4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
Bampton Drive Round Day – 20th Mar 11
Words by James Trembath, Video Clips by James Gibbs

Our last customer drive for Bampton took place on Sunday 20th Mar and what a glorious day it turned out to be. Not only was the weather superb but we also had our best turn out for this Bampton Series of drive round days with eight vehicles booked in. As we only run convoys with a maximum of six vehicles, the eight were split into two groups of four.

Tim Jones took on the role of leading one group consisting of Rob and Chris Phillips in their 90 and tdi Discovery respectively; James Gibbs and Matt Madge in James SJ complete with cage, and Anthony Counsell in his 90. This group headed straight to first drop before tackling Deep ruts (after having dropped off Chris’ Discovery enroute after it decided to stop running), Warrens Hills, Wet corner and then Middle wood.

Mean while the other group made up of: Niall, James and Ian in one of Ian’s lifted and large tyred tdi Discovery, Ben Procter is his very tidy completely rebuilt tdi 90, Steve White in his Range Rover and Martin Doyle in, a new to us and very rare Isuzu Vehicross.

Our first destination was Warm Up woods. With Ben bringing up the rear of the convoy he could keep an eye on the Vehicross and see how it performed in the rough stuff. It soon became apparent that clearance was going to cause the biggest issue for the vehicle. Despite its independent suspension it was hard going for the light weight vehicle in the Land Rover sized ruts. With 4 up in the vehicle it was also sitting quite low. After an extraction from the first set of ruts and a gentle trundle around the woods two of Martins passengers, Lee and Paris ‘jumped ship’ into a couple of spare seats of other vehicles. This helped a little with an increase in ground clearance and also gave Martin less to worry about. With it being such a rare UK vehicle there particular concern about the body work and not wishing to damage the vehicle. While this was going on Steve White had unwittingly managed to park his Range Rover in an even deeper set of boggy ruts and was helplessly stuck – its not like he hasn’t been in warm up woods before and knows where not to go!!! The winch was called into action again to extract him while Ben Procter was sporting one the biggest smile of the morning. This was Ben’s first real run out in the 90 since his re-chassis and she was running like a dream. With his new cage, wing bars and axle lockers Ben was keen to press the vehicle into action and it was performing brilliantly.

From Warm Up woods we were off down to first drop. With Martin parking up to have a look prior to committing he could get an idea of what we were up to and make a decision based on how the other vehicles faired. With Lee onboard in Bens truck there were certainly some muffled screams to be heard on the drop! That was after she had watched daughter Paris take the plunge and seen Niall in the Discovery slip to the bottom of the hill! Tackling the first long drop went without issue with all the vehicles easily making the climb to the top and a safe descent. Even the bottom axle twist exit from the stream went without a hitch. Martin had taken the gentle climb up to the top of first long drop but then encountered a few issues on his return to tarmac coming back down the same slope. Having to straddle the ruts due to his limited clearance he was slightly too far over to one side. The bank gave way on the rear of the vehicle and the chassis became grounded out. Time for the winch again!

With the Range Rover and 110 having struggled so much on the 6 Mar in Deep Ruts we gave this section a miss, it would certainly not of been feasible for the Vehicross to go through there and both Ben and Steve were only running 235. It would of been a struggle! We took the lanes and tracks up past deep ruts which were an ideal work out for the Vehicross before picking up a short tarmac section to take us across to Wet Corner and a stop for lunch with the other group.

Ben provided the entertainment over lunch as he launched himself into wet corner and promptly parked up in the corner. Lee soon had her feet lifted up to avoid the rising water level, while Ben had a strop out and the winch was soon connected from Tim’s vehicle to extract his 90. Anthony who had stated he would go in if someone else went first then bottled it which in reality was the sensible thing to do but we don’t tell him that. Especially as its totally out of character! Niall was also talked out of it by Ian who owned the vehicle! Normally keeping Niall and James Woods out of the water (in a tdi or V8) is hard work!

With the lunchtime entertainment complete it was across to Warrens quarry for the some of the more exciting drops and climbs that all have a good run out in case things should go wrong. There were certainly some expletives to be heard from Paris and Lee and the vehicles meandered around the quarry. The dry conditions meant we could tackle pretty much any part of the quarry we wanted and with a good dry access field coming in and out, some of the steeper and trickier climbs were also possible. The Vehicross gave one of the longish climbs here a go but couldn’t quite make it despite the 3.2 engine with tyres being the more likely cause of failure. The other vehicles were in their elements; well they were until the Discovery blew something in the drive-train – most probably a shaft on the rear. Dry ground means you can go almost anywhere but it is not forgiving to a heavy right foot! Ben was also finding the limitation of his tyres here with not having quite enough traction to make it on of the longer climbs. With the Discovery now effectively down to one wheel drive Ian managed to extract it to the top of the quarry where it was then towed to the top of the hill by the Vehicross. Which to give it its credit did manage to the job, but a heavier vehicle with better tyres would have been our choice for the extraction, it certainly wouldn’t have messed up the field in the process.

With middle wood, the sunken river and various bomb holes to contend with the Vehicross was dropped off enroute, near to the farm. With the group now down to 3 vehicles including the lead vehicle we made quicker progress down through the rutted tracks to the inevitable bomb hole. The washout on the left hand side is certainly getting bigger by the week. Nick who was sat in the lead vehicle was certainly very ‘surprised’ by the extent of body roll as we made our way through it – gob smacked would probably be a better phrase. Steve’s Range Rover, being slightly longer in the wheelbase eased through the hole without too much of an issue and with the right application of power managed to avoid the cross axle. Ben and Lee then took on the challenge at a nice slow entrance speed giving a demonstration of his new galvanised chassis!

The sunken river section proved a touch too much for the Range Rover this time round, so much so that Steve had to ask two of his passengers to jump out to reduce the weight of the vehicle where he was getting his body work caught up on the overhangs and tree roots.

Having completed the last river drive without hiccup it was then back to the yard, collecting the Vehicross enroute for a quick debrief and chat.

Video clips from the day