Bulldog Trophy 2001
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THE BULLDOG TROPHY with B F Goodrich Tires and Optima Batteries
Redcoats; Keith Bettis, Christine Fairey, Steve Wilson, Ian & June Herron, Colin & Martin Jones, Pete & Mark Braggins, Donald Sutherland, Alan & Gordon Craig, Ewan Anderson, Janet Ather, Steve Finney, Claire Haigh, Steve Rose, Colin Macnee, Billy McCauley, Stuart Green and Ian Hamilton.
There were 48 4x4's lined up in the driving rain for the prologue of this years Bulldog Trophy. As Drumclog sank slowly beneath the rising waters of the torrential rain, 96 crew strained to understand the oft times complex instructions. Redcoats were busily attaching punch cards, checking standard class entrants for compliance with the rules on diff locks & winches, and ensuring everyone had disinfected (though under the arms seemed a bit off!) In that lineup we had everything from bog standard Jeeps and 90's through V8 Suzuki's, lifted Defenders, mighty Mercedes, Troopers, Ibex, Eagle Jeep, One Tens and Lightweights. The prologue was a speed task, or rather it would have been had the surface not resembled a paddy field. Softly softly was the order of the day in order to finish quick but in the points. The ten point bonus was welcome but whether the ensuing visit to Prison Rough was a bonus is hard to say.
The prologue split the entry in two halves to ensure a fair spread through the days tasks. Prison Tough, as it was soon nicknamed, involved plotting punch locations and then reaching them in their allotted pairs. For those not familiar with such things 'punches' are a Club Off Road adaptation of orienteering. We were the first to actually use them for the first time on the Rhino Charge charity event in 1997. A punch card is affixed to the 4x4 a 'punch' is then fixed to a tree or stake at some remote location. Take 4x4 to punch, punch the card and we can prove that the vehicle has been where it was supposed to be, easy. Well it would be if some sadistic so'n'so didn't insist on putting the punches in places where punches really shouldn't be!
Back on Drumclog, which was reached via 'the Mother of all descents' as one eloquent Trooper driver put it, there were equally tough decisions to make. Two navigation tasks that involved some accurate compass reading,a fit navigator and occasionally ballistic driving style. Picture clues were pretty universally disliked (That's one up to us.) but pictures made points so there wasn't a great deal of option other than to get on with them. Hefty penalties were intended to ensure everyone was back on time. The only late team? The only team with two lady co drivers, make of that what you will, I'm saying nothing! Despite the mornings persisting down rain the afternoon brought forth sunshine and warmth, washing over the fields and moors lifting spirits and dampness in equal measure. The sweet aroma of cooking peat, the growl of powerful motors and the general hum of activity made Drumclog a moving place to be.
At tea time a convoy of hungry off roaders descended on the Loudon Arms where some much needed calorie replenishment was required before the rigours of the night event. This part of the Bulldog is my favourite. It is also the part that has decided more Bulldogs than any other. The points aren't large (480) but the time limit is 2 hours and it is a sudden death finish. Go over time, even by 1 second, and zero points. The previous year the Ibex Team (Redpath & Barrass) did just that and lost the Bulldog with it though they weren't to know it at the time. The start is in the pitch dark. The huge moor is skewered with gullies and bogs. The only clue to the punches whereabouts are a set of headings and the only identification is CoR's ever so generous 1/2 inch strip of reflective material on the stake. Easy? So is parachuting with an umbrella! Two hours. From afar the start is akin to watching a starburst rocket. A huge eruption of white lights spreading chaotically into the inky blackness, breaking into lesser and lesser streaks. Unlike starbursts many of these laser lights came to a sudden standstill, sucked in by the black hole of an unforgiving terrain and an over eager crew. Others went higher or wider flickering erratically as the light source bumped and ground its way over the obstacles of both moor and man.
