DIRTY WORK

DRIVING A COMPETITION TRUCK IS A HELL OF WAY TO HAVE FUN. ROOTHY CHASES DOWN THE GIRLS FROM TEAM PETTICOAT, WHO SHOW HIM A THING OR TWO ABOUT EXTREME WINCHING AND STAYING UPRIGHT.

JOHN ROOTH

Team Petticoat is a couple of girls who compete at the highest levels in extreme winch challenge competition, all for the sheer love of heavy-duty four-wheel driving.

Iíve been chasing the girls for a while now Ė er, can we re-phrase that? Itís just so refreshing to see ladies competing in whatís usually seen as a male-dominated field. And letís face it guys, the more girls who get into off-roading, the better it is for all of us.

In my case, it was heaps better, because I got a day off from working on Milo in the workshop.

Emily Taylor (pictured) and her schoolmate Katie Ireland are Team Petticoat. They got the name years ago when Emís dad, Neil, referred to a team of guys in a winching competition as a ďbunch of blokes in petticoatsĒ, as his daughter was obviously a better operator.

Now thatís not the only part Neil plays in this classy act. An earthmoving contractor for the past 30-plus years, Neil knows plenty about machinery and has always been a solid four-wheel driver at heart. In fact, most of his time off has been spent building up trucks to take his wife, Carolyn, and

I reckon some of the winch challenge guys have been pretty scared by the thought of being beaten up by two girls in a fuchsia and lilac Toyota

their two kids on beach and bush trips whenever possible.

All that travelling came to a stop when Neil and Carolyn bought The Springs 4WD Adventure Park, about 15 minutes south of Warwick in southeast Queensland. Suddenly they had hundreds of acres of bush, plenty of brilliant campgrounds and some of the hardest tracks in the country right smack-bang in their backyard. That was about six years ago, and it wasnít long after that Emily got serious about competing in the off-road arena.

Neil built up the 75 Series Toyota and, like most trucks, itís been a work in progress ever since. While we watched Em put it through its paces in the front paddock, Neil was listening for clacking CVs. He found one and talked about replacing the Optima batteries and working some more travel into the double-coiled suspension. All I saw was some awesome travel and a truck thatíd go anywhere.

Then it was my turn to go for a ride.

Now, your average Rooth is a timid sort of mouse, quite at home in an old Toyota that behaves like a Bobcat running on two cylinders. Heís happy enough when the leaf packs scrape over anything bigger than a couple of house bricks in a pile. Sure, Iíve had more than a few goes in competition trucks, but usually with pretty dire results.

So, itíd be politically incorrect to mention that I was a tad nervous about climbing up some horrible rocks with Emily at the wheel. But two things were immediately obvious Ė this truck works and Emís wheel placement is superb!

The result? Well, I reckon some of the guys in those winch challenges have been pretty scared by the thought of being beaten up by a couple of girls in a fuchsia and lilac Toyota.

And you know what? This happens every time I get near one of these competition beasts Ė all the way home in my old Mustard 47, all I could think about was welding up my own comp truck and going out to play. Winch challenges are a tough and hard world to play in but, by crikey, launching around tracks thatíd chew up an ordinary 4WD is one hell of a way to have a good time. Just ask Em and Katie! If you can catch them, that is!