Viking Ragnarok Challenge: Event Report
Complex off-road challenges awaited the sixty competitors who did battle at Viking 4x4 Club’s recent Ragnarok Challenge in Northamptonshire, sponsored by Alkmonton Tractors.
Over the weekend of May 14th / 15th, the Viking 4x4 Club ran its first Ragnarok interclub challenge. This was for teams of five trucks, one of which could only be fitted with one winch and no traction aids – an appealing concept, as the event was a complete sell out with a full capacity of six teams entered.
Competitors from all over the UK, plus a crew from Ireland came along for the event, making a total of 30 trucks and 60 competitors. Timing was tight, but everything worked like clockwork. Marshals were briefed at 08.30 and sent off to their sections and the driver’s briefing was held dead on time at 09.15. Once the briefing concluded competitors headed off into Weekley Woods to be at their sections in readiness for a 10.00 start.
Team 1 started as section 1, Team 2 at section 2 etc. Every section had a 45 minute DNF time and the next section would start at 11.00, whether the team was there or not. There were also a number of punches in each section and all the trucks in the team had to get the punch in order to score.
Day 1 – Team tempers and triumphs at Weekley Woods
At dead on 10.00, the peace and tranquillity of Weekley Woods was shattered by 30 revving engines as 60 fired-up competitors started the weekend’s campaign. Most challenge crews are used to competing on their own and very seldom have they ever had to work in conjunction with anyone else. However, working as a team of five involved a level of complexity seldom encountered and involved a completely new approach to traversing through a challenge section. Rushing things created carnage, so slow, steady and methodical was the fastest way to progress. Team 1 which featured Allen Sharp and Duncan Smith in the lineout would be the team to beat, but the other five teams were very eager to knock them off their perch at the Ragnarok.
On their first section, only three of the teams managed to get through their sections within the 45 minute deadline. Four teams managed to collect all five punches in the section before being moved on by the marshal. The other two teams had all sorts of mechanical difficulties to contend with, all trucks in Team 4 managed to collect two punches in their sections but Team 6 had the unfortunate distinction of being first through section 6, which was the only section with bonnet level water to contend with; they both ran out of time and collected no punches. One truck in the team lost a front diff and a rear half-shaft so this had to be quickly recovered to the pits for repairs if the team were to have any kind of success. In fact, this one small water trap was to cause problems for half the teams. One member of Team 3 refused to enter the water as he knew it would be terminal for his petrol V8 and one member of Team 5 broke down in the middle of the water with a wiring fault. The winchman had to fix it while the driver sat patiently up to his waist in water inside the truck.
Teams were allowed to carry on without the full complement of trucks, but if any less than five turned up for a section, they would automatically get a zero time score. However, they were still able to accrue punch scores for as many trucks as collected all punches in the section. So if four trucks entered a section and all got punch 1, the team would get 400 points.
Teams with no breakdowns and a quick section time were at a huge advantage, as they could saunter over to their next section, check it out, plan their method of attack and have some down time before the next start time. However, any team that left their section after the full 45 minutes would only have 15 minutes to fix any issues and get to the start of the section in time for the hourly starts. So steady and reliable was far more successful than hell for leather and breakages.
Team 1, led by Allen Sharp were definitely in the slow and steady category. Their section times were good but were beaten by Team 4 on four out of the six sections, however they were to take a DNF on 2 sections in the afternoon due to a breakdown which was to cost them dear. Reliability proved to be the major factor on the results and the number of breakdowns had an incremental effect on temper levels within each team.
The weary crews returned to the paddock by around 17.30 and scores were collated. Things were close between Teams 1 and 4, but Team 2 were also snapping at their heels. Some way behind but still in contention were Teams 3 and 5, separated by just 100 points, but Team 6 were languishing behind, having taken a DNF on all of the day’s sections. The main thing though, was that they were still collecting punch scores, having fun and enjoying the event.
Day one scores were announced and then it was time for Sam, the catering man to serve up 85 meals for hungry challenge crews, organisers and marshals.
It’s amazing the way challenge teams somehow manage to repair their trucks no matter what the problem but possibly the most amazing yet, is a problem faced by Team 5 led by Jake Cooper. One of their trucks was running a Lexus V8 with an auto box, but the box had packed up. Amazingly one of the other team members had one in his garage in Cannock, so they drove the 160 mile round trip, swapped the boxes around in the paddock, and were ready to compete again on Sunday.
Day 2 – Digging deep at Deep Scar
Day 2 dawned as warm and sunny as Day 1 had been. Today’s activities would involve another six timed sections, all in Deep Scar. Though The Scar has a fearsome reputation, the sections would be no more difficult than the previous day. The big problem was the difficulty in manoeuvring 30 trucks around each other while moving between sections in the narrow confines of The Scar.
Amazingly, all six teams were still going and most teams had a full complement of five trucks. Team 6, Stuart McClurg’s Team WKD had a few issues, so they decided to give the first section a miss. This was probably for the best as their first section was Section 12 at the far end of the site. Though all five of their trucks were still going, a couple of them were struggling with various mechanical problems and making their way back up the site to get to Section 7 at the near end would have been a challenge in itself.
Team 5 was down to four trucks as the Lexus auto box swap was still on the go when proceedings started. This truck joined them later but sadly one of their team had to drop out when the driver developed severe cramp in his leg.
Team 4 was pushing hard to try to compensate for taking two DNF’s on day 1 and took fastest times on three of the days’ sections. Team 2 were also pushing hard as they were in with a fighting chance of catching Team 4; they had the fastest times on 2 sections. Team 1 had the overnight advantage and knew they could continue with their steady, methodical approach which would give them reasonable section times without risking too many breakages. They had the fastest time on one of the day’s sections.
Things remained tight between Teams 3 and 5, but Team 5’s scores slowly slipped away as they were unable to set any section times due to being missing one team member.
The event ended at 16.30 and the battle weary crews returned to the paddock and loaded up their trucks. The numbers were crunched as soon as the marshals time sheets came in and the results were ready to be announced by 17.30.
It came as no big surprise that Team 1 had won the first ever running of the Ragnarok Challenge on 42,494 points. As well as the very smart winch hook trophies for each truck, they also got two gallons of oil each from event sponsors Alkmonton Tractors and a goodie pack from Llama 4x4.
Team 4 had given them a very good run for their money to take second place on 40,816 points. Had they not had the two DNF’s on Day 1, they would have been giving Team 1 something to sweat over.
Similarly for Team 2, they suffered only 2 DNF’s on Day 1. They had taken three fastest section times and were in a very respectable 3rd place on 36,634 points.
The event was a huge success and enjoyed by all so it looks highly likely that it will be run again next year. A huge thank you has to go Alkmonton Tractors, Llama 4x4 and to the marshals, without whom there simply would not be an event.
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