Forget plasma rope, Giggle-Pin twin motor winches and 30 plus short sharp stages in a days’ extreme off-road competition, Teams Recovery is all about traditional wire ropes, keto clips, snatch blocks and as few as three stages in a day.
Almost as old as off-roading itself (the Interclub Trophy goes back as far as 1982) TR pits teams of 6 (3 drivers and 3 runners) in a mix of Club, Bush and Trials Trucks, with the odd Side by Side mixed in, against each other, the clock, and the terrain.
It is a matter of strategies (most of which don’t survive the 1st 100 meters), team work, vehicle preparation, and pure blind luck.
Round 1 of the 2022 series was hosted by the South Waikato 4WD Club in a disused farm quarry near Matamata, and attracted teams from South Waikato (Glenn D’Ath, Mike Dodds, and Shane Southwick-Hazelden), Bay of Plenty (Carl Goodall, Andrew Garner and Rick Bell) and Rodney 4WD Clubs (Rodney A: Dean Aspinall, Caleb Thompson, and Matt Grieve, and Rodney Incompete: Dave Morgan, Sam Cole, and Anthony Barr), and the Eastern Bays Twin Diffs Club (Phil Hobart, Kurt Johnson, and Shane Southwick-Hazelden – doing double duty).
In a break from tradition, the first two stages were held virtually side by side, at the same time.
Stage 1 was a steep sidling which involved a sharp uphill turn towards the bottom which followed by a drop to the finish.
The sidling was so acute the trucks all had to be anchored by a line from their roll cages through a snatch block attached to a tractor placed at the top of the hill. The line was then attached to the front of a team mates vehicle and fed out through the pulley to allow the on stage truck to move forward without rolling.
The timing between drivers was so critical more than one truck was brought to a halt either in danger of rolling over as the anchor was eased too quickly, or with the downhill wheels clean off the ground as the anchor line pulled tight.
All the teams cleared the stage comfortably, with the Eastern Bays team taking a 2 minute win from South Waikato, who were in turn less than a minute ahead of BOP.
Stage 3 meantime turned on the drama from the start, with Rodney Incompete in immediate trouble. Cole, in both the driver and trucks first competition, and the first truck on the stage, ended up being rolled onto his roof at the top of a very steep cliff.
The V6 Holden powered Surf/Hilux finished the stage but retired from the event with CV failure.
Team BOP were then in even more trouble, with Carl Goodall, in the little Suzuki, being lowered down the first section of the cliff landing on his front bumper, and unable to move.
A relatively simple but time consuming sideways recovery got the Zuke out, and back to the top of the cliff, but for Bell in the big Safari it all went very wrong. Like the Suzuki, the truck was totally embedded on its nose at the bottom of the drop-off.
But at 90 degrees to the track he was able to be extracted by Andrew Garner, who had cleared the hazard in his Ultra 4 Buggy. It didn’t get any better though; in the next section of the stage the Nissan rolled over with its roof against the cliff, and the truck standing on it’s rear bumper, in a big cloud of smoke.
Eventually the Nissan was recovered, looking a little second hand, but the team had run out of time and scored the days only DNF.
Learning the lessons from the first two teams experiences, South Waikato lowered Southwick-Hazelden down the big drop backwards, from where he was able to drive across to the climb, be reconnected, and towed straight back up.
Following the same procedure D’Ath and Dodds in their respective retired Trials Trucks were able to complete the stage in just 8 minutes.
Buoyed by the success of that run, Southwick-Hazleden tried to go one better as lead car for his Eastern Bays team, and attempted to drive the climb under power, resulting in a massive back-flip.
The car landed upside down, and rolled over backwards onto its wheels, still running, and Shane lined the climb up again. This time though, he let the team tow him to the top.
Because of the tumble, Eastern Bays lost almost a minute on South Waikato, and the two teams enjoyed a twenty minute gap on Rodney A in third.
Saving a fearsome looking Stage 2 for later in the afternoon, the field moved over to the other side of the quarry to a much milder looking Stage 4, and a series of short sharp climbs and descents of a 2 metre high bank, finishing up with a final climb using a tow point 2 meters up a tree.
Competitors had to connect their own recovery equipment to a tree protector via a ladder supplied by the event organisers.
Eastern Bays were first up, and completed an almost perfect run through. Johnson had set the team up for a good time when he managed to blast up the first section in his Chev V8 D-Class Trials Truck, saving the setup time taken for a tow.
Then Phil Hobart in his V8 Landcruiser ex Trials Truck, missed a marker, and needed to be towed up and lowered again by Southwick-Hazleden, to stop the clock at 17 minutes, and give the following teams a target to chase.
Next up were Rodney A with Morgan substituting for the broken Sam Cole.
Despite a couple of valiant efforts by Morgan in the beautifully presented V8 Lexus powered Zuke replica, he was unable to emulate Johnsons feat and the team had to set up a reverse direction tow provided by Aspinall in his Lexus powered Winch Comp Truck.
