Some photos by Christina Worthing and Cody
Although the closure of the Sooke Hills (you can thank The Land Conservancy for that) has removed a great trail network from the Vancouver Island trail inventory, it still boasts some of the best 4x4 trails in BC. There are still hundreds, if not thousands of kilometres of long lost logging roads waiting to be re-discovered and Jo-jo and his crew from Island4x4.com are doing a lot of the discovering. They're also keeping the sport alive by organizing informal 4x4 trail jamborees and competitions. And that's why I'm sitting here bleary-eyed on the 5:15am ferry from Tswassen to Duke Pt. I'm on my way to take pictures at Redballz II.
Since this is an informal event, invitations to compete were sent privately the usual suspects in the fourwheeling community. This was to be an event by fourwheelers, for fourwheelers. It wasn't going to cater to spectators, so no public notice was given.
I know some people will argue that this stinks of elitism, but that's not the case. The policy was a simple matter of practicalities. They didn't have the manpower or funding to put on a "real" event, so they put on something much, much smaller. Think of it as a get together of a bunch of friends, which in many ways it is, because everyone already knows each other.
The event was laid out in three stages. Since I was only able to stay from 8:30am to 1:30pm, I saw only the first and second stages. Each team (driver and "swamper") put $40 into the pot, so that's $400 right there. Spectators were asked to donate $5 per person and half of those donations were put aside for future events, while the other half was added to the pot. The total pot (about $450) was split on a percentage basis among the top three finishers: 1st - 50%, 2nd - 30%, 3rd - 20%. Jo-jo welded up a trophy for the winner, and Lordco kicked in a $25 certificate.
The first stage was basically a series of tank traps which should have been wet and muddy. Unfortunately, the recent cold snap froze the water and hardened the ground. Traction was much better than the organizers had planned for so the competitors completed this stage much sooner than anticipated.
Stage Two began with the mother of all tank traps. It was a steep, 25 foot berm which dropped down into a deep pit on its far side. While in that pit, drivers had to somehow turn their vehicles 90 degree to the left, drive up a steep wall which ended in a vertical lip, drop into a trench and turn hard right, and then turn hard left, then right, and drop off into a bowl which emptied out into the same trench.
The first berm falls squarely into that category called, "photographs don't convey how steep it is." It was steep! It was "use your hands or fall on your ass" steep. Although the freezing temperatures made climbing it a bit easier, the patches of crunchy snow made climbing it harder. I thought the first vehicle would be at a disadvantage because it would have to dig through the snow patches before getting traction. The luck of the draw chose Dave Warner and his Cherokee as the first attempt. I've seen Dave climb steep obstacles before and if anyone could do it, he stood a good chance, but the snow patches made me (and everyone else) very doubtful. Another confounding factor was the fact that Dave rolled his Cherokee 4 times and then finished with an end-over-end about two weeks ago. This presented the possibility that he wouldn't use as much "go pedal" as before.
So he entered the timed area, positioned his Jeep at the bottom of the berm, and then launched it! His Intercos flung icy rooster tails as he made what looked like a very controlled, high rpm charge up an impossible berm. And to the shock and amazement of everyone watching, he beat it on his very first attempt. And once he crested the sharp ridge of the berm, he went downhill. I mean that literally and figuratively. The downhill side was just as steep and his Cherokee's longish wheelbase was a disadvantage in the narrow bowl at the bottom. His front bumper ploughed into the bowl's opposite wall and in his attempts to rock the Jeep back and forth to adjust his position, his front diff chewed up its ring gear teeth. That put him out of the competition for the rest of the event.
Rob Brooks was up next. He tried to fast crawl his way up the berm but the traction just wasn't there so he opted to winch up and over the berm. Once he was nose down in the bottom, and after a few back-and-forth attempts in 4wd, he shifted into 2wd (rear), hit the gas, and with his "swamper," Jay, pushing on the Toyota's back end, they were able to swing the back end around to the right. This set him up perfect to climb out the left side of the bowl. Of course, it wasn't a matter of simply driving out. There was that vertical ledge, after all. Rob got his front wheels over the edge and then Jay hooked up the winch and they quickly pulled the Toyota out of the bowl and into the trench.
