It’s Exciting, It’s sometimes pretty full on, occassionaly carzy stuff happens… This is the COMEUP Xtreme Winch Challenge Round 3 2017!

Round 3 of the Comeup Xtreme Winch Challenge got under way on Friday the 3rd of November 2017 just south of the NSW town of Tamworth, in the small country village of Wallabadah. The first stage was a sprint run around the property and gave competitors and their trucks the opportunity to stretch their legs on the 4km speed stage. And as darkness set in, it was over to the eastern gullies for two night stages, one starting with a quick dash through a small dam. Once that was out of the way, into was straight into the challenging winch walls. But it wouldn’t be long before a few teams were driving the gnarly winch wall in SS2 reducing their times considerably.

Over in SS3, the approach to the winch wall was proving a bit of a drama for some. Danny Moore in the ‘Shake and Bake Racing’ truck tipped it on its side, but was soon back upright and winching the wall.

After the three Friday evening stages, the Nissan Patrol of Matt Holgate and Issac James was sitting in the lead. But with seven more stages to come across Saturday and Sunday, it was going to be a fierce weekend of competition.

The second day of the Comeup Xtreme Winch Challenge would get under way with overnight leader Matt Holgate first out of the blocks in his GU Nissan Patrol. The first of the five stages had at least one winch wall and possibly two depending on the drivers level of commitment. The first winch wall was a little tricky and most chose the safe option of winching. But it didn’t stop a few teams from trying to drive the wall, Steve Howarth in the GQ Patrol, sent his navigator Brandon up to get ready, but then succeeded in driving the wall.

Others had limited success and ended up with a few penalties for broken bunting, like Rod and Russell Rathbone’s attempt. He almost drove off the edge of the winch wall. But Jason Jones went even wilder trying to drive the wall to make up time, but the outcome was a penalty that negated any gain he thought he might have achieved. He ended up winching from a very precarious position on the side of the rock ledge.

SS5 had the potential for four winch sections, and included a compulsory winch down into the gully. Kevin Gorrick in the 60 Series Landcruiser was one driver who used the winch on the fourth of the winch walls. Other teams, like Andrew McFarlane and Mark Calder in the British Off Land Rover had to winch on the first of the walls, but managed to drive all the others.

Over in SS7, Paul Semmens and Nathan Mills from ‘Team Ranga’ were dealing with a small problem in the cockpit when the bonnet of their Nissan Patrol popped open towards the end of the stage. They drove to the end with limited vision, slowing them down. But in SS8, they powered through to win the stage.

Danny Moore in the ‘Shake and Bake Racing’ GU Nissan Patrol managed to get themselves stranded on the large log across the bottom of the winch wall in the creek on SS8. But moving the winch point soon had them out of the gully and back on dry land.

Dave Burrows in The Farm Truck was powering through SS8, getting some great traction over the rocky creek section. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his navigator Howard ‘Jumbo’ Crossley, who was struggling to climb up the slippery winch wall. They’d eventually make it to the top with a reasonable time.
Rob Biddle and Rob Dempsey in another GQ Nissan Patrol, made good time over the log, but then managed to take out a barbers pole for a 20 point penalty. Their next winch was far more successful.

So with 8 stages now completed and two to go, the winners crown for the 3rd round of the Comeup Xtreme Winch Challenge is still up for grabs. SS9 and 10 will be a combined stage and are the only stages left for Sunday morning.

The last day of the Comeup Xtreme Winch Challenge was set to be a cracker with overnight leader and series winner Paul Semmens and Nathan Mills looking for victory. There was just one long combined stage to finish the event and they were quickly through the rocky section and up the first of the difficult winch walls.

But they weren’t the first through the stage which meant they had the advantage of others clearing the stage for them. Jason Jones was first into the stage and he would soon begin a small mining operation, digging a huge hole at the top of the second winch wall,. After multiple attempts at getting up with his navigator Lachlan running the ropes, the clock would be their enemy and they exceeded the DNF time and were the first non finisher.

Kevin Gorrick in the 60 series, was also one of the first into the stage and took the award for large scale earth moving after getting stuck in the rocky section and winching through. He dragged this massive rock with him, clearing the way for following teams. The hole created by Jones, would also be Kevin’s undoing as he failed to make it to the top and also ran out of time.

Dave Burrows in the Farm Truck also struggled through the rocks and had to get navigator Howard “Jumbo” Crossley out of the truck to winch through. They were the first truck to make it up the second of the winch walls, making it look easy. They were also the first team to finish both SS9 and SS10 in the combination stage.

Most of the teams got up the first winch wall without too much difficulty, but Rob Biddle and Rob Dempsey in the Black GQ Patrol really struggled and despite re-positioning several times and changing the winch arrangement, they took over twenty minutes to get to the top. They ran out of time just before crossing the SS9 finish point.

Rod and Russell Rathbone also got stuck in the rocky section and had to resort to the winch. The first of the winch walls was an easy climb and they were setting a great pace. The second wall was still dug out and they struggled for grip and winch power. After a quick change to a double line pull, they were up. The final winch wall was a gate and a simple climb to the finish.

Pete Bannister had broken a pan hard rod and damaged his suspension on Saturday afternoon, but he was back and wanting to show the crowd some action. His winch up all walls was quick and simple and despite an ordinary finish to the previous day, he was in for a much better Sunday.

Steve Howarth in another GQ Patrol also made quick work of the first winch wall. But the second wall was starting to get chewed out and he quickly became stuck in the big hole at the top. Some quick changes to the winch arrangement and he was soon up and completed the combined SS9 and SS10 within the allocated DNF time.

Another one to struggle in the rocks was the ‘Shake and Bake Racing’ team. Their trip through the massive boulders also needed winch assistance, but their climb up the first winch wall was very quick. The second wall wouldn’t be so easy and despite a lot of gardening, they eventually made it to the top.

Matt Holgate was last onto the SS9 and SS10 combo run and made light work of the first winch wall. The second wall also proved no match for the GU Nissan Patrol and they were up and over in no time. The final gate was just a formality and they were over the finish line taking 3rd position for SS9, SS10 and also third outright for the event.

Andrew Macfarlane and Mark Calder had already won a round of the Comeup Xtreme Winch Challenge, and they were hoping to make it two wins. Whilst they couldn’t win the series, a win here would be a satisfying end to a big year of winch truck comps. There winching was superb on all three of the walls and this would give them a win on SS10 and a second place in SS9. But it wouldn’t be enough and they would have to settle for 2nd outright.

So it would be Paul Semmens and Nathan Mills in the ‘Team Ranga’ GU Nissan Patrol who would take the outright win. And they did it in style, with a win on SS9 and second place in SS10. All in all, they managed three stage wins and three 2nd places. So the round win would be added to their series win. They are looking forward to the next years competition with navigator Mills suggesting that he might even have a drive in future events. Paul Semmens says he is now preparing for the 2018 season and hopes to repeat the winning streak. He also has aspirations of competing in and winning the eight day international event in 2018.