The final round of the 2013 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge saw the 30 top teams fight it out for top honours at the Gerotek Vehicle Testing facility near Pretoria. However, nothing could prepare the competitors for the surprises the organisers had up their sleeves!
It’s a bit of a mirror-mirror-on-the-wall question: which brand of 4×4 is really the better one, giving it’s driver a spectacular advantage on a tough 4×4 test?
Perhaps the Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen or the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with differential lock on the front and rear axles? What about the tiny and very maneuverable Suzuki Jimny? And lest not forget the barrage of double cab bakkies.
But the real conundrum for Bridgestone SA’s Daniel Barbosa, in the weeks leading up to the final, was simply: how does one ensure that the competition is fair for all makes and brands, and that not one particular party enjoys any unfair advantage?
The answer, as it turns out, was quite simple – give all the competitors the very same vehicles to drive, on the same obstacles. This way it all comes down to driver skill and the crew’s ability to adapt to a 4×4 they’ve never driven before.
The surprise – and excitement – when Barbosa broke the news about the control 4x4s to be used at all the final obstacles was clear to see. But the more the news began to sink in, the more it seemed to make sense, and the more the competitors smiled. This would, most agreed, be as fair a 4×4 driving competition as the country has ever seen.
The big day arrived, and the 30 teams used their own vehicles to navigate between obstacles. At each obstacle a vehicle awaited them… from a Suzuki Jimny with no differential locks to a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG with the traction control switched off, for a slow-speed skidpan gymkhana.
It was soon clear that scoring points on the obstacles would be a challenge, never mind scoring full marks! But as they progressed though the day, some competitors – who clearly had a knack for adapting quickly and were able to play the cards dealt to them most efficiently – raked in a 100 points here, and 80 points there.
Meanwhile another major factor was, unbeknown to most of the teams, also in play. Bridgestone is very passionate about environmental issues, and at each obstacle the marshals had to score the teams on specific environmental challenges. At one obstacle, for instance, the marshals had left some empty cool drink cans on the actual obstacle.
The competitors who picked up the cans and threw them in nearby dustbins scored top environmental points.
At another obstacle, where wheel-slip was very likely, the control of the wheel spin counted points. So wild revving and mud flying in all directions resulted in a low environmental score, and a more controlled and measured approach earned the teams more points.
After a long day in the saddle, driving a wide variety of machines, the teams finally headed to the nearby Leeuwenkloof 4×4 Environmental facility for the final prize giving of the 2013 season.
There was another surprise waiting! Main prize sponsor Conqueror trailers announced that the competition’s first prize, a trailer valued at R50 000, had been upgraded to a R100 000 trailer!
In third place, and demonstrating that his talent is not all about his Gelandewagen’s two locking differentials, was Idmar Marx, with co-driver Johan Bischoff. The team won a R10 000 tyre voucher from Bridgestone SA.
His Jeep Wrangler Rubicon may be a really capable 4×4, but the man that holds that steering wheel is also not half-bad. In second place was Johan Swift, co-piloted by Dieter Schaap. The team won a R20 000 Tough Dog suspension from Opposite Lock.
The winners on the day, with an excellent performance in the field and in the environmental stakes, were Danny Daniels and Tjaart Scheepers. The team, who normally campaigns a Jeep Grand Cherokee, bagged that R100 000 prize worth of Conqueror trailer.