The penultimate round of the 2016 Bridgetone 4×4 Club Challenge was held at the rough-and-tough Spookspruit 4×4 trail, near Heidelberg. For most of the teams, it was a really tough day at the 4×4 office. In the end, it was a near-standard Suzuki Jimny and an Isuzu Frontier 320 V6 that ruled the roost.
Caught between a rock and a hard place,” the saying goes… and at the recent semi-final of the 2016 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge at the Spookspruit 4×4 trail near Heidelberg, that saying certainly rang true for a number of the teams. As if the 10 obstacles weren’t tough enough, just navigating between some tests proved a challenge, and numerous recoveries were made after competitors got stuck on their way to the next obstacle.
The new Spookspruit 4×4 trail, created by Johan Havenga, a former Bridgestone Club Challenge competitor and marshal, proved to be a worthy semi-final adversary for the 40 teams that battled it out for top honours. With route master Sakkie Coetzee adding his own dose of challenge, the teams had a real tough time, from the very first obstacle. In the short-wheelbase class, experienced crew Flip Kotze and Herman Steyn (Suzuki Jimny) beat a bevy of Jeep Wrangler Rubicons to top spot for the day, recording a remarkable 975 points.
Amazingly, the team lost only 25 points over the 10 tough obstacles. What makes the feat even more impressive was the fact that the Jimny does not have any locking differentials – unlike the Jeeps in second and third position, which come with standard lockers on the front and rear axles. In the long-wheelbase class, the Isuzu Frontier V6 320 entry of Gareth Goncalves and Chantel van Niekerk took a narrow five-point victory over the Toyota Fortuner of Johan and Maryke Reichel. Third place went to Vaughn Ashford and Noel Jones in a Nissan Hardbody V6 bakkie; a great performance for the Nissan lads and the highest-ranked bakkie on the day, too.
Only the final event remains in November and in the overall championship, the proverbial fat lady has not yet sung. In the short-wheelbase class, Johan Bekker and Johan van der Heever lead the points race in their Suzuki Jimny (146 points). However, Hans Strydom and Johan Cilliers are just three points adrift in their class SVM 3000, while highly experienced Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen crew Anton Coetzee and Johan Marx are also within striking distance on 141 points. So in the shorty class, the race for overall honours is still open.
In the long-wheelbase class, Johan and Maryke Reichel lead the points race in their Toyota Fortuner 3.0D-4D with 147 points in the bank. Goncalves and Van Niekerk are in second place in their Isuzu, but are 17 points adrift – the Frontier will need a small miracle to snatch the title from the Fortuner. Former champion Danny Daniels and Rob Wallace are third in their Ford Ranger Supercab 3.0 TDCi bakkie, with 128 points. The Ranger is the highest-placed bakkie in the overall championship, too.
“It’s been an exciting year of 4×4 driving, and most of the performances in the semi-final attest to the high standard of driving and level of competitiveness in the Club Challenge ranks,” said Bridgestone South Africa’s Guthrie Blaine.“With only the final remaining, the fight is still on in the shorty class. In the long-wheelbase segment, Johan and Maryke only need to keep a calm head to take the crown. But you know what they say about motorsport: it’s never over until it’s over.”
The 4×4 Club
Challenge is presented by Bridgestone SA (www.bridgestone.co.za) in conjunction with Opposite Lock (www.oppositelock.co.za) and Front Runner (www.frontrunner.co.za). The 2016 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge will be a screened as an eight-part series on DStv’s Ignition channel (189).