Bridgestone South Africa

Bridgestone updates on 4x4 Challenge

Jun 12, 2014

With four of the ten qualifying rounds complete, Bridgestone has issued a progress report on the 2014 4x4 Club Challenge. There's plenty to play for on the Challenge: the winner of each round receives a R10 000 Bridgestone tyre voucher, while second-place in each event wins the lucky crew a set of 100W spotlights. The third-placed team wins a hand winch, both prizes sponsored by Opposite Lock. The podium placers also book their places in the season-decider, to be held on 22 and 23 November 2014.

The year's opening event took place at the Mercedes G-Xtreme team's club 4x4 track north of Pretoria, and as the day unfolded, it was clear that this course was tailor-made for the tough-as-nails, military-based Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagens, with their front and rear differential locks that can be engaged and disengaged on the move.

In a consistent show of skill and experience, top contenders Idmar Marx and Ruan Oosthuizen came through to claim third place overall. Seasoned Bridgestone Fundi campaigner Graham Jupp, partnered by Lyn Zabel, claimed second place, and top honours went to the father-and-son team of Marco and Joe Marincowitz.

Round two of the Challenge was hosted on 29 March by the Suzuki Auto Club of South Africa 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 a mud test which the organisers weren't seriously expecting any of the entrants to conquer.

Regular frontrunners Danie Tait and Wilma Fourie, in a Suzuki SJ, finished in third place, while second place went to Raymond and Anel Martin, in their Jimny. But it was the first-time Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge team of Ivan Lerm and Andries Kemp which ultimately won the event.

Then it was the turn of the Nissan Club – they organised round three of the Challenge at the 4Wheel Drive Club of South Africa's Base 4 track near Hartbeespoort Dam, with the field of 30 teams consisting mainly of Nissan 4x4 models, supplemented by a handful of free agents – competitors in other brands who were just looking to have some fun but were not eligible to qualify for the Club Challenge final in November. This included a Mahindra Thar, two Suzukis, a Toyota and a Mitsubishi.

The competition got underway with an unusual twist. With their 4x4 parked at a peculiar angle on a slope, teams had to remove the right rear wheel and replace it, all inside five minutes. It sounds easy enough, but it certainly proved to be the opposite, as most teams failed to complete the process inside that tight five minute window.

After a series of increasingly tough test, the top dogs took to the podium. Third place overall belonged to the Nissan Hardbody V6 of Vaughn Ashford and Liza Williams, while second place went to Tim Klopper and Schalk Viljoen, in a Nissan Terrano II. But the class of the field were Christiaan Visagie and Matthew Ritson, taking top step of the podium in their Nissan Hardbody V6 single cab.

And so to the most recent event, the Isuzu Club's leg of the 4x4 Club Challenge, held in late May on a chilly morning at the Leeuwenkloof 4x4 complex near Hartbeespoort Dam.

As has become customary in the 4x4 Club Challenge, the action included an unusual test. Teams had to drive their 4x4s up a precarious see-saw contraption, and then balance the vehicle in the middle for five seconds. Without going into the details, not a single team scored full marks and so the stage was set for a tough day at the office for the crews!

When the final scores were tallied, third place went to Jaco Volmer and Melvin Paton in an Isuzu Frontier 280DT, while second went to the father-and-son team, Robert and Dustin Hale, driving an Isuzu Trooper. And topping the heap were Garreth Goncalves and Pieter van Niekerk, in an Isuzu Frontier 320 V6.

Those going through to the finals are competing for a trailer proudly sponsored by Conqueror. The next event on the 2014 Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge menu will be hosted by the 4x4 Community Forum in association with TuffStuff 4x4 Insurance, on 14 June. An 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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