Bridgestone South Africa

4x4 Club Challenge raises a few… wheels!

May 23, 2014
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Bridgestone South Africa's 2014 4x4 Club Challenge got underway in rather extreme fashion with the Mercedes G-Xtreme team event. Based at the club's 4x4 track, north of Pretoria, the event featured plenty of airtime for Mercedes Gelandewagen wheels as the competitors battled it out over nine tough obstacles.

Besides the compliment of Mercedes 4x4s, the event also saw three vehicles from the Lichtenburg 4x4 Club make the trip from the North West province to take part in what has traditionally been billed as one of the toughest 4x4 tests on the Club Challenge calendar.

"Many of the 4x4 competitors from other clubs seem to be reluctant to come and tackle our obstacles," explains G-Xtreme chairman and former Bridgestone Fundi 4x4 champion, Johan Marx. "This year we invited three Lichtenburg crews. They are always up for a challenge, and we certainly had a challenge planned for this event."

The troop of Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagens got the event underway with some extremely challenging axle twisters, some rocks – and those omni-present poles with golf balls perched on top. The first few G-wagons, piloted by experienced Bridgestone 4x4 teams, lost some points here, so the inexperienced teams who competed for the first time really had their work cut out!

The Lichtenburg 4x4 Club teams also had to stand up and be counted on the Gelandewagen-tough track, with two of the crews struggling to get any points on the board. A small and slightly modified Suzuki Jimny though, piloted by seasoned competitors Wimpie Olivier and Jaco van Zyl, managed to sail through the obstacles without too many pains. However, the Lichtenburg teams were only taking part for fun, so they were not eligible to qualify for the finals at the Mercedes event.

As the morning went on, it was clear that this course would really be one that would separate the boys from the men. It was the type of challenge tailor-made for the tough-as-nails, military-based Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagens, with their front and rear differential lockers that can be engaged and disengaged on the move.

However, some of the lesser experienced crews, with very limited off-road driving hours on their log books, still had to find the ideal balance between too much and too little momentum, and when to engage those lockers, and when not to. It made for some entertaining spectating, as these crews learned the intricacies of their super-duper Mercedes 4x4s!

For the last obstacle of the day, co-sponsor Opposite Lock introduced a unique new challenge for the Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge crews. Although this test did not count towards the overall results, all the teams that participated were entered into a draw for a very handy Mean Green recovery kit prize. And recovery was exactly what this challenge was all about.

Each team had to use a VRS winch, as sold by the Opposite Lock franchises, and fitted to a Bridgestone Toyota Hilux, to winch their own vehicle out of a supposedly stuck scenario. For many of the crews it served as a valuable learning experience, as few of these off-roaders have actually had to winch a vehicle out of trouble. It was a great new addition to the Club Challenge – and Opposite Lock will now host such a challenge-cum-training exercise at every event.

To the results: In a consistent show of skill and experience, top contenders Idmar Marx and Ruan Oosthuizen came through to claim third place overall – and the first spot in the 2014 Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge final, to be held later in the year. They won a hand winch, sponsored by Opposite Lock.

Seasoned Bridgestone Fundi campaigner Graham Jupp, partnered by Lyn Zabel, claimed second place overall, reserving their seat in the final too. They won a set of 100W Opposite Lock spotlights.

Showing their class and experience was the father-and-son team of Marco and Joe Marincowitz, who won the event overall. The former Bridgestone 4x4 Fundi champions had a good day in the office, winning a R10000 tyre voucher from Bridgestone South Africa.

"It was a difficult event for us because we didn't get in much practice since last year's final," said Marco. "But we managed to steer clear of too many penalty points, and pulled off the win. Now we must definitely start practising for the final!"

The environmental prize of the day, sponsored by Opposite Lock, went to the team who made the least impact on the environment while going about their 4x4-ing business. This award went to the husband-and-wife team of Pieter and Esther van Niewenhuizen.

The next event on the 2014 Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge menu will be hosted by the Suzuki Auto Club of South Africa, in the Gauteng area, on 29 March. An 11-part television series, documenting each club event, will be screened later this year on DStv's Ignition channel.

More information: www.bridgestone.co.za.

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Bridgestone South Africa

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