Brought to you by the Toyota Land Cruiser Club of Australia (NSW), the annual Willowglen Challenge is one of the premier events on the off-road calendar. We went down to Willowglen over Labour Day weekend to see the 4WD action for ourselves.
Around 3000 people attended the event over the 3 days (3 – 5 Oct 2014) and all experienced some great driving, some not-so-great driving and some very inventive recoveries.
The challenge started with a bang on Friday night. We kicked off with a warm-up Night Driving Stage that sets up the weekend. It was a great chance to check out the competition and chat to other 4WD enthusiasts and find out what people are saying.
The real action started bright and early at 8am on Saturday, with competing teams moving through 4 very difficult stages. There was plenty of carnage with 2 rollovers and one spectacular attempt to knock over a very large tree. The tree won.
Some credit has to go to the LandCruiser Club for coming up with creative (and occasionally hilarious) names for the stages: on Saturday we had ‘The Waterfall’, ‘The Spider’, ‘Stepin’ Up’, ‘Carnage Canyon’ and ‘Up the Creek’, and the Sunday stages were named ‘Rockin n Rollin’, ‘All Shook Up’, ‘The Mud Hole’, ‘Gullied Out’ and our personal favourite, ‘Tyred n Twisted’.
Up the Creek
Given the challenges the organisers had set out, it was no surprise to hear announcements over the PA asking if anyone had a diff or suspension parts or even a spare engine that could be ‘borrowed’ to enable teams to continue in the Challenge. CV joints, steering linkages and shocks alike all suffered during the competition. Tyres run off the rim were also a regular sighting, so the compressors certainly had a workout.
On Sunday, the day started with a very weary-looking group of spectators and competitors as there were a lot of both that had been up all night: some from the effort of rebuilding their thrashed vehicles and some from a more social activity – partying. Each group looked as bleary-eyed as the other.
Today’s stages were as difficult and challenging as yesterday’s with another 4 stages to go plus the highly-anticipated spectator event ‘The Mud Run’. Cooper Tires sponsored the ‘All Shook Up’ stage, which featured some huge logs that contestants had to negotiate before a very steep hill with even larger logs placed just at the right place and angled to make them a huge challenge. Competitors had to choose their line very carefully here because if they got it wrong, their front tyres would end up over a metre off the ground.
All stages had some fantastic attempts and some spectacular ‘early exits’ that kept the recovery teams very active.
The Challenge finished with the famous Mud Run, where spectators surround the course and cheer loudly for those unlucky enough to get bogged to the eyeballs. It’s just as well the local bushfire truck was on hand, as the interior of those vehicles resembled the Mud Hole itself.
The Mud Run
The Challenge finished with the presentation to the winners. The Shellharbour 4X4 Club won again for the second consecutive year. It was great to see that all participants stayed around for these awards to show the appreciation the TLCC has earned over the many years they’ve been running the Willowglen Challenge.
On our part, Cooper Tires would like to say ‘Well done!’ to all the competitors and crew and a special thank you to the organisers and volunteers of the TLCC for producing a fantastic event.
If you’re interested in off-road adventures and need some tyres to travel on, call us on 1300 COOPER or find the right tyre for your driving style.