4x4 Adventures Ltd Taunton, Somerset
4x4 Adventures Mad Monks Challenge 2011
Llanthony, 3rd/4th Sep 11
Sponsored by Wooldridge Demolition and Superpro Europe
Words by James Trembath and pictures by Edward Webber and James Trembath

Llanthony, what a fantastic area and where better to run a two day, special stage, invite only event. Right from the start it was decided to make the event driver orientated and technically difficult, the sections to be challenging and against the clock, and for the guys to compete as individuals but to rotate through the sections as a group. We also wanted to capitalise on why we do these events – to meet new people, have good fun and to get the right mix between the hard core competing and the social element. To that end we weren’t going to be rushing around all weekend like March Madness or the Interclub, there would be time to reflect and time to watch others and see how they do things. There was also a planned 4pm finish on the Saturday with no night section.

All the invited teams were known to us having competed with us in some form or other over the last 4 years. Relative newcomers Andy Baker, Kev Pocock and Nick Anderson were delighted to be asked and Nick in his true style immediately then volunteered to sponsor the event. Some of the old timers were coming back to give their vehicles a run out; even Steve Gittins and Mark Morgan were dusting off their old trainers (assuming Morgan owns a pair?) to come along for the weekend. Steve was last seen in Croatia stumbling around after cursing the standard Land Rover axle which had led to his early retirement from the Trophy event. Having just picked up a set of the new Force 9 axles from Ashcroft he was now keen to put them through their paces. Marc Dyer and Austin Jewitt, also running the force 9s had been down to enter but had to give up their place after the incident with Austin’s thumb at the Interclub two weeks before. Jason Farr and Jake Lloyd both had to pull their entries with vehicles not being quite ready and with De-Cider just around the corner they didn’t want to risk it. That left plenty of space for Jason Morgan from Nobbys Signs, Gwyn Lewis, Paul Radford (in the only non Modified vehicle), Andy Dawkins, The Smith family and the Billings. Finally we wouldn’t have been complete without Team Gunit, who after their taster at March Madness were keen to come back and see what else we had in store for them.

We were fortunate to pick up Nick and his kind offer of sponsorship from Wooldridge Demolition. He now joined Richard Fearn as an equal co-sponsor for the event. Richard from Superpro had kindly agreed to support us again this year after the success of our series last year. Superpro specialise in the 4x4 Suspension bush market and make pretty much any bush for any vehicle. Nick and Richard kindly provided the T shirts, competitors and marshals prizes for the weekend.

The stages were set to test both driver and codriver. With no navigation elements they were all purely against the clock as individual vehicles. There were three stages to be completed for each day. With the competitors split into two groups they each went to their first respective stage on Saturday morning. They walked the section and discussed it as a group before placing – if they wished, group vehicles as anchor points. They then completed the sections as individual vehicles before swapping the vehicles through the anchor points. The first SS (1) ran with a 15min DNF which gave them a leader order to head up into the woods to start SS3. SS1 was a short trials route that criss-crossed a small gulley/dingle running up the side of an open field. With a reasonably tight course and plenty of deep traverses to contend with there was certainly something to keep everyone on their toes, plus it gave them a taste of the weekend to come. There was no grouping for SS3 which had a 120min DNF and consisted of a 3-4 km meandering route the woods, taking in rocks, steep climbs and descents, bog and plenty of side slopes! The guys then finished the day with SS2 – this ran with a 20min DNF and consisted of transiting up a steep sided gulley and some of its adjoining tributes’. Again other group vehicles could be pre-positioned on this route to help as anchor points as dictated by the group prior to the first car starting.

The day started off on a roll for SS1. Kev Pocock with Dan Elias stepped up to the mark and were first off on SS1 putting in a creditable time for the first vehicle through, then Nick Anderson had a go. It would be fair to say that portals were not really the answer for that stage! Three rolls later and alot of extra work for Nev to extract Nick and they were through the course. Steve Gittins was the only one to drive the whole course over the weekend – he certainly has alot of confidence in those new Ashcroft Force 9 axles which he ably demonstrated with the full power of his tuned 4. 6 V8 at many opportunities. A quick tune for codriver Mark is probably next on the shopping list! Andrew Woodhouse had an excellent run on SS1 putting in the quickest time by a good 20s, although Dan and Bert Smith had done a fair bit of levelling by then after their front locker failed part way through the section!

Nick’s rolling didn’t end on SS1, after going over 3 times there he went on to roll twice on SS2 but at least managed to complete SS3 without going over. In fact he managed to keep his wheels on the ground for most of Sunday too.

Jason Morgan and Scott Benwell put in a great show on SS2 only to be bettered by Gwyn Lewis and Ger when Gwyn ended up right on his side after going through a ditch crossing – and stayed on his side until it came out of the ditch on the winch! You can see how the effect of a timed stage changes peoples approach to sections! Kev and Dan had a great run with a finishing time around 4mins, Gwyn and Jason aside they were well ahead of the field.

Gwyn Lewis was at it again in the woods where he and Ger put in the fastest time on SS3 and both came back with huge great smiles. Steve Gittins and Morgan found the going hard towards the end with no steering box and Mark certainly had his work cut out for him getting the vehicle to complete the stage. Kev Pocock meanwhile had ripped off his axle, which, with it ratchet strapped back in place, was attempting to complete the course, although eventually he had to succumb to an early retirement.

The Billings were not having that good a weekend. With some front axle component problems Luke had taken an early retirement. Clive had entered to then find his truck wasn't going to be ready in time, at which point he ably volunteered to be the event camera man!

Sunday ran along a similar format to Saturday with three SS to contend with. Again they had a short 15min DNF stage to start the day off before heading back up into the woods to attempt a 2. 5km route running with a 60min DNF. Once completed it was back down the hill for their final stage of the weekend.

Andy Baker had a good run through the woods until he suffered a burst connector on the expansion bottle. Returning to the campsite, it was soon repaired so as to allow him to get back out for the final SS of the weekend. Andrew Woodhouse from Team Gunit was at it again with a good time through all of the stages winning both SS4 and SS5.

Bert and Dan Smith were having a better day on Sunday after axle and CV failure on Saturday. The truck was now up and running giving them a fair crack of the whip on each of the three stages. Unfortunately, they were a fair way down on their points from Saturday but they did manage to complete the day. At least they had had a better weekend than their father Bob, who had pulled out last minute due to work load getting in the way.

Josh Jacobs and Paul Radford were running the only open axles at the weekend but in a very capable truck. Josh continued to wear his beanie despite the warm weather whilst Paul drove superbly and this time managed to stay within the limitations of his vehicle – well almost!

A big thank you goes our host Kris Murphy for the weekend and for his understanding and use of the land. We would also like to thank the marshalls for their help in running the stages, Clive Billing, Tim Jones, Mark Walford, David and Edward Webber, Kevin Williams and Jim Pugh.

1st Gywn Lewis and Ger Davies 1495
2nd Steve Gittins and Mark Morgan 1487
3rd Andrew Woodhouse and Mark 1419
4th Jason Morgan and Scott Benwell 1372
5th Nick Roll over Anderson and Nev Hudd 1009
6th Andy Dawkins and Carl Davies 976
7th Kev Pocock and Dan Elias 908
8th Paul Radford and Josh Jacobs 764
9th Andy Baker and Sid Leigh 585
10th Dan and Bert Smith 384
11th Luke Billing and Mark Pilling 42
12th Bob Smith DNS

Video clips of the event...

Some pictures from the event