Venda – S22 29.938 E030 38.038 was the meeting point for twenty-two Land Rover Defender teams. This GPS point turned out to be The Big Tree located up in Venda – The Land of the Legends – where the eighth running of the Land Rover Centurion Defender Trophy Challenge commenced. The Challenge is based along the lines of the well-known Camel Trophy of yesteryear and is quickly becoming one of the toughest events of its type in the country. It is open to all Land Rover Defender owners and is certainly a test of man and machine.
The majority of teams were from Gauteng but some competitors came from as far as Nelspruit and Ermelo in Mpumalanga. Not only did we have a variety of teams but we also had an interesting array of Defender models varying in age, length and engine type. Teams consisted of a driver and co-driver and competed under a relevant team name.
A new feature to this year’s Defender Trophy was a pre-selection process held at the Land Rover Experience Gerotek outside Pretoria. Here the competitors were tested on their knowledge and application of winching, vehicle recovery and gradient and water crossings. The Defenders were also scrutinised for safety and any deficiencies were noted. This could lead to a team being disqualified from the final event if these discrepancies were not rectified.
Following a short welcome and driver briefing, the teams quickly learnt that their knowledge and ability to use a GPS (Global Positioning System) would be crucial. One of the first obstacles they encountered was a river crossing and, due to the huge amount of rain in the area, the Mutale River was flowing strongly. After a good show of spirited teamwork, where competitors stood in the water to form a “human wall”, all the vehicles made it safely across the strongly flowing river.
En-route to our first night’s camp in the Makuya Nature Reserve, situated on the border of the Kruger National Park, teams had to identify trees, plants and other interesting landmarks. GPS’s were used extensively for this task. As darkness fell, some teams still had to complete the final test for the day. Using only verbal directions from the co-driver, the driver had to navigate an obstacle blindfolded. Some of the teams arrived at camp well after midnight and still had to set up camp. Camping on the banks of the Levubu River was reward enough for a demanding, but satisfying day in the bush.
As in the days of Camel Trophy, a variety of tests awaited the teams on the second day. These included winching, bridge building exercises and environmental awareness tasks. As Land Rover South Africa is the proud sponsor of the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s (EWT) Wild Dog Project – the most endangered carnivore in Southern Africa – the EWT played an important role in The Trophy this year. Teams not only completed questionnaires relating to Wild Dogs, but they also had to “spot” a wild dog (simulated) in the bush and identify which member of the pack it was using photographs and coat patterns. Tracking a Wild Dog in the bush was also simulated and these activities allowed the competitors a brief insight into a part of the work conducted by the EWT researchers.
Day three saw a convoy drive following a seldom-used cut-line over the Northern Soutpansberg Mountains. Competitors took turns to lead the convoy and to ensure everyone’s safe passage. Conquering the Mangwele Pass after dark to the campsite with the same name proved to be quite an excursion as sharp, loose rocks, potentially damaging to both vehicle and tyres had to be avoided. That evening teams had to present their team “flags” to the group, explaning how they got to their team name and the final design of their flag.
Day four and following an early morning visit to the waterfall and potholes within walking distance from the camp, it was time for the Legends (the Defenders) to visit more Legends – Lake Fundudzi and the Holy Forest which is said to be protected by Nethathe an important chief and magician who according to legend could turn himself into various animals so as to watch over his people. When he died his spirit turned into a sacred white lion that haunts the forest to protect his grave and the graves of other chiefs buried in the forest. One may not walk in the Sacred Forest for fear of angering the ancestral spirits.
The final challenges were conducted in an unused muddy quarry in the Nwanedi Nature reserve where teams had a last chance to score points. Driving skills and teamwork were challenged in this task and much spectator fun was had by all. A visit to the Tshihovhohovho Falls put the final touches on the 2011 Land Rover Centurion Defender Trophy.
Another Legend joined the group that evening for prize-giving – Kingsley Holgate – Africa’s modern-day explorer who has travelled thousands of kilometres in Land Rover Defenders and who is involved in the fight against malaria. He shared with the team his experiences and adventures of his many km’s spent in Land Rovers.
The Land Rover Centurion Defender Trophy Venda 2011 was won by Team Motor Dogs of Colin Gallop (driver) and Bruce McDonald. They competed in a Defender 90 Pick-Up and won accessories to the value of R50 000 from LA Sport. They were five points ahead of second-placed Team Nyati (Paul Fouche and Radie Kotze) in their Defender 130 Tdi who walked away with a set of BF Goodrich Mud Terrain Tyres and a Tabore 12000 winch. A single point separated them from Team Rafiki (Steven Goosen and Matthew Lizemore) who finished third in their Defender 90 TD5. They were rewarded with a set of Mud Terrain Cooper Tyres and a CTEK Dual Battery System.
Team Bairy Hollocks (Warren Vos and Peter Healey) with their petrol-powered Defender 90 were fourth. They also scooped up the Roger Rouessart Team Spirit Award. Team Terrers, Michael Terreblanche Senior and Junior, were fifth in their 110 TD5. The Most Enthusiastic Team was Team Vlakvark (Nick and Rob Smart and Arche and Jaco Coetzer) whose heavily laden Defender 110 TD5 survived a few mechanical problems whilst the EWT Award for the highest points scored in the EWT Questionnaire went to Team Buffalo Dogs, Louw Venter and Dirk van Rooy (Defender 110).
