11th August 2002

Having had several days of torential rain prior to this event, the green pastures of Tong had turned into rivers of deep, sloppy mud! A bigger event in terms of stands and attractions than the Rhino Rally, although the number of 4x4s in attendance looked about the same. Due to a load of bureaucratic crap that prevented profit-making organisations/exhibitors at the Rhino Rally, Jeepfest was in heavy contrast. Companies like Specialist Leasure made a welcome appearance showing off the latest kit and that sexy red Hummer of theirs! There were many vehicles on display from restored Willys CJ2s and early 70s Wagoneers to brand new 5.7L Grand Cherokees. One of the main attention grabbers was the monster truck with a CJ7 body perched on top, the only word to describe it was deafening! Other features include a specially marked out course that anyone with a driving license could take a new Jeep round, under supervision of course. I had a go in a manual new shape Cherokee 2.5L petrol. A very different experience from driving a Samurai; All the computers tend to take the fun out of the adventure with traction control and an engine that doesn't stall going uphill on idle.

As mentioned above, the amount of mud at Tong was quite disturbing. the carpark was worse than some of the off road course itself, with all but the very hardcore of Jeeps struggling and spinning wheels trying to get off the show area. This did make the course an exciting prospect with unwary spectators being covered in a shower of mud on the black routes from over-entheusiastic driving! Just a quick check, are the side-steps on Cherokees supposed to be banana shaped? At least one vehicle I saw sported these new-design steps! Ooops.

Just before dinner I was joined by a certain Mr Dave Jones (minus the dog). he came, talked, took pictures, and left. Amazingly without breaking anything! Ah well, theres always next time, heh heh!

Finally, towards the end of the day, the poilce were called to an unrelated incident. They needed access to the woods at Tong to look for suspects, and successfully took their Vauxhall Astra round part of the off road course, much to peoples amazement. However, in attempting to leave the show area the vehicle became stuck in the mud. Three bright-red-faced officers from the West Yorkshire constabulary tried to conceal their embarrassment from the many cameras that appeared to catch this magical moment. The vehicle was evenually rescued by a passing Wrangler accompanied with whoops of laughter.

A final note, when the time came to leave, I watched a Cherokee try to exit the car park but failed due to the amount of mud. It just ground to a halt, and started spinning all four wheels. I however popped my STANDARD Samurai in 4wd an sailed straight through! HA, the US Rubicon Trail doesn't sound that tough...