Matt's big yellow Chevy was one of the biggest trucks there. He made a strong attempt to climb the berm but ended up slipping to the right and decided to winch before he hit the trees. Everything was going well until he crested the berm and tried to drive down the other side. Right in the middle of the crest, just a bit on the bowl side, there was a rock and a short stump. Matt's front driveshaft hit the stump and sheared off its CV joint. The berm had claimed its second victim. The broken shaft wasn't noticed until Matt had gotten his rear axle over the crest so he was stopped, facing downhill, while waiting for Dan's Toyota to be brought up to winch him back over the berm. Meanwhile, the Chevy's brakes were losing pressure (I don't know the details) so it keep inching forward while Matt was trying his best to keep up the pedal pressure. Suddenly, the inching forward turned into sliding forward (despite throwing some narrow logs in front of the huge tires) but it stopped after three feet because the winch line had finally been hooked up and the slide had taken up the slack. So the mighty Chevy was helped off the berm, just as it had helped Dave's Cherokee.
I didn't know Dan but the locals seemed quite excited when they saw his red Toyota drive up to the starting line. It didn't take me long to figure out why. He drove fast and he and his swamper paid close attention to Dave's and Rob's attempts in this stage. As soon as he lost forward momentum up the berm, they quickly winched up and over, and once they were in the bowl, they quickly did the 2wd burn out to slew the rear end around. And just like Rob, after bumping the front wheels over the bowl's edge, they immediately winched the rest of the way into the trench.
Their performance in the u-turn and drop back into the trench was similar to Rob's and Jay's, too, but much faster. Dan's Toyota didn't get into as precarious a situation as Rob's, either, but I'm not sure if that was due to the line they chose or due to the suspension differences. I don't mean to take anything away from Dan and Myles' performance by saying that they learned from the guys ahead of them. That's what you're supposed to do! Sometimes being the first vehicle into a stage can be an advantage, too. In fact, I think it would have been here except that the ground was frozen so hard that the traction stayed consistent for everyone. I wonder, though, if the competition might be made more fair if competitors weren't allowed to watch how the others performed in each stage? Of course, it would be less fun for the competitors (watching is half the fun) but for a more serious competition, I think it would be a good policy. Speaking of which, Jo-jo ran all the stages sequentially so that the spectators could watch every truck run every stage. The downside was that it took longer to complete the event than if he had run some stages concurrently. But he wanted the spectators to enjoy themselves and they certainly did.
Dan and Myles were the last team I was able to watch before I had to leave to catch my ferry home. They were also the fastest through Stage Two when I left. The rest of my report and photos will be from information and contributions from Jo-jo Poole and the other Island4x4 folks.
The winners of the Redballz II were Dan Bushwick and Myles Schafer. Congratulations, guys. Here are the complete results:
Jo-jo: Rob Brooks had the most insane/impressive run on Stage III. To give you an idea, Ingo ran it in about 35min., and Rob's run was under 6min. A jaw-dropping run.
I'll let Artur explain what happened (on the course) because I wasn't there, but I was there for the aftermath. Artur and Dave didn't get out of Victoria, until 8:15pm tonight. They were stranded on the island. lol
The bumper came of indirectly as a result of losing the front axle shaft. After losing the short side U-joint in the first hole we decided to complete the course in 3WD. We made it all the way around the course to the last obstacle, where the SWB trucks needed to winch up the vertical bank (after a stylish spare tire stand). Turns out that the pass. side wheel (the one without drive) was stuck in the undercut and as I was winching with the nose up and cable at nearly 90 degrees I needed this wheel to try and drive up. Instead it was stuck in the undercut and the winch simply compressed my suspension into the bank and proceeded to act on the bumper mounts in the least desirable way, “torquing” in down in relation to the frame and simply ripped the nuts out of the frame. I am pretty sure it contributed to the number done on the rest of the frame and laid the bumper down for a little nap. It cracked the front cross member in the process and tweaked the frame inwards cracking it in a few spots for a good messure.
Just wanted to thank everyone that helped out:
The really amazing thing is that this event took place on a bunch of tank traps that were built to de-activate a road. Why is that amazing? Because the Island4x4 guys visualized an awesome course which most fourwheelers wouldn't even recognize as being drivable. It just required some creative thinking. Some of the mainlanders who participated have been inspired so we may see something similar here later this year.
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