The Olympic-style format put the 90 vans and over 200 participants into 15 teams competing in four major events over three days, ending with a final night party and awards ceremony for the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners. Sportsmobile and its sponsors, including Ford Motor Company, Quigley Motor Company, BFGoodrich, ARB, and Aluminess Bumpers, provided five vans for the games. This was a big relief for the entrants who got their first look at Competition Island, the intimidating technical driving venue created a week earlier under the watchful (some would say devious) eyes of Alan and Liz Feld, owners of Sportsmobile West, and their rally committee. The format required that all team members participate in each event, but to keep the competition strong, only the top scores counted for the entire team's performance.
The technical events began with four driving stages on the 4x4 course: a "Slow Drag" over an obstacle course, where the slowest time won and drivers were penalized for using brakes or letting wheels stop; maneuvering a van up onto a parallel log track with a spotter who could only use hand signals (a real communication challenge for some married couples); backing an off-road trailer through a changing radius course into a simulated garage; and a creek run, which had the vehicles drive in, out, and through running water and mud, ending with the van on a 20-degree sidehill along one edge of the creek.
Teams then moved to the Worst Case Scenario course where Sportsmobile used its 40 years of van-building to reproduce some of its customers' most common problems. Working against the clock, the teams had to fix or recover disabled vans with simple tools and were given only a few hints about the situation that caused the problem. Vans were set up with various malfunctions, including a tripped fuel-cutoff switch, a punctured tire, a disabled fuel pump, a rolled tire, a failed starter safety interlock, and a flat tire with a broken air compressor. The biggest challenge in this course was using a winch to recover a van stuck in the creek. Although the former were all run against the clock for fastest times, safety was the focus of the winch recovery with lots of useful--and potentially lifesaving--instruction in the proper use of a winch.