Though the entrants couldn't know it as they went into that nightmare task, three teams were all in contention for the Bulldog Trophy. Last years winners Team 1 had 765 points in the bag. New team Hemmings and Church (Team 11) had 950 points and Simon Buck/Eddie Priscott (Team 8) had 20 points up on them. It is such a fine line between daring and disaster. This year the Ibex team made no mistakes and never faltered once. They were the only team to bag all 8 punches and were back with time to spare and a sweat to be proud of. Team 11 got 7 punches and sneaked back in safe within the comfort zone. Team 1 who also spent a long night over time on this very moor the year previously played safe and brought in 5 punches under time. The Buck/Priscott team however was to be the moors human sacrifice for the evening. Despite what was described as some desperate driving they were 10 minutes over time and dropped from first to third. In company as strong as this that was like being relegated to the second division. Like those teams before them who have known the bitter taste sudden death on the night event they took it in Bulldog Spirit, even posing for the camera with the clock showing ample evidence of their sudden fall from grace.
Just let us leave the Bulldog proper for a moment and take a little trip down a side street with me to the other side of the Bulldog Trophy. Sometime just before 0700, with the rain beating a steady rythm, I saddled up the Kawasaki Quad with stakes and punches and headed off into the wilds of Drumclog to fine tune the days punches to the likely weather. Quads are, without doubt, brilliant fun BUT like every other 4x4 they aren't infallible and both can, and do, get stuck. They also have a nasty habit of biting the hand that controls it. Whizzing through the river in an attempt to wash off some of the mud now liberally encasing both man and machine, an error of judgement saw the the front bull bar crashing into the banking. The hapless rider shot over the handlebars landing face down in what was rapidly identified by both smell and texture as sheep poo. It has to be confessed that at that precise moment there was a definite thought of, 'I am 50 years old. It is 7am sunday morning. Most sensible folk are in nice warm beds yet I am wet, tired, muddy and now smell like a rams backside. It is raining. The quad is probably stuck and in less than 2 hours there are going to be 48 4x4's lined up straining at the leash to be off on the final day.' Thankfully the latter thought brought everything back into perspective. That's exactly why we were all here. The quad was hopelessly stuck, there was nothing to anchor the winch to and the shovel/ground anchor was back at base. Nothing for it but to trudge off back to camp. Joy of joys Redcoat Colin Jones heaves into view with his 90 on an early look at his section for the day. Frantic waving and off he gallops to my rescue........ only to grind to a halt in a mud wallow. Colin and sidekick Martin gallantly leave their steed to come and heave mine out so I can dash off to complete the punches while they walk off for a recovery. You get the picture I'm sure!!!!!
Despite the many and various transmission problems endured on day one (well if Land Rovers are entered what else do you expect?) by the following morning all but one was back and running on 4x4. A Scotland West All Terrain club temporary Redcoat volunteered to partner Darren McGuinness so he could continue, (out of the results naturally), 4x4 friendship at its best. By prologue time everything is ready. The entrants are all reversed up to each other, both team motors attached by a tow strop. Briefing over only one member from each team is allowed to stay in the marquee the rest have to return to their motors and ponder just what can be in store for them... back to back and strapped together? Those in the marquee soon realise that the strop is a decoy. The prologue is entirely map based. Those back in the marquee first with the days punches correctly plotted on the map get to set off first and gain ten points. We were up to the 8 or 9th attempt and I was starting to panic before at last someone brought a correct version in. (The complications were caused by speed, a custom scale map and over enthusiasm.) Eventually everyone was fired out on to the site eager to get stuck in, often too literally! The days mix of punches then tasks seemed to find widespread acceptability. The tasks were a broad variety of technical winching, straight orb out off roading, heavy recovery, precision speed driving, trials type section or multi route choice. It soon became apparent that somebody had forgotten to tell Buck & Priscott that they were supposed to give up in disgust after the previous nights debacle. They were men on a mission and that mission was to get back in front.
That mornings placings after 2/3rds of the event showed the leaderboard as follows. 1st team 11. 2nd team 12. 3rd team 1. 4th team 18. 5th team 22. Highest placed standard class was Rod Elwood and Chris Whitfield at 8th overall with their 90's. As always the co drivers, navigators, crew, call them what you will worked harder than the drivers. There was plenty of navigation, real navigation, to be done. Once the right location had been found then there was the punch or the task to be done and these often involve the co driver wading, winching or running around. Pete Turner has Mark Sutton who is the nearest thing to Neanderthal man still existent. Stripped to the waist he runs climbs and wades his way wherever is necessary, barking orders to the driver as he goes. In terms of effort and sweat he deserves a prize all to himself. In amongst all this modern machinery and high tech accessories the two Suzukis of Steve Gaunt and Martyn Richardson, which cost £50 each, were steadily claiming points, punching punches and testing tasks. It stood them in good stead and ensured them a first in standard class closely followed by Rod Elwood and Chris Whitfield .
