4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Wellington Daily Driver Challenge, 4th Oct 08
Words by Sam Woodbury
This DDC was the second I have attended, having thoroughly enjoyed the first one, which was also my first ‘proper’ off road experience since buying my 90. This one felt more like a challenge event from the start, with far better prepared vehicles than my own attending, my codriver Steve and I were initially the only one without a winch! Still, this was some step up from being on road tyres at the last one.

The even started with the usual meet up at the car park field and then going off on our own to find punches. For us though, we had to wait for 15 minutes to start the special stage which was located in the car park field. In the past I may have gone to find a punch before the start time, but last time I attended a challenge event, we got stuck every punch just before we were due at the SS, so this time I wasn’t going to risk it!

We lined up at the start of the SS, and looked out at a series of canes and logs with a ball strung up to a tree! I knew there had to be a twist somewhere, and waited for our instructions. This was soon to come, when we were handed a pair of goggles for me to wear, and told to reverse up to the start. It may have been a good idea for my co-driver to make sure he had read the instructions, and for me to understand them, but we neglected this minor detail and set off, Steve running alongside the vehicle giving me ‘left hand down, right hand down’ instructions to guide the vehicle along the course, around the tree with the ball which we had to make contact with, and back again. It is an amazing test of trust between driver and co-driver, and how much you rely on sight when driving, and how unnatural it seems when that is taken away, with you constantly waiting for a crunch. Unfortunately, we made a few mistakes, by going through some of the canes in the wrong direction, so only two counted as well as the ball. We did the course in 7 minutes, which was also the slowest time! Oh well there is always next time!

With this task completed, we then headed into the woods at the main site. We collected a good few on top of the site, before heading down to the bottom and finding more, coming back up several times to make the descents to the ones halfway up the hill running the length of the site. The hillside was incredibly lacking in grip, with the car trying to continue downwards despite any turns of the wheel. This included nearly hitting a tree a punch was attached to, but missing it by inches. One punch proved too much, with us needing to be winched out by the only other competitor we had seen for over an hour, the Jeep of Grenville Maddox and his co-driver, who kindly did so.

We got another punch and then decided to head off to the quarry site. This is a much trickier site, which without a winch is impassable in many areas. We arrived through the mud run that forms the main track in, then met up with Simon Parsons and co who were marshalling. There were a few interesting but easy punches dotted around, but also one that required driving very close to the edge of a steep drop into a mud pit. We managed to get the punch, but all attempts to get back out were met with the rear of the vehicle sliding ever further towards the edge of the pit. After a few minutes with no success, we decided that it was time to get winched out by Simon. Then we headed off to a part of the site which can be reached by either a track from one end or a steep drop at the other. As we don’t have a winch and the drop would be impossible to climb without one, we decided to come into it from the drop and drive out the track end. There were three punches in this part of the site, but one was across very chopped up ground and when going to look at the other, I sank up to knee level in bog, so decided this would probably not be very good ground either. The third was along the track, and the main one we had intended on getting. I drove down the bank, along the track to the mud pit that was beside the tree the punch was attached to. As previous vehicles had chopped up the exit from the mud pit quite badly, 10 minutes of shovelling had helped to fill in the deep ruts that were beyond the ground clearance of my vehicle until the exit was a smooth ramp. I carefully dropped the 90 into the pit, as close to the tree as possible, until the vehicle slid into some submerged ruts on the left hand side, hanging the vehicle up on a protruding root from the bank, suspending the two nearside wheels and loosing all traction. Some 15 minutes of trying to get the wheels in contact with the ground again didn’t succeed, so again the marshals were called. If my vehicle had been equipped with a winch, it would have been a fairly straightforward pull off the root with copious amounts of trees around, and the work on the ramp was in vain. After being recovered from the pit, we were back to the original place we entered the site. From here there was a punch up a deeply rutted track I had not yet tried. I knew the size of the tyres previous trucks to try this had used, and they were larger than mine, but as the closing time for the quarry was drawing close, we decided to give it a try. At first it went very well, but then the ruts suddenly deepened further, and yet again we were stuck. Luckily Simon’s truck was little more than 50 meters away and a quick winch again, and we could continue. Again, had my vehicle had a winch I am sure we would have been able to do a self-recovery.

We were heading back just in time to see Jeroen Van Der Hoft attempting a punch up a very steep bank to a punch at the top in his standard 90. Like me, he did not have a winch, and managed to get very far up the slope. It was staying there long enough to punch the card that was the problem when we attempted this! We arrived back at the main site and drove around looking for any punches we had missed, until we came to a track we had not yet driven. It lead around the back of the site, with a punch midway along it.

Some pictures from the day