Each year, as the competition at Diesel Power Challenge becomes more and more fierce, we see far too many competitors’ dreams of victory crushed by avoidable errors. While most often these mistakes result in a mechanical failure, they are typically brought on by either a lack of judgment, inexperience, or simply a fierce desire to win. With DPC 2013 now in the books, we decided it was time to sit down and work up a list of the more common things that cost competitors their shot at the cup each year, in hopes that our next group of DPC participants might not make these same mistakes.
10. The Fuel Economy Challenge
Tested during the Ride and Drive event, fuel economy has been part of the Challenge since its inception. It was originally used as a tiebreaker, and we have seen some ingenious setups employed in an attempt to garner the highest mpg possible. 2010 saw Matt Handwork achieve an astonishing 45.58 mpg by using a CNG system, while Dmitri Millard pulled off an average of 36.55 mpg using his low-pressure nitrous system to keep his turbos spooled and maintain speed on hills. Recently, most competitors have been running on Number 2 only and relying on tuning and driving technique to achieve the best mileage possible.
Complacency had set in by 2012, and competitors had all but disregarded this portion of the contest. So for 2013, the competition was shaken up when it was announced that going forward, the fuel economy portion of DPC would be a scored event. Future competitors are going to once again need to focus on fuel economy, and while the rules state that Number 2 diesel is to be the primary fuel source, we wouldn’t be surprised to see a resurgence of the use of injectables such as CNG and propane. Disregarding this event is no longer an option.
9. Ignoring the Obstacle Course
For 2011, we added an entirely new event: the Trailer Tow Obstacle Course. The concept is simple: Competitors tow a loaded trailer through a series of obstacles that are set up to emulate the Class A commercial driver’s test. Since it is one of the few DPC events that you can practice from home, we’re shocked that most people don’t. It is easy enough to buy, rent, borrow, or steal a trailer and set up a cone pattern in an empty lot. Each year, we seem to have at least one competitor who gets frustrated and loses his cool while backing the trailer through the course or into the finish and either gets hit with a lot of penalties or loses time on repeated attempts.
We can’t encourage future competitors enough to hone their trailer backing skills before leaving for the competition. And a little strategy goes a long way. A smooth, moderately paced run will yield the best results, but if you happen to hit a cone, in most instances it is better to take the 5-second penalty than to back up and try to go around it. Since the time starts when the truck moves, boosted launches can shave seconds off a competitor’s time.
8. Tire Choice
Over the years, we have noticed something interesting regarding tire choice. More people have won Diesel Power Challenge on all-terrain tires than any other type. One of the lesser-known rules of DPC is that competitors must run the same tire throughout the entire competition. So while a tire might excel in one event, it could be the entirely wrong choice for another. The all-terrain tire has proved itself to be the best compromise for all seven events. Past competitors have tried all sorts of different tire types—from large mud tires to small street tires—and all have come up short. The closest we have come to an alternative tire victory was in 2010 when Matt Handwork chose to run a set of drag radials with the intent to dominate at the dragstrip and shoot for midpack in the sled pull. His plan was working until a blown turbo took him out of the completion on day two. So while your truck might look better on a set of big mud tires, history has told us the recipe for success is an all-terrain.
7. Cheaters Will Be Caught
Thankfully, this one hasn’t been an issue too frequently. Diesel Power Challenge is the real deal, and sometimes the drive to win at all costs can overcome a competitor’s better judgment. We’ve seen competitors try to overrun the dyno, resulting in catastrophic failure and their withdrawal from the competition. Competitors have tried to add or shave weight for events, even though the Challenge is a run-what-ya-brung event and trucks are required to complete all events in the state they were in for tech inspection. Removing tailgates, trailer hitches, spare tires, and passenger seats are all examples of attempts to shave weight at the dragstrip, and adding tools and spare parts in attempts to increase weight for sled pulling have all been seen.
Diesel Power Challenge is a pretty open event, and we try to not be overbearing at the risk of stifling creativity. With that said, we do keep a close watch on competitors during the course of the competition to ensure full compliance with the few rules DPC does have. And rest assured, if we miss something, the other competitors surely catch it.
6. Lose the Attitude
This might be a tough one for some people to swallow, but leave the attitude at home. We can usually tell who is going to do well during the competition before it even begins. While most people come to compete and have a good time, sometimes teams seem to just show up to party. And while this leads to a great vacation, it usually doesn’t lead to winning.
An arrogant or cocky attitude also leads to failure. While confidence is great, we’ve seen far too many broken parts caused by arrogance. A calm, cool, and collected demeanor typically prevails. Remember, DPC is a weeklong event, and to win, your truck must survive until the end. Smart driving in all events is key.