This year more than ever showed the huge gap that is now appearing between the specials and the standards, but that doesn't devalue what the standards achieve on an event such as this. John Carroll, Editor of LRW, entered his standard Td5 Defender pickup with Kevin Baldwin at the wheel. John, despite his status as LRW Editor is, like myself and most of the Redcoats, an off road afficienado first and foremost a Land Rover fan as part of that affection. Perhaps as well really as he was teamed up at short notice with Tony and Phillip Wilson, a father and son team running a bog standard Jeep Wrangler. They met for the first time on Saturday morning and both returned unscathed Sunday night with a 3rd in the standard class, 13th overall and no damage of note to their steeds. Let's get this straight, we are talking THE two 4x4 classics in standard trim here, a brilliant result for any of the standards I say.
The eventual winners had a really lucky escape when the Range Rover half of the team ran out of both gas and petrol. Had that happened in some of the deep claggy sections that error of judgement, and let's be honest running out of fuel is a pretty dumb thing to do at the best of times, could have cost them the Trophy. However not 10 minutes later I witnessed Simon Buck running out of fuel but that was not through lack of fuel but the the sheer vertiginious angle his 90 was sat at waiting for Eddies winch to take up the slack. It was real pleasure to see Team Ibex firing on 8 cylinders and their eventual first special podium place was as fitting a tribute to their sadly missed team mate, Steve Maddison as any could have been. James Feeney obviously filled that spot with great aplomb and as one of the team helped get them their highest positon yet, there's only one more step up boys!
Tony Baskill and Barry Pluckrose weren't able to keep their hands on the Bulldog this year but from my own observations it wasn't through any lack of commitment or effort. The 'mission' team of Simon and Eddie clawed their way, quite literally at times, to within 15 points of Team Ibex but Paul Church and Bryn Hemmings were still 40 points further ahead. In Bulldog terms however, those points are not a million miles apart, tasks were worth 100 points and punches 40 points per pair. No doubt several teams will have sat and wondered whether, if, perhaps but as I often say, 'To finish first, first you have to finish'. By day two several teams were limping badly but only two teams actually failed to reach the finish line intact. Unless my ears deceived me then even those who finished felt they had achieved something worthwhile even in the finishing. Our over ordered world has less and less chance for people to display some courage, commitment and sheer exuberance, at one with themselves and their chosen challenge. This event provided that challenge by the truck load. In true Bulldog style it was run 4xfairly, 4xfought fairly and won 4xfairly and that is the 4xfinest accolade of all!
My genuine appreciation and thanks must go to all the Redcoats for their sterling and voluntary help in arduous conditions. Their terms, conditions and working environment would give any trade union apoplexy! The gratitude of the 4x4 fraternity also goes to Alan Baldwin of Southam Tires the independent B F Goodrich wholesaler and Robin Culverwell of Link Associates who represent Optima Batteries for their backing of this 4x4most challenge event.
BULLDOG TROPHY 2001 PLACINGS.
overall and the 2001 winner of the Bulldog Trophy;1975pts Team 11
Paul Church/Shaun Chamberlain. Range Rover. Bryn Hemmings/John Grisley.
Special and 2nd Overall;1855pts Team 12 Neil Redpath/James Feeney
Foers Ibex 100 Tdi Steve Barrass/Patrick Smart Foers Ibex 90 Tdi
Second Special and 3rd overall;1830pts Team 8 Simon Buck/Matt Cook Defender 90 Tdi Eddie Priscott Defender 90 Tdi Challenger
Third Special & 4th overall;1815pts Team 1 Tony Baskill/Dave Needham Merc G Wagen Barry Pluckrose/Rob Phillipson Defender Tdi 90
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