WHEELIN’ IN THE U.K.
At the Woodlands Off-Road Park.
Editor: Eric Bewley Story/Photo: Simon McDonald
LIVERPOOL, UK. -When I was asked by Dave Jones if I fancied a trip down to meet some of the Rhinoriders gang at an off-road site called Woodlands, I said “why not”. Little did I know that it was a round trip of over 550 miles and that it would leave both of our trucks in the garage for repair.
We left Liverpool at 03.45 on Sunday morning to collect our two passengers for the trip,( “JJ” a Landrover owner I had met a few days previously and “Jim Malkin” owner of “Overland Components, the company who make all the body protection for my truck) and headed off down south. This is about the worst kind of trip to do in a car equipped with aggressive mud tyres, all of it fast motorway. We had completed about 180 miles when Dave shouted over the CB radio that he was getting some bad noises from the front wheel on his truck.
This was not the start we wanted and we were forced to pull off the motorway into a service station that luckily we were almost right on top of. Dave got the Hi Lift Jack from the back of his truck and the wheel was soon off, as it turned out the bearing was absolutely destroyed and there was no way in which we could fix it and there was no way that we could get a spare at this time of the morning on a Sunday, so Dave’s truck was finished for the day. We called the recovery services and Dave’s truck was loaded on to a Flat Bed Truck and sent back to his home in Wales. We were determined that this should not be the end of the day, so we all got into my truck and continued the final 70 miles to the site. On arriving we were met by John Sackley, the owner of the biggest Vitara in the UK, His truck runs a samurai live axle up front and 35 inch tyres.
We followed him into the site and met some of the others already there playing in the mud. We chatted for a while and headed in to the middle of the site via a few of the set runs already created on the site. The runs are graded from white (easy) to Red (difficult) and finally black (extreme), the idea being that virtually standard 4×4’s can turn up at the site and have a good day out.
This is when the gauntlet was laid down, John Sackley asked if I would like to a run called “The Road to Hell”, “Yes” I said without thinking. John suggested that I should see it first and lead Jim Malkin and I over to the run. “Nobody gets through here “says John, “Oh right” says Jim “go get the truck”. “Ok”.
As soon as we approached the start of the run a crowd started to gather round the sides of the run to see if when we completed the first part of the run we used the easy exit or headed down a near vertical drop into the second half of the run.
Well we were stuck in the most difficult hole I think I have ever put the Vitara into since I bought the car. It took my 6000lb winch double hauling and a passing v8 hybrid Landrover’s winch to pull us out. I now know that the new winch pulls well but I need to sort out a new and improved battery as the winch was drawing so much current on the pull that the engine revs were dropping and that was making things a lot harder.
Once we had successfully got free from the grip of the mud, I felt like I needed to get the car cleaned off as while we were stuck in the mud I could smell differential oil and needed to be sure I had not cracked anything going into the mud hole as there were several lumps of rock hard clay we had to get over to enter the second half of the run.
An offer to go to a nearby house was made to use the power washer that they had. I accepted and followed back to the house, on the way to which the release bearing on the clutch started to play up, probably due to the ingress of mud into the bellhousing. We reached the power wash and it took an hour to get the car looking something like right.
We returned to the site and continued to play on the stages till about 16.00 when we loaded the car up and headed north. Not long after rejoining the motorway for the return journey we had to stop for petrol and found that the release bearing was once again playing up. We filled up with petrol and eventually managed to rejoin the motorway, a game of “do not use the gears followed”. It took five and a half hours to get home in the heavy traffic with the clutch playing up, also by the time we reached Cheshire the mud trapped in the rear brake drums had rubbed the rear brakes down to the metal.
I ended up leaving the truck with Jim at” Overland Components” to have the clutch cleaned out and a new set of brakes all round.