With overnight temperatures dropping into the negatives, about the only thing hot at the recent round of the Comeup Xtreme Winch Challenge (XWC) series was the winching action! 12 teams lined up on a bitterly cold Friday night at the Springvale property in the small country town of Wallabadah, just south of Tamworth for Round 2 of the popular series.

With three stages set to challenge teams in the dark, it would be the Toyota FJ45 of Phil Bell and Scott Eyb that would take the first stage win on a speed stage covering many of the farm tracks criss-crossing the property.

There were a further two winch stages for teams to tackle on Friday night with a large rock face setting the scene for some awkward winch attempts. With plenty of wheel lifting and a few ‘moments’ descending from the top of the rock wall, Kevin Gorick and navigator Josh Rathbone would take the top honours on the stage, the only team not to take out the marker at the start of the winch wall. For Gorick, a regular on the XWC scene, this was a great start to the weekend and would have him securely in the top five going into the Saturday stages.

Saturday would see the introduction of team stages where two winch trucks would pair up to compete over the course. Special Stage 4 permitted the driver and navigator from both teams to assist, whilst Special Stage 6 had both trucks from a team tackling adjacent winch walls.

Image: Lachlan Harrold

Image: Lachlan Harrold

For Steve Reid and Cooper Anning in the 100 Series Landcruiser, stage 4 would see them on their roof after trying to climb the big winch wall unassisted. There was plenty a wheel lifting from the front of the Toyota, but gravity would win bringing the big winch truck back down to earth and over on to its roof. It was a soft roll and with virtually no major damage, they finished the day and the entire event without any repairs. Amazingly, they finished the event sixth outright!

There were also several new teams trying their luck at an XWC event including father and son team Peter and Jayden Jilg in a GQ Nissan Patrol. They’d shine on special stage six, winning the stage and taking maximum points.

Previous XWC winners Paul Semmens and Nathan Mills would suffer a transfer case failure in Stage 5, sidelining them for three stages whilst they drove into Tamworth to source a new one. They had it changed over in time to finish the final stage of the day.

Another team to suffer problems were the Rathbone brothers, Rod and Russell. They would break an axle on the same log that had caused them grief at a previous XWC. Despite the breakage and with the axle hanging out the side of the car, they finished the stage and were third outright for the event.

Mechanical issues were the order of the day including the Hilux of Cameron Nixon and Ashley Germon. They had no forward drive in the team stage, SS5, and would be forced to retire.

Image: Lachlan Harrold

Image: Lachlan Harrold

Special Stage 5 would also see the winch motor in the GQ Patrol of Thomas Bowden and Aaron Melville in meltdown. With smoke pouring from the winch assembly, they still dragged the Patrol up the winch wall and finished the stage, but it wouldn’t last and they too retired.

Gorick and Rathbone in the Toyota 60 series Landcruiser would also suffer mechanical issues on Saturday. They had an overheating issue on the last stage of Saturday and would go no further, retiring the big truck so as not to cause further damage.

With just two stages remaining on Sunday, the Yellow “MAV” Ford Maverick (The Australian re-badged GQ Patrol) of Peter Bannister and Navigator Iain Hughes would shine, winning both stages. Bannister is no stranger to the XWC, having been a regular competitor for many years. With two wins on Sunday and a further two stage wins on the previous day, they would be victorious, winning by 29 points over the Toyota FJ45 of Phil Bell and Scott Eyb.

Round 3 of the Comeup Xtreme Winch Challenge heads north to Seeonee Park in Rockhampton on the 12th to 14th of July.

Image: Lachlan Harrold

Image: Lachlan Harrold

1Peter Bannister / Iain HughesGQ SWBNSW901
13Phil Bell / Scott EybToyota FJ45NSW872
4Rod Rathbone / Russell RathboneToyota FJ45NSW850
10Peter Jilg / Jayden JilgNissan GQNSW843
5John Adamson / Mick BarrettToyota 80NSW833
3Steve Reid / Cooper AnningToyota 100NSW795
12Mike Grimer / Mick SomerallHiluxNSW795
7Dave Burrows / Howard “Jumbo” CrossleyToyota FJ45NSW678
2Paul Semmens / Nathan MillsGU UteNSW644
6Kevin Gorrick / Josh RathboneToyota 60NSW590
11Thomas Bowden / Aaron MelvilleNissan GQNSW422
14Cameron Nixon / Ashley GermonHiluxNSW298