Stage 4 – Day 28 – South African Victory – Challenge Final Report
South African superstar adventure athlete, Martin Dreyer, today won the 2006 Land Rover G4 Challenge. Beating off 17 of the world’s toughest adventure racers in the 4×4-based global Challenge, Dreyer took home a brand new Range Rover after a nail-biting climax to the 28 day marathon that spanned across four countries on two continents.
The culmination of the month-long Challenge using Land Rovers, kayaks, mountain bikes, abseiling, jumaring and orienteering was a punishing 25 minute Challenge Final staged in a river bed on the Bolivia/Argentina border.
Only the top four scorers – calculated after four hellishly hard stages in Thailand, Laos, Brazil and Bolivia – made it into the Challenge Final. Of those narrowly missing the cut were two of the three women in the Challenge; Alina McMaster of Australia and Eleonora Audra of Brazil.
“If you had told me a month ago I would have been fifth in the Land Rover G4 Challenge then I would not have believed you,” said Nora as the siren to signal the start of the Challenge Final blew. “I am proud to have done this for me and Brazil and for the girls. Now let’s see who will win the big prize.”
The four finalists, in order of points scored, were Martin Dreyer (749), Kris Janssens of Belgium (709), Dmitry Timokhin of Russia (694) and Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Calais (643).
With a second a point issued as a penalty, the gap between Dreyer’s start time and Calais’ start time was 1 minute 46 seconds – potentially 10% of the total time expected for the multi-discipline test.
“It’ll be hard to make that up, but I’ll try,” said J-B.
Crowds of media, support drivers and the remaining 14 competitors lined the canyon side and river bank to cheer the finalists on. Dreyer was first off, plunging down a zip wire to the far side of the river.
As he hit the far bank, Kris fired off in hot pursuit, followed fifteen seconds behind by Dmitry. The second task was a maze – a memorisation of a colour-coded chart corresponding to a grid of national flags. At the bottom of the correct flags was a number and letter combination. Get the code right and on the finalist could go to the next task.
Martin pinballed through the maze, then onto task three as strong as an ox. There was no sign of the painful leg injury that had troubled him over the past few weeks.
Kris too managed the maze OK but both Dmitry and J-B forgot they had to add up the number element in the quiz and lost almost a minute apiece. The final was now effectively a two-man race.
Martin’s speciality is kayaking. He has won Africa’s hardest kayak/run even many times and is a national legend. So as the pair came down river it was no surprise he had made up 3 seconds over Kris.
Then the tables turned. Kris hunted down Martin like prey. Slowly catching him over a 200 metre run back across the fast-flowing river, Kris clawed the seconds back. The same again on a sapping mountain bike sprint up the sandy river bank. The gap now; 38 seconds. And by the time the two had driven Land Rover Discovery 3’s down the river the gap was barely half a minute.
A jumar and abseil task from a hot air balloon had to be cancelled because of a strong breeze so the last chance for Kris to catch up was with brain not brawn. The pair had to solve a mental riddle of putting the first name of each competitor in alphabetical order.
“It was at this point I thought I had lost it,” said Martin, whose stress levels appeared to reach Andean heights. “I could remember about 13 and then could not think of the last few.”
The Belgian too was using his little grey cells to beat the African ironman. But Martin’s memory finally came good and he shot off back to the river to wade breathlessly towards his prize – a shiny new Range Rover parked midstream. Slapping the bonnet like an old friend earned him the keys and the Land Rover G4 Challenge title.
“This is one of the happiest moments of my life. I cannot believe I have won,” he cheered, as the fellow competitors hugged and pawed him. “Normally the events I do are a few days. This has been a month of build up.
“The final was tough. But the toughest part was the mental tasks. I so thought I had lost it. Then the next thing I knew I was slapping the bonnet. I never thought I would win the Land Rover G4 Challenge. I pictured myself crossing the winning line as a way to psyche myself up but to really think I would win before today would have been arrogant. Kris was a tough opponent, right to the end. I am not sure what happened to Dimi and J-B but they did good too.”
Kris crossed the finish line as Martin was being besieged by media. He was philosophical in defeat – at the end of a week when he appeared to be getting stronger and stronger.
“I think everyone had such a good chance of winning this. I pushed myself hard but the time to Marti was just too big. I am disappointed not to win but it will not colour my 4 weeks. They have been life changing.”
“We are delighted with the way the Challenge has gone,” said Challenge Event Director Niki Davies, “and we couldn’t have asked for a better finish. I know there are 17 disappointed competitors here today, but in the end we all end up taking home fantastic memories and amazing friendships. The 2006 Challenge has been a fantastic journey in every sense of the word.”