With the mud barely dry on the 2015 season of Bridgestone’s 4×4 Club Challenge, the 2016 edition was launched on Saturday, February 6, at the McCarthy 4×4 Club’s Pretoria East venue.
The theme for 2016 is for the events to follow a nature trail of which obstacles form part, rather than merely moving from obstacle to obstacle as has been the custom in previous years. Nearly 40 vehicles turned out for the event – the first of four qualifying rounds – which offered ten obstacles set along a trail at the Rhino Park complex.
Sakkie Coetzee, infamous for his tough routes in 2015, returned as the 2016 route master. The first qualifier’s obstacles were pitched at a difficulty level challenging enough to pique the interest of experienced campaigners, without completely overwhelming newcomers.
2016’s Club Challenge is being contested in four classes: a class each for standard long or short wheelbase vehicles, and two more classes catering for non-standard long or short wheelbase entries. The non-standard classes allow for the fitment of aftermarket traction assistance, like differential locks.
“Our focus is on the more standard 4x4s this year, so the new rules will favour vehicles that are close to stock,” said Bridgestone South Africa’s Guthrie Blaine, who oversees the Club Challenge.
With the obstacles featuring everything from side-slopes, gravel, mud, and even a large sand pit, it was a day of close concentration for the veterans and gritted teeth for the new entrants.
Winning the standard short-wheel base class in their Jeep Wrangler Rubicon were Lourens Dames and Dominique Chelowka. The pair, who contested the Club Challenge in 2015, have swapped seats for this year, with Dames driving and Chelowka navigating. They were also the event’s overall winners, bagging a R10 000 tyre voucher, courtesy of Bridgestone South Africa.
Kiruben Reddy, another 2015 competitor who has moved to the passenger seat for 2016, is now partnered by his wife, Karishma. The pair scored 700 points to take the laurels in the standard long wheelbase class in the family’s Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon. They finished second overall for the day too, winning an MRO LED light bar, courtesy of Opposite Lock.
Newcomers Kobus Erasmus and Eddie Liebenberg in a Jeep Wrangler, came in third, losing out to the Reddys by just five points. They won an adjustable shovel, also courtesy of Opposite Lock.
The next qualifying round will take place on Saturday February 13, again at the Rhino Park complex, using the same obstacles.
“The format is more tightly-packed this year,” commented Blaine. “Judging by the first round, this weekend’s action is going to be worth following!”
Leisure Wheels will be taking part in next Saturday’s Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge in a Mitsubishi Pajero. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more.