Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge 2014 Episode 11: Finals
Picture the scene: The Doornrivier 4×4 trail near Zeerust in the North West Province. The top 30 teams in the 2014 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge. Ten obstacles covering rocks, sand, river beds, heavily eroded axle twisters, slippery climbs and steep and slippery descents. A few a game-changing surprises along the way. And a 50 year-old 4×4 that kicked mud in the eyes of all the fancy new ones.
That was the basic recipe of the 2014 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge final – and there were plenty of blood, sweat and tears along the way too. With the cream of the Club Challenge 4×4 crop lining up for the start on Saturday 22 November at Doornriver, the organisers had a few tricks up their sleeves too.
The first obstacle was a very tough one, to break the proverbial ice. A steep and rocky and rutted descent through some very narrow gates saw the first teams break an early sweat as they lost points, and watched their comrades lose points. On this event all the clubs travelled together in groups of three, with a team captain on hand to oversee his crew and handle any issues with the marshals.
Obstacle two was another tester… a steep climb over lose rocks and boulders, through very narrow gates. Points were shed here like Eskom’s sheds power. In fact, it was so tough that some competitors didn’t even make it up at all, to add further insult to injury!
After the tough duo of obstacles the teams went on a “scenic drive” on the farm. But driving over the so-called “steps” in a dry riverbed proved to be no walk in the park! Finally, after a few more daunting 4×4 obstacles, the teams arrived at obstacle three.
And this was where competitors’ jaws dropped in surprise: Bridgestone, with the help of Action Ford Krugersdorp and Ford South Africa, had supplied a fleet of Ford Ranger 3.2TDCi 4x4s with which the teams had to complete the next eight obstacles. This was done to level the playing field where a tiny Suzuki Jimny competes with a bulky Nissan Patrol. The trick for the teams would be to adapt quickly and efficiently and make the Ford work to their advantage.
Not surprisingly then, the going points rate at obstacle three was zero points. In fact, a result of 50 points was cheered like an overall victory. Ditto at obstacle four and five, which also featured their own, supplied Ford Rangers kitted out in Ranger Odyssey colours.
However, it was to be obstacle six that proved to be the most controversial. Here the driver had to wear darkened goggles which rendered him or her completely sightless. In the passenger seat the co-driver then had to navigate the driver through the obstacle with only verbal instructions. This was one tough obstacle, in an unfamiliar Ford Ranger. Suffice to say that relationships and communication skills were tested!
Obstacle seven was seemingly very simple: Drive up a steep slope and gently nudge a pole with a golf ball perched on top. But not too hard because that will cause balls on other poles directly behind the first one to also topple off, resulting in more points losses. “Zero” was in vogue here too.
Obstacles eight, nine and 10 were more of the same – points were few and far between. That said, a few teams were quietly going about gathering some solid points hauls, so it certainly was not impossible.
But Mother Nature decided to intervene late in the afternoon, with half the field of 30 teams still on the tracks. What started out as a drizzle soon turned into a big downpour as the already tricky Doornrivier tracks became an impossible-to-drive ice-skating rink of gooey, muddy mess. The organisers had no option but to stop the event due to safety concerns.
Back at event headquarters the organisers decided that only the first five obstacles would count towards the results. To the result we go then, with some spectacular prizes up for grabs. For starters, on this event the Environmental prize, sponsored by Bridgestone South Africa, amounted to R8 000 and went to the team who conducted themselves in the most environmentally-minded manner. This prize went to Corne van der Merwe and Freddie Siebert in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon.
Third place overall bagged a R10 000 gift voucher from Bridgestone SA – and the prize went to Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen crew Graham Jupp and Lyn Zabel. Second place overall bagged a very handy R25 000 gift voucher from co-sponsors Opposite Lock, and this loot went to another Merc Gelandewagen team: Marco and Joe Marincowitz. The father-and-son team did an excellent job to claim the runner-up spot here.
But the winning team of the 2014 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge – and the winners of a brand-new Conqueror off-road trailer to the value of R50 000 – was a very popular one. Driving their 50 year-old Land Rover Series 2A, Jaco van Zyl and Gerhard Jacobs first scored a perfect 100 points on both obstacle 1 and 2, and then adapted in brilliant fashion to the much bigger Ford Ranger in the next three obstacles to outdrive, outscore and out-4×4 the 29 other finalist teams.
Hats off then to Jaco, Gerhard and Oubaas, the 50 year-old Landy – the 2014 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge winners!
More information: www.bridgestone.co.za