The 2011 Land Rover Centurion Defender Trophy was once again a huge success and is fast becoming one of the most respected off-road driving competitions in South Africa.
POSITION PLACING OF COMPETITORS AND SPONSORED PRIZES
1st Place Team Motor Dogs: Colin Gallop & Bruce McDonald Points: 86
Prizes: Hand Made Defender Trophy from Shades of Ngwenya, Accessories to the value of R50 000 from LA Sport, Personalized Defender Trophy 2011 Photo-book from RRAD Photography, Land Rover World Magazine Subscription
2nd Place Team Nyati: Paul Fouche & Radie Kotze Points: 91
Prizes: Set of BF Goodrich Mud Terrain Tyres from Hatfield Autowiel, Tabore 12000 winch from Solihull 4WD, Land Rover World Magazine Subscription
3rd Place Team Rafiki: Steven Goosen & Matthew Lizemore Points: 92
Prizes: Set of Mud Terrain Cooper Tyres from Cooper Tyres, CTEK Dual Battery System from Landyonline, Land Rover World Magazine Subscription
4th Place Team Bairy Hollocks: Warren Vos & Peter Healey Points: 95
Prizes: Melville & Moon Seat Covers, Land Rover World Magazine Subscription
5th Place Team Terrers: Michael Terreblanche Jnr & Snr Points: 98
Prize: 40Litre Engel Fridge and protective cover from Lazfin
6th Place Team REM: Shane Smart & Brent Proctor Points: 101
Prize: Large Canvas Safari Dome Tent 2.4m x 2.4m from Lobatse Canvas
7th Place Team Landyonline: Brian Cotton & Sats Oosthuizen Points: 109
Prize: Large Canvas Gemsbok Dome Tent 3.0m x 3.0m from Lobatse Canvas
8th Place Team Hue 166: Wally Reynolds & Steve Brink Points: 111
Prizes: Top of the Range GPS from Kevin Bolton Consultants, Double Gerry Can Bracket from Rafiki 4×4
9th Place Team Super Boer: Felix & Johan Joubert Points: 113
Prize: HYT 610 VHF 2-way radio with aerial from Christopher Robin
10th Place Team Bulli Beef : Dylan Watkins & Gerber Strydom Points: 115
Prize: MADMAN Engine Monitoring System from Landyonline
11th Place Team 40+: Brendon Lowe & Pieter Coetzer Points: 122
Prize: Protective Steering Sump Guard Cover from Rafiki 4×4
12th Place Team The Wild Dogs: Freddie Cronje & William Botes Points: 126
Prize: Photo Package for the Most Photographed Defender from RRAD Photography
13th Place Team 68: Jaco Steyn & Cobus V/D Merwe Points: 132
Prize: Gift Voucher to the value of R3000 from Big Country
14th Place Team Fakawi: Brad Warn & Gary Swemmer Points: 133
Prizes: Canvas Kit Bags from Lobatse Canvas, Hand held search light 12v from Hella South Africa
15th Place Team 2 Men & A Baby: Mike Eriksen- Miller & Darren Smart Points: 135
Prizes: Gift Voucher to the value of R2000 from Big Country
16th Place Team Gab Jog: Alasdair Garnett & Gretha Lombard Points 142
Prize: 4X4 Recovery Kit from Rafiki 4×4
17th Place Team Yellow Badgers: DeWaal Rossouw & Chris Mouton Points: 153
Prize: Gift Voucher to the value of R1000 from Big Country
18th Place Team Vlak Vark: Nick & Rob Smart + Arche & Jaco Coetzer Points: 164
Prize: Gift Voucher for a team to experience a hot air ballooning trip from Hot Air Ballooning South Africa
19th Place Team Wild Buffalo Dogs: Louw Venter & Dirk Van Rooy Points: 165
Prize: Engel Generator from REM Landy + the Endangered Wildlife Trust Award
20th Place Team Belela: Anton Van Der Mast & Naas Hattingh Points: 173
Prize: Canvas Portable Shower Head Units from Lobatse Canvas
21st Place Team Hangover: Kobus Kriel & Martin Du Preez Points: 176
Prize: Spade and Axe Brackets & Rear Gas Bottle Bracket for Roof Rack from Rafiki 4×4
22nd Place Team Rolling Stones: Jean-Luc Conradie & Peter Marais Points: 181
Prize: Canvas Kit Bags from Lobatse Canvas
Roger Rouessart Team Spirit Award: Team Bairy Hollocks: Warren Vos & Peter Healey
Prize: Roger Rouessart Pot Trophy & TJM Ox 4×4 Recovery Kit sponsored by LA Sport
Most Enthusiastic Team: Team Vlak Vark: Nick & Rob Smart + Arche & Jaco Coetzer
Prize: Hot Ballooning Trip for a Team sponsored by Hot Air Ballooning South Africa
EWT Award: (Highest Points for EWT Questionnaire) – Team Buffalo Dogs: Louw Venter & Dirk Van
Prize: Wild Dog Soft Toys