Bridgestone Challenge upsets Patrol applecart
Bass Lake 4x4 trail was the venue for the third Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge of 2013. “It was the day of the underdogs,” said series organiser, Daniel Barbosa. “With the event being hosted by the Nissan 4x4 Club, most people were expecting the mighty Nissan Patrols to march up to the podium, but there were some surprises in store!”
Perhaps recollections of the dominance of the Mercedes Gelandewagens in round two of the Bridgestone 4x4 Club Challenge series had erased the memories of how the diminutive Suzuki Jimnys locked out the podium in the opening round. With the majority of entrants in round three driving Patrols, the Hardbodies, Navaras, Pathfinders and Tarranos were just there as bridesmaids, weren't they?
Once competitors on the Nissan event had got past the mandatory pre-start safety quiz, the opening obstacle presented a tight turn followed by a steep climb. As one competitor after the other lost points by touching the closely-spaced trail poles with their bull bars and side mirrors, it became clear that this competition had some teeth to bare.
Obstacle two was a long, reasonably flat climb up a hill, but again the poles made things a bit difficult, especially as the crews struggled through a couple of axle twisters.
Obstacles three and four were both downhill slogs, the first of which held a nasty surprise – the driver had to be blindfolded and then reverse to within ten centimetres of one of the trail poles. The next obstacle was a tight series of gates that could simply not be traversed without touching the poles, and the top-scoring drivers were those who put their egos in their pockets and picked the route that involved deliberate contact with just a couple of selected poles, rather than accidental contact with several.
After a steep climb, there were more gates, with the trail poles lurking close for the drivers whose nerve failed them, and after a muddy climb up a hill, the final obstacle was a ravine where crews had to choose between a steep side-slope and several trail poles. Quite a few drivers managed to make it through without sacrificing any points to this obstacle.
With the obstacles complete, it was time to satisfy the expectation that the Patrols were going to walk away with the laurels. Except that the script read differently, and Deon and Henriette Delport in their Pathfinder took third place, winning a handy hand winch sponsored by Opposite Lock.
What about second place then? Again, there was no Patrol in sight, but rather Schalk and Heino Grobler in a Hardbody, walking off with a set of Light Force lights also sponsored by Opposite Lock.
And the axe finally dropped on the Patrol's dreams when first place – and a R10 000 Bridgestone tyre voucher - went to Wimpie Olivier and Jaco van Zyl in a three-litre diesel Hardbody.
So how was it possible that the mighty Patrol was eclipsed by its smaller brethren? “The obstacles were simply too tight for the Patrol,” said Bridgestone's Barbosa. “It's a very competent off-roader, but on the kind of course we had here today, its bulk counted against it,” he commented.
As with the top finishers on previous rounds of the Bridgestone 4x4 Challenge, the podium placers on the Nissan event will advance to the final which will take place on 16 and 17 November 2013. But that story is still far from being written, and the next round of the Challenge will be hosted by the Isuzu Offroad Club on 18 May 2013.
The overall second place winners of the Bridgestone Club Challenge will stand a chance to win a R20 000 Tough Dog adjustable suspension compliments of Opposite Lock. The overall first place finishers will win a R50 000 Conqueror Courage off-road trailer.