Their problems were compounded when the Lexus and Thompsons Polaris were unable to get Aspinall up the last climb to the finish, and they had to set up a double purchase pulley system.
By the time they got everyone across the line, they had taken 14.4 minutes.
Morgan was straight back into the action with his Rodney Incompete team (with BOP’s Goodall substituting the Zuke for the now withdrawn Grieve), and with a very controlled and co-ordinated effort, they took the lead for the stage, beating Sth Waikato by 4/100ths of a minute.
So the pressure was on Eastern Bays, who again had Southwick-Hazleden substituting in, but then D’Ath rolled the Daihatsu (yet another ex Trials Truck) and Shane was unable to match Johnsons performance climbing the bank, which meant they had to set up an extra winch, their stage time blew out to 17 minutes.
BOP had issues with Garner going off track and needing to realign a tow, and struggled to get Bell up the last climb, so were slowest on 21 minutes flat.
By the time the dust had settled, and the teams returned to the other side of the quarry, and Stage 2, South Waikato had overtaken Eastern Bays, and held a 7.4 minute lead, with Rodney A still 20 minutes behind.
Stage 2 was the white knuckle ride for the day. An almost 5m high, virtually vertical cliff the teams had to traverse, with not quite enough room between the bottom and the pegs to allow a truck to be lowered, realigned, driven around, and then towed back up.
With the delays created earlier in the day, the planned rotation of each team starting first on one stage had gone by the wayside, and Eastern Bays were first up again.
Johnson took the lead, with a wire from his reel keto clipped to a strap around his roll cage, run up the hill, and shackled to Hobarts Landcruiser.
As Johnson drove down and across the cliff face Hobart controlled his angle to the cliff. As Johnson manouvered across the cliff face, the front of the buggy came up, and with the pressure on from the tether rope, he was able to drive back up to the finish pegs.
Next came Hobart with the same set up, but with the weight of the Cruiser, the plan was that he would traverse closer to the bottom, then a second rope from the front would be attached to Southwick-Hazelden at the top of the cliff and him and Johnson would tow Hobart straight up. Easy!
First deviation to the plan was when both ends of the rope ended up at the bottom of the cliff, and one of them needed to be at the top, so a bit of abseiling was required to get it back up again.
Then, through a combination of the angle of Shane’s buggy, and the double duty it had been doing, it ran out of fuel, and the clock was stopped, while a crew man was despatched to the pits for more.
Meantime Hobart’s Toyota had been eased down to the bottom of the cliff for safety (and probably comfort). While the crew stood around waiting patiently for the fuel to arrive, they were subjected to constant helpful advice from their opponents and spectators alike.
With the buggy refueled, and running, the clock was restarted, Hobart was reattached, and the rest of the plan came together flawlessly.
The plan for Southwick-Hazelden was pretty much the same as for Johnson, but the rope tension wasn’t controlled quite as well, and at one stage the buggy was lying on it’s side at the bottom of the cliff, but the tether did it’s job and he was hauled back up to the top.
Despite all the drama, the team set the fastest time, with BOP continuing to recover from its slow start to the day to finish 2nd, ahead of Rodney Incompete, with Eastern Bays an uncharacteristic 4th.
Meantime, Stage 5 was throwing up it’s own surprises.
First up BOP got a great start when Andrew Garner drove the first climb, in fact he drove the whole stage, and was able to tow both team cars through, with the only section of the stage requiring a bit of thinking being the last descent.
Goodall was used to lower Bell to stop him going end over end at the bottom, while Garner was connected to the front to ensure he didn’t bury the nose, Bells Nissan then towed the Zuke down, with the runners hanging on to a rope to prevent the endo.
It was a very controlled run, and the team set a very quick time of 13.41 mins as a target for the following teams.
Remakably South Waikato then exactly matched the time, which was going to be good enough to secure their overall win for the day.
Eastern Bays were not going to be able to retake the lead they had lost a couple of stages earlier, but it would require a disaster for them, with a 27 minute buffer, to lose their second place to Rodney Incompete.
And it nearly happened! Johnson, attempting to drive the first climb, overcooked it and took a heavy back-flip to land completely upside down at the foot of the hill.
Fortunately for the team, both car and driver were deemed fit to continue, and a more circumspect run through following Johnsons recovery, saw them stop the clock at 17.36.
Neither of the Rodney Teams posted competitive times on the stage coming home 4th and 5th, with Rodney A’s 43.36 minutes not enough to hold off the fast finishing BOP, who relegated them to last for the round.
It’s interesting to speculate on how BOP would have fared if not for the disastrous DNF on Stage 2, but in the end the South Waikato team took a relatively comfortable 15 minute win from Eastern Bays, who were an even more comfortable 38 minutes ahead of Rodney Incompete.
From Matamata the series moves on to Kaukapakapa, where the Rodney Teams host Round 2.