Auckland 4x4 driver Scott Biggs is getting used to winning thrillers.
The newly-crowned 4x4 National Trials champion became the first driver to "do the double" as he also regained the Suzuki Extreme Challenge title at organiser Dan Cowper's challenging man-made course on his Turakina farm on Sunday.
In the 4th annual challenge and arguably the most exciting, 2016 winner Biggs was deadlocked on points with Tauranga's defending champion and two-time winner Andrew Garner, after the ten elite-level drivers had completed the ten courses in five hours of action.
This required a shoot-out back at the 'Time Attack' hazard from earlier in the day – which was the only hazard judged on speed instead of completion – and Biggs with co-driver brother Jarred let the nitrous fly to blitz Garner's impressive lap time by nearly three seconds and win the challenge.
The overtime finish mirrored the six-round national series where Biggs ended up deadlocked with Whanganui's Hamish Auret and won his first NZ1 crown on a countback.
It was clear to the large crowd watching on the adjacent hillside on Sunday that the points battle was coming down to the wire by the time the drivers reached the final two hazards.
North Waikato's Dave McKie got a narrow lead over Biggs and Garner, as a possible McKie win would be the first time a Cowper-built truck had triumphed on the organiser's own course.
The 'Locked and Loaded' No9 hazard was a mixture of delicate balance coming down the hillside at awkward angles through each flag 'gate', then a massive rise to try and power up and over.
Biggs got the maximum 1000 points for passing through each gate – as the fan-friendly Extreme Challenge uses a different scoring system to the national series, as the concept is to get points by passing through the gates, rather than conceeding points for every gate a driver misses.
Garner, who told the crowd he was looking to clear the jump "like an aeroplane", took out three flags on his lap through, while McKie knocked out the last two flags to be left with a narrow 100 point lead, one gate, heading into the intimidating final hazard called 'Soak, Spin & Tumble'.
"It's yours to lose, Dave," Garner called out to McKie, as none of the drivers who were inspecting the hazard looked comfortable, given it involved driving twice through a deep bog and then finishing with a power climb up a muddy sheer vertical cliff.
Taupiri's Greg McDell almost flipped right over as he charged to the top of that slope, with his truck pointed straight up to the skyline before gravity claimed it back and he landed on his tyres.
Four drivers were still in contention for the title as Biggs and Garner were tied for second, while Auret still had a mathematical chance from fourth place if the other three had really bad runs.
Auret and co-driver Paul Barnes had started the day well, but came unstuck as they went for glory on the No6 'Monster Jam' hazard, which finished with the option to go for a spectacular jump across a large collection of tractor tyres.
"We got the prize for clearing the whole tyres, then we snapped the front off [the truck]. We did have the lead," Auret said.
"I like [this year's course] better because the water wasn't quite so deep, not so hard on the trucks. I actually liked it more."
Even though event staff had pumped some of the water out of the deepest part of the bog on the last hazard, every driver opted to sacrifice the second gate through the water to have a better chance at getting traction for the first of two climbs back up the hillside.
Biggs made a brilliant save on his near sideways skid trip back down the hill to somehow avoid taking out the fifth gate flag, but then just landed on the tenth gate flag at the top after the power climb.
McKie folded under the pressure when he reached the bog after the fifth gate – getting his back tyres stuck and being flagged for loss of forward momentum, while showering the nearby crowd with flying mud.
Garner now had a shot at the title and gave it everything, picking a better line down through the bog after the fifth gate, and the judges held their breath as he powered up the final slope, only to spin the wheels at the ninth gate and not quite reach the tenth.
Everyone then headed back to Time Attack, except the Biggs boys who quickly headed off to the pits to refill the nitrous.
Biggs had set the fastest time earlier in the day with 37.85s, but Garner and his co-driver wife Amy flew nearly sideways through the cliff face and then smoothly completed the figure 8 at the top to throw down the gauntlet with a 36.19s time.
There was a brief delay as the Biggs brothers returned from the pits and had to get set up properly, but Scott Biggs did not let the wait get to him.
Despite spinning the tyres slightly on the climb up to the top of Time Attack, he still whipped through the figure 8 and returned in a blistering 33.56s.
It completed an amazing season for the Aucklander to have won both the national title and the challenge in such white-knuckled fashion.
"I can't believe it, to be honest, I'm a bit in shock," Biggs said.
"[After the tenth hazard] Dan called out to me, 'Time Attack', and I said 'yeah'.
"Dan thought that meant I wanted to go again."
Biggs said the noises from his exhaust showed their truck was on its last legs, so he was worried it would give out during the sudden death playoff, but his home-built Chev 6 LS2 held together just long enough.
"Very similar [to last year], just a shame with the water – our trucks just need to keep improving how they handle the wet.
"Dan has done a fantastic event and I hope he keeps doing it."
A TV3 crew filmed the event and highlights of the day will screen later in the year.
1. Scott Biggs 7500 (wins shootout); 2. Andrew Garner 7500; 3. Dave McKie 7200; 4. Hamish Auret 6800; 5. Nathan Fogden 6200; 6. Levi Sherwood 6100; 7=. Greg McDell 5900; 7=. Aaron Guest 5900; 7=. Philip Walton 5900; 10. Derek Smyth 2700.