third annual Skyjacker
Off Road Challenge in beautiful Monteagle, Tennessee was, once again,
a bit hit among the competitors. The event was put on by Tennessee
Off-Road, who frequent the trails in the area and know
all of the toughest spots to get to, and get back out of. The gang
have also competed in and won many competitions of this type themselves.
This combination fuels their desire to put on a first class event
that is as challenging to the competitors as it is fun.
up for the drivers meeting
The three-day challenge includes special tasks,
such as wound bandaging and tire changes, timed navigation, and
a time/speed/distance (TSD) rally. Thirteen teams took part this
year, some returning for their third event, some newcomers to
the competition side of off-roading, but all eager to do the best
they could. One team almost didn’t make it when they encountered
traffic from a local music festival on their way into town. They
were stuck for twelve hours, finally making it to the event just
fifteen minutes before start time.
meeting to discuss the coming day. |
teams were better-prepared for rallying than others.
the event was held on was both public and private, and part of
TOR’s preparation included leasing land and working with
local businesses and property owners. The City of Monteagle has
a history of welcoming well-planned 4x4 events, and competitors
were asked to respect the land and the town to ensure that welcome
would be extended in the future. As the name states, the event’s
main sponsor was Skyjacker Suspensions. Other sponsors included
Welders , ARB,
Jack Company, and BFGoodrich
day’s events included a tire change, kayak sprint, sand
drag, and two navigation exercises. The TOR gang frequented trails
for many months to make the navigation points quite challenging.
The navigation sheets provide GPS points, a photo, and a possible
score. Each team is provided with a Polaroid camera and the obvious
goal is to get as many points as possible. There are mandatory
waypoints that must be achieved, but the rest are entirely up
to the team.
for a Polaroid |
waypoints are tougher to get to than others.
is to find as many as possible, plotting their way with only a
list of GPS points and photos. The team’s photo must show
their vehicle exactly as the guide book photo is shown, with a
tire in the air, the rig up on a rock, or sitting next to a specific
tree, for example. Sounds easy enough? True, some were more obvious
than others, but the big points were to be had only by finding
the most out-of-the-way and most-difficult to duplicate waypoints.
Some advantage may have been had by teams who had competed in
previous years or by those who are able to ride on the trails
locally. But in the end it all came down to planning a good course
and knowing how to use a GPS well. As the team from Florida will
readily admit, knowing how to trail ride in rocky terrain was
also an advantage.
and Gil Perry traveled up from Brooksville, Florida in a full-size
Ford Bronco with Armageddon emblazoned on its sides.
The truck looked like it could go just about anywhere, but the
guys didn’t have much, or really any, previous experience
with technical driving over rocks. While this may have hurt their
scores, they were really good sports and left eager to come back
for another event that would allow them to practice without the
Kyle Updegrove and Eric Davis from Douglasville, Georgia, suffered
a setback on the first day with breakage. The first day’s
totals revealed Team 19, Tom Fitzgerald and Chris Jones to be
in the lead. These guys were the ones to beat from the beginning,
having won both the previous years competitions. Eight teams in
all had at least one member who had previously competed - some
in the same vehicles and others in new ones. A favorite is Team
10, Dan “Doc” Johnson and Sean Philyaw in a 1954 Willys
M-170. They said they enjoyed the event again this year, but wondered
whether or not all the competitors had honored the camping rules.
The rules basically state that each team must bring everything
they need and not leave camp except to compete or to get fuel.
and TSD's covered both paved roads and trails. |
had to be contended with while the clocks ran.
of a morning nav, a time/speed/distance rally and another evening
nav. We checked in at one of the mandatory waypoints to get a
glimpse of some of the competitors. We ended up just about in
the way as we got ourselves stuck right in front of the waypoint.
There was a bypass, however, and we watched some of the rigs climb
the rocky patch and try to position their tire just so.
said that the time/speed/distance rally was especially tough this
year. There were 225 minutes allowed total, with a five minute
window to arrive at the ending point in order to receive all points.
To prepare, each team had to determine what distance their individual
vehicle actually drove compared to a measured mile, since most
of the vehicles are too modified to trust their odometer anymore.
The TSD gives
only distances to travel and sketches with directional arrows.
There were symbols for creek crossings and some hints along the
way, such as when you were to be on a black top surface, or that
you were on an uphill climb. The challenge is all about the timing
and your ability to navigate with only simple directions. Another
nav followed the TSD rally, and Saturday also included a night
navigation. The day closed with Team 19, once again, being in
types of rigs were present for the event. |
officials waited quite some time at checkpoints.
event was held at the Shotcrete area and thankfully it remained
overcast for the early part of the day. The day’s events
were a little more relaxing in terms of down time for the competitors
while waiting their turns, but the day was action-packed, nonetheless.
We watched the local fire department truck in thousands of gallons
of water for the mud bog as the Skeet Shooting event was set up.
The driver and navigator from each team got ten tries each at
the clay targets that were shot from a trap accessory on the back
of a Land Rover D90.
building event always gets interesting, because there is a tendency
among some of the competitors to twist the rules a bit and put
on a show. There is a gully of sand that you must cross and two
logs lay beside it. The object is to build a bridge with the two
logs and drive over to the other side of the gully. In the beginning
the teams did this, and many did it well, and the crowd cheered
every time anybody made it across without slipping off the logs.
But some of the guys got impatient with all that and decided that
since the rules called for your front two tires to cross both
logs, but didn’t necessarily state that you had to build
the bridge itself, that they would just throw the logs down into
the gully crossways and basically gas it all the way through the
thing like Tonka toys in a sand pit.