They came, they saw, they struggled. This was the tale of round seven of the Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge, hosted by the Lichtenburg 4×4 Club – and for this occasion the local organisers decided to go big and mean in the old mine dumps, which are strewn with a marble-like substance capable of halting the progress of just about any 4×4.
Even before the start, the organisers made it clear that the route was designed to negate the advantages of short-wheel base performers like the Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagens and Suzuki Jimnys normally enjoy here. Instead, bags of horsepower and a good helping of “brave” were required.
Obstacle one set the trend for the day. Here the competitors had no run-up to build momentum to climb a slippery ascent. Then, as soon as they crested the climb, they had to carefully modulate their speed so that they would be able to make a sharp and tricky turn, instead of falling down the other side of the heap of slippery stuff.
The 40 teams quickly caught onto the secret of this track: a heavy right foot, topped off with some delicate manoeuvres when negotiating the gates. All the competitors completed this obstacle, even though the average score was just 58,2%! Obstacles two and three were more of the same: steep and slippery climbs, combined with tight turns through those narrow gates.
Then there was obstacle four, a straightforward climb up a steep, slippery slope where horsepower was king. Not a single competitor managed to complete this obstacle, even though several teams managed to get close to the top, at least bagging 80 of the 100 points. The average percentage here was 53.3%.
In obstacle five the driver was blindfolded, and the co-driver had to talk the driver through in reverse, while obstacle six was a bonus challenge consisting of a track which had to be negotiated in a John Deere tractor on which the steering system had been reversed!
Obstacle seven proved to be the most daunting of the day. A steep and slippery descent, on a rather uncomfortable side-slope, followed by a climb through an impossibly narrow gate, resulted in lots of action – and an average score of just 31%.
Obstacle eight was another bonus obstacle. Here the teams had to debead a tyre from a rim, using a supplied high-lift jack and a supplied Land Rover Defender – this unexpected challenge kept the average score at the 31% mark!
Obstacles nine, ten and eleven were slightly more productive for the teams, with higher average scores. And then, just as a parting shot, there was obstacle 12. Here the teams had to aim up yet another one of those slippery, dodgy climbs. They then had to attempt to dislodge one orange golf ball from its perch on top of a pole by bumping it off with the front bumper.
However, this orange ball was perched despairingly close to a clutch of white balls, also perched on poles. Even the slightest miscalculation of speed versus slip versus incline versus front bumper distance versus the co-driver’s shouts could – and most often did – result in not only the orange ball being dislodged, but also a heap of white balls too. The average score was just 34%.
The results told the story of the day: Of the 30 teams that competed, 25 scored less than 80% overall. However, the top five crews were clearly in a league of their own, scoring 94.5% and more.
In third place, and booking their place in the Bridgestone Club final in November, were Johan and Maryke Reichel, in a Toyota Fortuner. They won a hand winch from Opposite Lock with their excellent 96.5% overall score.
In second place were Corne van der Merwe and Philip Oosthuizen, in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, with 98.9%. The team bagged a snazzy set of Light Force spotlights.
The overall winners – in a shorty Jeep Wrangler Rubicon – were Johan Swift and Dieter Schaap, who scored a truly remarkable 99.95%, winning themselves a R10 000 tyre voucher from sponsor Bridgestone SA.
More importantly the top three crews earn their entry tickets for the 2013 Bridgestone Club Challenge Final. The final, to be held in November, will see the second-placed crew win a R20 000 Tough Dog adjustable suspension, while the overall winners will bag a Conqueror Courage off-road trailer to the value of R50 000.