ac­tual winch­ing. Held on Whakama Ru­maru sta­tion at Crown­thorpe about 40 min­utes from Hast­ings, the Twin City 4WD Club had done a tremen­dous ef­fort for their very first at­tempt at or­gan­is­ing a winch chal­lenge event. Event direc­tor Wayne Love­joy is a past com­peti­tor in the prime of winch chal­lenges and still has the yel­low Suzuki he com­peted in 10-12 years ago. Wayne drew on his ex­pe­ri­ence in set­ting up an en­thu­si­as­tic team to as­sist with the plan­ning and ex­e­cu­tion of the week­end. The event was to be a full week­end event ini­tially start­ing Fri­day evening with night stages but there seemed to be re­luc­tance from com­peti­tors for this so all night stages were Satur­day night and con­tin­ued with more stages Sun­day morn­ing. With two­day events you have to “drive to sur­vive” just to fin­ish giv­ing fur­ther mean­ing to the old say­ing; “To fin­ish first, first you have to fin­ish.”

Three classes

Weather lead­ing up to the week­end was typ­i­cal heavy rain but seemed to clear for the Satur­day morn­ing start with com­peti­tors in three classes. The Chal­lenge and Mod­i­fied classes would do all the stages but Club class did the same stage but with a slightly dif­fer­ent track to keep them safer and three of stages they didn’t do them at all. Whilst there had been good in­ter­est ini­tially to the event only 10 ve­hi­cles com­peted af­ter one pulled out a day be­fore. Given the huge ef­fort put in by the Twin City Club and their helpers it was dis­ap­point­ing the turnout was so poor. With­out en­tries clubs are not go­ing to con­tinue to put events on. As it was three of the en­tries were first-time com­peti­tors.

First four

The first four stages of the morn­ing were in a small forestry block on the sta­tion and in­volved some tricky sit­u­a­tions if you put a wheel wrong. Stage 2 was a very long stage with sev­eral long winches up hills and also a slip­pery con­di­tions on the track, es­pe­cially on an off cam­ber down­hill sec­tion. A cou­ple of ve­hi­cles slid and got off line. Amongst them was Michael Dun­can, a 16-year-old in his first event in a Suzuki based ve­hi­cle he built him­self. As his winch man and men­tor he had Lance Good­man. Lance would be out of the ve­hi­cle giv­ing di­rec­tions and ad­vice and Michael was

driv­ing bet­ter than some of the more sea­soned com­peti­tors al­though over­all his time was rel­a­tively slow. That was be­cause while he had a well set up ve­hi­cle with V6 en­gine he only had a ba­sic low-mount Su­per­winch 9500 and an ag­ing bat­tery which would even­tu­ally cause fur­ther prob­lems later. Nigel Reid and Steve Franklin set the fastest time on that stage and also again on Stage 3 but on Stage 1 they were only sev­enth. Over on Stage 4 was the first DNF of the week­end when Stan Good­man and Ben Har­vey put the ve­hi­cle on its side. There was a bit of con­fu­sion as to whether they needed re­cov­ery or con­tinue them­selves as Stan is run­ning a hy­draulic twin-mo­tor Red Winch which needs the en­gine run­ning. They have a small elec­tric back up and used this to re­cover the ve­hi­cle and con­tinue but ran out of time. The top four on Stage 4 were all sep­a­rated by only 1 minute 13 sec­onds mak­ing the re­sults very close.

Wa­ter­fall stage

Af­ter fin­ish­ing the morn­ing stages it was over to a windy gully which es­sen­tially was once a river bed but now only had small pock­ets of wa­ter due to the rain pre­ced­ing the week­end. There had been much talk about the ‘wa­ter­fall’ stage which re­quired winch­ing up an old wa­ter­fall but that went with­out any prob­lem and was com­pleted by all in 10 min­utes or less. It was over on Stages 8 and 9 where there were mul­ti­ple winch­ing sec­tions that re­quired some thought on how to ap­proach each. Stage 8 at least four winches ( three for Club class) and in some cases five or six depend­ing on where the co-driver hooked the winch rope. It was a long stage and was clearly marked with pegs, ar­rows and bunting but still some didn’t take care in their nav­i­ga­tion which Mike Inns and Neil McCon­non can at­test to when they went the wrong side of a bunted peg and were even­tu­ally dis­qual­i­fied from the stage. They also had the mis­for­tune to be the only ones to have to winch down­hill when go­ing too slow and dropped a wheel into a hole. Bernie Konz and Ant Tangye tried to drive the first bank on the stage and nearly flipped the ve­hi­cle back­wards when it sat up­right. They could be heard laugh­ing and talk­ing about how they had nearly pooped them­selves in­stead on con­cen­trat­ing on the task and nearly missed the first big winch climb. Stage 9 was an­other long stage with the first winch be­ing a steep bank and then a drive up a gully with an­other winch be­fore the long climb. Fastest on the stage was Na­then Phillips and Camp­bell Phillips in the Jeep Wran­gler with a time of 15.52 min­utes well ahead of Nigel Reid’s 28.30.

