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Fortuner 4×4 challenge





17 February 2017


Up to the Challenge!

Earlier this year, Toyota Motors South Africa announced an exciting new competition: the Fortuner 4×4 Challenge. Four celebrity athletes partnered with four Joe Publics, and competed in seven challenges, ranging from cooking to rowing. The Joe Public who won with their celebrity, would drive away in a brand new Fortuner 2.4GD-6 RB. This is the story of how a mathematics teacher and former Springbok sportsman became that winner.

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There were three entries shortlisted by our digital media editor Elise Kirsten after working her way through a pile of entries for the inaugural Fortuner 4×4 Challenge. Francois Jooste, Pieter Lamont and Danie Leonard were the top three Leisure Wheels entries. But reading through each of these adventure men’s motivations, Danie, with the greatest respect to the other lads, stood out like an aircraft carrier parked between jet skis. A former Springbok paddler who competed in World Championship events around the world, he has three Ironman competitions under his belt, two Comrades Marathons, numerous Berg and Fish River canoe marathons and the 230km Trans Baviaans mountain-bike race. He also completed the 500km Expedition Africa race earlier in 2016.

Expedition Africa is some-thing else. It’s a 500km race that includes mountain biking, trekking, kayaking, rope work and orienteering. Teams must use a map and landmarks to navigate themselves, no matter the weather or conditions, and race until they are done. Teams need to strategise when they rest, when they eat and when they sleep. Clearly, Danie not only had the physical prowess needed, but also the mental strength. We didn’t have to think too hard to select him as our candidate. The process was not finished, though. RamsayMedia could nominate only one candidate between titles Leisure Wheels, CAR and Getaway. The other magazines each had their respective champions, too, and in a heated boardroom meeting in Cape Town, Danie was finally voted as the official RamsayMedia representative.

Shortly after Danie was informed that he had to report at the Conrad Pezula Golf Resort in Knysna a fortnight later to compete in the competition, his campaign to win a Toyota Fortuner worth R400 000 got underway. With no idea what challenges were in store, he went to his local Toyota dealer where he inspected and studied a Fortuner, inside and out. He memorised all the specifications, too, just in case there would be questions about the vehicle. Next he found out who his competitors were. They were Kristian Fesel, Harold Durnez and Stephen Vallaro, and Danie researched them on the internet as best he could, trying to determine what each competitor’s strong points were – and any weak points, too,  of course.

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And so the day of the challenge arrived. Danie, a teacher in George, drove the short distance to Knysna for the two-day competition. The event started off with a draw to pair up the contestants and the celebrity sportsmen. The athletes included former Dakar Rally winner and Toyota Gazoo Racing South Africa driver, Giniel de Villiers; Cyclelab director and multiple Cape Epic winner, Andrew Mclean; Currie Cup winning rugby player and member of the Blitzbokke, Ryno Benjamin (Cheetahs); and Currie Cup winning centre and Under-20 Rugby World Cup winner Raymond Rhule (Cheetahs).

Danie and Andrew Mclean landed up together, and although there were definitely bigger muscles in some of the other teams, there was a sense of calm, wisdom and sheer determination about this team. The Fortuner 4×4 Challenge was to be decided over seven activities: Garmin Rush (orienteering), Conrad Pezula Flame Masters (cooking), Toyota Speed Shot (golf), SuperSport Fortuner Shuffle (car tetris), Salomon Up and Down trail run (running and abseiling), Thule Paddle and Load (paddling), and Specialized Mountain Mayhem (mountain biking). Not long afterwards, Danie and Andrew won the first orienteering challenge.

And the subsequent cooking task, too. The second day kicked off with a speed golf challenge – and this was clearly not Danie and Andrew’s forte. They finished last, but bounced right back and won the car tetris, though. The competition moved on to the more physical tests, and Danie and Andrew missed out on a victory in the trail running event by just four seconds. Former Springbok paddler Danie, ably assisted by Andrew, predictably turned his canoe into what resembled a speedboat, and the team dominated this event.  The last activity was cycling. Here the celebrity sportsmen had to drive a Fortuner on some forest tracks, navigating the contestant on the Specialized mountain bike over the tough 10km route. And again, Danie and Andrew nailed it.

That evening Leonard was announced as the winner, bagging the Toyota. For team-mate Andrew, it was all part of the plan. “Before every challenge started, we had a clear strategy on how we would tackle it, so we didn’t just steam ahead and hope for the best. We would look at the activity, plan every step of it, and execute the plan accordingly. Our plans went only slightly wrong once when I got stuck behind another Fortuner in the biking challenge, and Danie went off into the distance without me. But he worked so hard for this… in the forest he was fearless, clocking speeds of around 80km/h on the bike,” said Andrew.Danie was full of praise for his teammate, too. “Wow, what a competitor and a legend. We really thought everything through, and stuck to our plans. Andrew is quite the competitor,” added Danie.

And so ‘our man’ Danie won the Fortuner 4×4 Challenge, with ample support from the cycling legend. The schoolteacher from George will now sell his bakkie and use his new Toyota Fortuner.  We wish Danie and his family many happy adventures with their new ride and gear.

Photos: Tian van den Heever