Bridgestone South Africa

Smaller is… better?

May 23, 2014

Round two of Bridgestone South Africa"™s 4x4 Club Challenge, a really tough 4x4 affair that tested man and machine to their limits, showed that size does matter after all.

Driving a near-standard Suzuki Jimny, first-time off-roaders Ivan Lerm and Andries Kemp kicked dust in the eyes of 34 other teams - and many of these teams were in hardcore 4x4s with more lockers than Pollsmoor Maximum Security prison.

The Suzuki Auto Club of South Africa hosted their round of the 4x4 Club Challenge at the ATV Club"™s Rust de Winter 4x4 track, north of Pretoria. The track featured nine tight and technical 4x4 obstacles, as well as one nasty mud test - the organisers actually didn"™t expect any 4x4 to get through this one.

For this event the fleet of standard and modified Suzuki Jimny and Grand Vitara 4x4s was complimented by some guest teams. This included a number of Jeep Wrangler Rubicons, Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagens, a couple of Mahindra Thars, as well as a V8-powered Range Rover Classic that sported a mighty roar.

Although only the Suzuki club members were eligible to qualify for the 2014 Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge Final, to be held later this year, the competitive spirit of the other teams and their steeds added some extra spice and drama to proceedings

The Suzuki clan does have a unique party trick up their sleeves though - their relative small size and manoeuvrability give them a clear advantage on a tight and technical track. And that"™s exactly how it panned out. Despite the lack of locking differentials, most of the Jimnys managed to work their way through the obstacles without too many pains. The bigger Grand Vitaras had a slightly more challenging time, but they mostly got through okay.

One obstacle was not a 4x4 obstacle at all, but instead competitors had to give 10 steps they would take in case of a snake bite. Yep, the teams had to use the brain power as well as traditional right-foot power here! Other tests included steep climbs, lined with ruts, as well as side slops, a driver-driving-the-4x4-outside-the-4x4 test, as well as some cement-based climbs and descents.

Another test required teams to not only negotiate a very tight and technical obstacle, but also to avoid "Boompie" - a small tree growing halfway onto the track. Accordingly, environmental points were scored at every obstacle too, taking into account excessive wheel spin, and so on.

However, there was that case of the impassable mud hole. With not so much horsepower under the bonnet, combined with relatively little ground clearance and mud that was as sticky as a half-eaten lollipop, stuck to a cloth car seat, the Jimnys and Grand Vitaras had a really tough time here. Although two of the Jimnys eventually came within less than a metre of completing the obstacle, it was the pack of powerful Jeep Wranglers that managed to tame this tough test.

As was the case with the opening round of the Challenge, co-sponsor Opposite Lock ran a unique challenge for the Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge crews. Although the test did not count towards the overall results, all the teams that participated were entered automatically into a draw for a very handy Mean Green recovery kit prize.

Each team had to use a VPS winch, as sold by the Opposite Lock franchises, and fitted to a Bridgestone Toyota Hilux, to winch their own vehicle out of a supposedly precarious position. For many of the crews it served as a valuable learning experience, as few of these off-roaders have actually ever winched a vehicle out of spot of bother before.

The Top Three results was a mixed bag of the usual suspects, as well as an unexpected surprise. Regular frontrunners Danie Tait and Wilma Fourie, in a very cool Suzuki SJ, which appears to be powered by a lawnmower engine, finished in third place on 690 points. They won a hand winch, sponsored by Opposite Lock.

Second place overall belonged to Raymond and Anel Martin, in a cool Jimny with a few aftermarket tricks added. The Martins scored 710 points, and bagged a cool set of Opposite Lock spotlights for their trouble.

But grabbing the spoils ahead of all the more experienced teams, many of whom had some extra 4x4 tricks installed on their vehicles, were first-time Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge competitors Ivan Lerm and Andries Kemp, scoring a most impressive 750 points.

This team demonstrated that the old adage of "it"™s the nut that holds the steering wheel" can make a big difference, and their slow-and-steady and calculated approach won them a famous victory and a R10000 tyre voucher from Bridgestone.

The environmental prize, sponsored by Bridgestone SA, went to JJ Botes and Eric Calverley in a Suzuki Jimny from Suzuki Boksburg.

The next event on the 2014 Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge menu will be hosted by Nissan 4x4 Club of South Africa, in the Gauteng area, on 12 April. A 11-part television series, documenting each club event, will be screened later this year on DStv"™s Ignition channel.

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Bridgestone South Africa

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