Three days and two nights of intense Boot Camp action, training and evaluation have determined the 17 South African finalists selected for the epic 12-day 2 500 km Ranger Odyssey 2014 in Namibia.
Forty contestants arrived at De Rust, Ford’s 4×4 training centre at Hartbeespoort Dam, on Friday 22 August after having been chosen from over 8 000 online entries and more than 1 600 candidates that completed the final phase of the entry process.
The action-packed programme commenced right from the outset as they were given comprehensive theoretical training on 4×4 driving and vehicle recovery techniques, followed by their first outings in 10 identical Ford Ranger 3.2 XLT Double Cab 4×4 Automatics on the steep 25 and 33-degree gradients.
Following a chilly night under the stars, day two began with a hike to the base camp and a session of convoy driving. Then it was straight into a punishing trail run with a series of challenging obstacles that required a high level of teamwork. It also put each contestant’s physical and mental endurance as well as inter-personal communication under scrutiny.
Undoubtedly the most arduous task of all for the off-road novices was the teeth-clenching 4×4 trail that often had the Ford Ranger straddling deep dongas with just two wheels touching the ground.
However, under the expert guidance of the De Rust instructors, and the exceptional capabilities of the Ranger, everyone made it through the obstacles without drama – and bristling with amazement and excitement.
In line with the tough 2 500 km route laid out for Ranger Odyssey 2014 in north western Namibia’s rugged Kaokaland, vehicle maintenance and preparation also formed a crucial part of the Boot Camp training schedule. Aside from regular vehicle checks, the contestants were tasked with preparing the fleet of Odyssey Rangers for the expedition.
The third and final day kicked off at sub-zero temperatures and focused on the final assessments and scoring by the judges. The panel included three contestants from the 2013 Ranger Odyssey alongside the De Rust crew.
“The Ranger Odyssey is bigger, better and much tougher than last year, yet the 40 high-calibre Boot Camp contestants impressed us throughout the weekend,” says Gavin Golightly, Ford marketing manager.
“They showed tenacity and enthusiasm under even the most challenging conditions, and it was an exceptionally tough task for the panel to choose the 17 South African finalists.”
For 2014, the Ranger Odyssey will incorporate three contestants from Sub-Saharan Africa, including one each from Angola, Nigeria and Mozambique – each of which were selected by the respective Ford distributors in those countries.
“We have a superb group of 20 diverse and enthusiastic individuals that have been chosen based on merit, and embody the true spirit of the Odyssey,” Golightly says. “They will be showing off the exceptional yet entirely accessible performance of the “Built Ford Tough” Ranger in some of Africa’s harshest and most extreme terrain over 12 days and 2 500 km.”
Ranger Odyssey 2014 runs from 7 to 19 September. Some of the main highlights include the notoriously difficult Van Zyl’s Pass, Epupa Falls and the Purros Loop, famous for its desert lions and elephants.
The contestants will be paired up randomly and compete as a team for the ultimate prize – the opportunity to each drive an Odyssey Ranger for a year, and R5 000 for fuel per month.
For further information on the Ranger Odyssey go to www.rangerodyssey.com, like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FordSouthAfrica) and follow @FordSouthAfrica on Twitter using the #RangerOdyssey hashtag.