Tough obstacles and a streamlined class system saw more teams fall by the wayside in the latest elimination rounds of the 2015 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge.
“Starting from Round Six, held at the Bass Lake 4×4 Adventure centre in Henley on Klip, short and long wheelbase 4x4s were separated into their own classes,” explained Bridgestone South Africa’s Guthrie Blaine. “This leveled the stakes as teams who made it through the earlier rounds battled it out to remain in contention.”
Rain was expected at the Bass Lake event, but the weather held off, sparing the teams the ordeal of a mud-sodden track, and leaving a few drivers counting their blessings over obstacles which were formidable enough in the dry.
With the route’s difficulty, it was no surprise that the long wheelbase class was won by former Club Challenge champion Danny Daniels, partnered by Rob Wallace in a Jeep Grand Cherokee CRD. A Grand Cherokee took second place too, piloted by Ben and Francois Pretorius, with the Toyota Hilux double cab of Riaan and Michelle Kotzee on the third step of the podium.
In the short wheelbase class, it was a podium lock-out for Suzuki. Long-time front-runners Danie Tait and Wilma Fourie, in an SJ410, top-scored with a superb 940 points out of 1000, even after a 25-point penalty was deducted for their front differential lock. Second-placed Henry and Alta Barnes, and third-placed Wimpie and Rheder Olivier filled the lower podium steps in their Jimnys.
With the new class system shaken down, the 43 remaining teams (down from 60 at the start of the elimination rounds) gathered at the At se Gat 4×4 trail near Brits for Round Seven of the 4×4 Club Challenge at the end of August. The event dished up a highly technical route which saw the recovery teams putting in as much work as the crews themselves as vehicle after vehicle fell foul of the fiendish obstacles designed by route master Sakkie Coetzee. The result was a ‘real world’ course – slippery water crossings gave way to rocky climbs and descents, with added spice from holes and ditches which tested the teams to the limit.
In the short wheelbase class, the Jeep Wranglers ruled the roost, with experienced crew, Shaun Niemand and Tjaart Scheepers, in their TJ, taking a narrow 20-point victory over Werner and Arno Schaap in a Rubicon 3-door V6. The Suzuki SJ410 of Flip Marais and Pieter Britz were third past the post after a giant-killing performance which saw them dominate many more-powerful vehicles.
The long wheelbase class was won by teenager Ruan Keyser, ably navigated by father Nico, in a Land Rover 110 pick-up. The vehicle itself has a bit of a history: the Keysers discovered it abandoned and in a pitiful state on a farm near Coligny. After restoration on their own farm in Lichtenburg, the back-from-the-dead Landy was able to beat a raft of more modern 4x4s, some piloted by former Bridgestone 4×4 Champions!
Second behind the Keysers were Cobus Bohmer and Wayne Harvey in a Toyota Fortuner 3.0D-4D, while former champion Danny Daniels and co-driver Rob Wallace came third in their Jeep Grand Cherokee.
“The competition now moves to the Lichtenburg 4×4 Club in the North West province, which has traditionally been a challenge with its marble-like surface,” said Bridgestone’s Blaine. “I think the teams are in for one tough day in the 4×4 office!” he concluded.