2015 is going to be a tough year for participants in Bridgestone’s 4×4 Club Challenge. This message was driven home on the year’s first round of the long-running 4×4 driving skills competition, held recently at the Leeuwenkloof 4×4 facility near Hartbeespoort Dam.
The event saw 35 vehicles of all shapes and sizes line up for the start. Sporting a new format for 2015, the 4×4 Club Challenge now comprises four qualifying rounds from which the top performers will earn a spot in the even-tougher six-round knock-out series later in the year. The teams who make it through to the knock-out rounds will have their work cut out for them, as the obstacles and challenges will only get more testing – and in each knock-out round a number of teams with the lowest overall scores will be eliminated from the competition.
The ten obstacles in Round One proved extremely daunting: some were narrow and technical, while others favoured power over size. Obstacle nine in particular proved so tough that it was eventually cancelled by the event’s organisers, with too many vehicles becoming irretrievably stuck and requiring lengthy recoveries. “This year the obstacles are shorter, but much more technical and tougher too, especially for the near-standard 4x4s that compete in the competition,” said Bridgestone Brand Specialist, Guthrie Blaine.
In third place, with 595 points out of 900, were Shaun Niemand and Tjaart Scheepers in a Jeep Wrangler. The Jeep team – winners of several Bridgestone events in the past – won a Mean Green recovery kit, sponsored by Opposite Lock.
The rookie team of Tjaart and Adele Prinsloo did a grand job to secure second place overall. They scored 640 points in their Suzuki Jimny and won a set of Opposite Lock spotlights.
But it was the seasoned Suzuki Jimny campaigner, Wimpie Olivier, partnered by his brother Rheeder, who took the win with an impressive 800 points. The team had some lean times in the 2014 competition, and were well pleased with their performance which netted them a R10 000 tyre voucher from Bridgestone SA.
These results still don’t guarantee the top finishers a place in the knock-out rounds though, and they will have to wait and see if other teams from their respective clubs beat their scores. The next qualifying round of the 2015 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge will take place on 28 March at Leeuwenkloof, using the same obstacles. A field of 60 4x4s is expected to take part in that round.
“The top teams that advance to the knock-out rounds will have to prepare themselves for a lot more challenges,” concluded Bridgestone’s Blaine.