Round Five of the 2016 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge produced some startlingly difficult obstacles and numerous ‘zero’ scores at the 4×4 tracks of the Swandani Game Lodge near Cullinan.
Almost 60 teams lined up for the event, the first of four knock-out rounds, some having come from as far afield as KwaZulu-Natal. The teams were selected from about 200 teams who had battled it out in four qualifying rounds held earlier in the year.
It was clear from the word go that this year’s focus on standard 4x4s – and heavy penalties for vehicles fitted with aftermarket traction aids such as differential locks – would be a game-changer, especially for the Suzuki Jimnys, which don’t come standard with a locker.
Route Master, Sakkie Coetzee, prepared some daunting obstacles, but such was the difficulty of the route that a Land Rover Discovery III had to be recovered from a mud hole on the trail before reaching the starting gate of Obstacle Ten – not quite the ideal outcome for the Landy crew!
For this round, the Mitsubishi Pajero media vehicle was crewed by 4×4 legend Willie Nel, partnered by TV presenter Tumelo Maketekete. It was a tough outing on a tight track for the veteran driver – when a marshal asked Nel at the finishing line how it went, he joked: “Well, I know of at least three poles that I didn’t hit!”
While the route was better suited to the short-wheelbase teams, the long-wheelbase counterparts nonetheless recorded some respectable points hauls. In third place in the long-wheelbase class, with 640 points from a possible 900, were Johan and Maryke Reichel in a Toyota Fortuner. Second, with 660 points, were former champion Danny Daniels and Rob Wallace, in a Ford Ranger.
But the top spot went to Garreth Goncalves and Chantelle van Niekerk in an Isuzu Frontier 320 V6. The team scored 685 points in their maiden win, earning the maximum 50 championship points in the process and setting themselves up as the team to beat in the next round.
In the short-wheelbase class, Hans Strydom and Johan Cilliers earned a very handy 775 points in a classic SVM3000, a South African Jeep-inspired off-roader manufactured in small numbers towards the end of the 1980s. Former champions, Marco and Joe Marincowitz, clinched second place in their Merc Gelandewagen with an outstanding 815 points. But taking the more experienced teams to the cleaners were Johan Bekker and Johan van den Heever, with 820 points, in their Suzuki Jimny.
“It was a great day of 4×4 action,” said Bridgestone South Afrifca’s Guthrie Blaine. “The track was tough and challenging, and the obstacles tested crews and machines to much higher levels than in the qualifying rounds. Three rounds remain, and with the championship points system in play it’s still anyone’s game,” he concluded.