Each year Land Rover Clubs in the United States and Canada are invited to compete in the 5 day long, Adventure Team Challenge, the winning team becoming the North American Land Rover Club Rally Champions.
This year saw an insurgence from down under when Norman Hall of Victoria teamed up with Colorado team mate, Larry Grubbs to enter this event in a 1990 Range Rover [Vehicle Details] as Team Colorado. They were representing the Solihull Society, the local Denver Land Rover Club and the State of Colorado. The week-long competition rally is designed to give Land Rover clubs the opportunity to have a representative team test their driving, navigation, and endurance skills against other Land Rover Clubs in North America. Participants were initially only told the start point for the event, this year being Medicine Lodge Kansas; from there they were at the mercy of event organizer, James Merriam, a former USA team alternate for the Camel trophy.
The teams were scored in Special Task events that fell into a number of different categories. Individual tasks included the following disciplines:
Driving Maneuverability (gymkhana courses, trials courses, maneuverability exercises, etc.)
Navigation/route finding (locating or following Waypoint locations using GPS coordinates, to reach the task finish line)
Orienteering (map and compass work)
Use of vehicle equipment (winches, snatch blocks, tools, etc.)
Physical Challenges (this is where fast, sometimes creative thinking came into play for building such things as rafts from barrels and rowing down the river and similar such activities).
In usual fashion organizers decided to start the competition off at 1 minute past midnight on Sunday night by waking all teams and sending then out on an orienteering task. This was compounded by the fact that teams were supplied with Map Grid points, and no maps, being forced to rely solely on GPS guidance. Teams finally got back to sleep around 2.30 am to start a mere 3 ½ hours sleep.
All teams were then given GPS co-ordinates to navigate to the days base camp of operations. This was to be the first of many such exercises whereby tasks and information was to be sort by teams as they found their way to the next designated location. The first driving event of the competition, a Gymkhana Course, was then attempted by all teams. This event required each team to navigate 2 laps around a gated course as quickly as possible. Team Colorado got off to a good start by winning this event. To then confuse teams the second driving event required teams to navigate the course in reverse direction with the aim of matching the average time taken driving in the initial direction. Again Team Colorado was able to win this event and get off to a great start.
The next event was to see teams follow a gated course through a muddy wooded area basically following a creek bed. Unfortunately Team Colorado was up first. Despite running 35 inch Simex Extreme Trekkers that had been bought over with the assistance of Chris Hummer specifically for the event, the Range Rover started to dig into the bottomless mud down to the axles in less than one car length. Disaster then struck as the front Ring and Pinion Gears decided to explode. Despite an extremely successful extended winching period with the new Husky 10 winch supplied by Superwinch, organizers decided to remove the Range Rover from the course and allow the next entry to start. Team 4 from Ottawa Canada in their 1972 Series III SWB Land Rover was up. Unfortunately their winch failed less than 1/3 rd the distance that Team Colorado had gone and organizers promptly cancelled the stage to attempt recovery of the two vehicles [a task that took some 4 hours].
Whilst the recovery took place other teams were sent out on a special navigation and water hunt task. This was to be the first stage Team Colorado could not attempt due to their break down. Following the recovery Larry and Norman set about removing the front driveline, including axles, C/Vs and drive shaft to allow the range Rover to continue in rear wheel drive only. Then off to start navigate a GPS co-ordinate course to the Little Sahara Off Road Park in Waynoka, Oklahoma.
This Little Sahara sand dune off road park is frequently visited by ATVs and Dune Buggies, Four Wheel Drives normally being banned from the Park. Fortunately organizers had gained special permission from Park authorities to allow access for the first time ever to Land Rover vehicles. Driving a heavy Range Rover in Rear Wheel Drive only across very soft sand dunes is not a recipe for success. As a result Team Colorado placed last in the first navigation exercise across the Dunes and requiring their withdrawal from the days events following the failure of their Bilstein 7100 series front racing shock.
The next exercise was to involve teams winching their vehicles up a 15 meter high Sand Dune using only their winch, shovel and spare tyre. Team Colorado was not able to get their vehicle out to the start point and hence was placed last with a Did Not Start result. Team Minnesota excelled at this event in their 1994 Defender 90.
A strange event was then conducted. All were in the middle of sand dune country, strange in itself given that we were in Oklahoma. Teams were required to construct rafts from rope, barrels and planks and paddle their craft across a pond, located at an oasis in the middle of the sand dunes, to retrieve a
token. This was an exhausting and very time consuming task.
It was then off to Kaw City, Oklahoma. Most teams arrived in camp between 5.30 am the next morning and about 7.00 am. All were awake by 9.00 am to finish vehicle repairs and prepare for the next day of events. Unfortunately the group had suffered some mechanical problems including broken shocks, electrical failures, winch failures and the like. When it was discovered that our film crews Range Rover was also undriveable we all packed up and headed for Wichita Kansas to get things back on track.
Most vehicles were repaired, however Team Colorado were not able to secure a replacement front diff as 4.10 geared differentials are not overly common in the Mid West USA. They therefore remained in 2WD.
Following a solid 3 ½ hours sleep teams awoke to then navigate via GPS Waypoints to Caney Bend, Kansas. Where more physical and mental tasks awaited. Prior to again navigating to our final destination of Disney Oklahoma. Unfortunately Team Minnesota broke down in a small town called Nowata Oklahoma due to fuel and electrical problems. Team Colorado elected to remain with them and try to keep them in the competition. By 2.30 am the problems had still not been found and both teams camped where they were only to find the next morning that they had camped in a used car lot in the middle of town.
Success arrived after only a little more work on the Defender and both teams raced off to Disney to attempt the last days events. Luckily both teams arrived just prior to any tasks starting.
Event 1 for the day was called the V-wire challenge. A winch cable was strung between three trees to make the shape of an elongated triangle. The teams started from a gate 40 feet away, Navigator and Driver then ran to one end of the wire and stepped on a barrel top. With the driver and navigator each standing on separate barrel tops they climbed on the cable and were to traverse the ever-expanding cable using a provided long pole. (The wire got wider than arms length in the middle so they need to use the pole to steady each other) If a member of the team touched the ground after stepping on the barrel tops or if the provided pole touched the ground or the cable wire, the team had to run through the start/finish gate and begin again. Larry and Norman of Team Colorado are both large blokes and the wire was not friendly to their combined weights. As a result they straddled the ropes hands one side, feet the other and prompting cleared the obstacle. Most other teams seeing this success followed their example although Team Colorado won the event.
Day 5, Event 2, the last for the competition, encompassed orienteering, driving and navigation skills. The teams left a start/finish gate and drove up a trail in a narrow ravine. Along the way there were four compass bearings left for them on trees. At those locations they got out of their vehicles, took the compass bearing and ran to locate a tree with one piece of a four-part picture. Once the picture was complete, the teams drove back to the start/finish as quickly as possible. Team Colorado suffered a major injury after starting when Norman Hall tore his right leg calf tendon. Fearing a possible major injury the team returned to the start point for paramedic assistance. Given the circumstances organizers allowed them to restart the stage. This time Norman was driving with an ice pack strapped to his leg whilst Larry had now become Navigator. Despite this handicap [is that leg cap] Team Colorado blitzed the event and won the stage.
The event saw all competitors stretched to their limits through mental and physical fatigue. Vehicles were pushed and sometimes broken but through it all a level of camaraderie developed between those who participated. In the end team Minnesota won the event [team Colorado helping keep them on the road], Team Colorado with our adventurous Australian came second and Team Ottawa from Canada came in third.
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