Late in the day

It was get­ting late in the day and start­ing to get dark yet not all had com­pleted the stage. Bernie Konz started the stage de­spite him ques­tion­ing whether he should with dark­ness clos­ing in. Then af­ter halfway he was stopped due to the lack of light. Rather than do the stage again the next day he was given an av­er­age time of the other com­peti­tors. The BBQ was on and there was food in the mar­quee for all and tea and cof­fee avail­able with the gen­er­a­tor work­ing over­time keep­ing the urns hot as every­one pre­pared for the night stages. They were very close to the base camp but just out of sight so com­peti­tors couldn’t see and get an ad­van­tage. But for Na­then Phillips and Bernie Konz fin­ish­ing the night stages would see them re­tire from the com­pe­ti­tion. Bernie due to winch fail­ure and Nathan af­ter lit­er­ally blow­ing the trans­fer case in the Jeep apart. One of the com­peti­tors who had to do the Stage 9 the next morn­ing was Michael Dun­can. They did the first sec­tion OK but the drive up the nar­row gully proved tricky when the Suzuki dropped a wheel in the large hole that had formed in the track. While try­ing to winch out he then broke the winch rope. Lance Good­man was hard at work, even ly­ing down on the job, but that old bat­tery was their un­do­ing. With the ve­hi­cle on its side Michael turned the en­gine off and the bat­tery didn’t have enough life left to start the en­gine far less winch the ve­hi­cle out. They worked fu­ri­ously swap­ping over the spare bat­tery they were car­ry­ing and even one of those com­pact jump starter packs, but were un­able to get it started, and even­tu­ally called it when time ran out.

Break­ing win­dows

Else­where Nigel Reid was break­ing win­dows in the Suzuki which was start­ing to look a lit­tle bit ‘used’. Their times were slip­ping back and even on Stage 12 came away with the slow­est time of all by five min­utes. Dean Cur­rie and Ash Goddard were not do­ing too badly but still man­aged to beat up the ol’ Nis­san a bit more and break the rear side win­dow. They col­lected 60 penalty points over the week­end 30 on stage 14 alone. If they hadn’t got so many penal­ties they would have won the Club class as they were only 31 be­hind the win­ner. Just shows penal­ties do mat­ter, es­pe­cially when the num­ber of com­peti­tors is low. Stage 12 was an­other good stage with sev­eral winch­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. Af­ter a short winch it was to a rut­ted hill which every­one had to winch af­ter failed at­tempts to drive. Once again the team work be­tween Lance Good­man and Michael Dun­can came to the fore.Lance on foot ran to the base of the hill, looked up and con­fi­dently told Michael he could drive it. Talk about pos­i­tiv­ity and con­fi­dence build­ing but it was ex­actly what was re­quired. The Suzuki lifted wheels, sat side­ways for a mo­ment but con­tin­ued to climb the ruts to the top with great as­sur­ance and style. They also man­aged to drive an­other sec­tion most had to winch through prov­ing that in time and a lit­tle bet­ter prepa­ra­tion and winch; Michael is go­ing to one hell’va of a com­peti­tor, es­pe­cially if he can con­vince Lance to keep his own ve­hi­cle parked up and con­tinue do­ing the hard work.

Time to re­flect

While the re­sults were be­ing tal­lied and checked there was time to re­flect on the week­end. It was a very good event, es­pe­cially for a first time and it was pleas­ing to see a re­turn to a true winch chal­lenge for­mat over two days and night stages. Miss­ing was the deep mud bogs that kill ve­hi­cles, winches and co-drivers and prove noth­ing. The stages were well thought out with some tech­ni­cal type winch sec­tions that kept com­peti­tors on their toes. It was a fair event where out­right horse­power was never go­ing to win, and those that demon­strated good prepa­ra­tion, good team work and winch skills were duly re­warded. Hope­fully Twin City 4x4 Club will do it all again soon and that more com­peti­tors sup­port these events, even if it does in­volve a bit of travel.

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