FROM ANTARCTICA TO THE ATACAMA – HILUX PROVES IT’S EXTREME TOUGHNESS AGAIN
While the Imperial Toyota South Africa team was adding another chapter to the history of the Dakar Rally – in temperatures of up to 48ºC in the Atacama Desert of South America – another South African team was making history in temperatures of as low as -50ºC on the desolate white plains of the Antarctica.
In both these quests – in the harshest of climates and the most extreme environmental conditions imaginable – specially adapted Toyota Hilux vehicles built in South Africa played a vital part, emphasising the fact that when it gets tougher than tough, there is a Hilux around.
When Giniel de Villiers and his Imperial Toyota South Africa Hilux V8 crossed the finishing line in Lima, Peru, in third place overall in the 2012 Dakar race, the extreme athletes Braam Malherbe and Peter van Kets were only halfway towards achieving their goal – to reach the South Pole.
Malherbe and Van Kets started their race to the South Pole, organised by Extreme World Races (EWR) to commemorate the centenary of the epic tussle between Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott to reach the South Pole first, on January 4th – three days after the Imperial Toyota Hilux team set off from Mar del Plata in Argentina.
The two were up against fourteen other competitors from seven nations, competing as seven teams, racing on foot and with sleds over a distance of 768 km to be the first to the pole. By January 15th – when the Dakar race finished in Peru after more than 8 300 km over some of the harshest terrain on earth – they were still about 400 km short of their objective.
During their epic journey the South Africans (Team Mission Possible) was supported by a Hilux built in the Toyota South Africa Motors plant in Prospecton, Durban, before being converted by the Icelandic company Arctic Trucks (AT). The blue Hilux was driven by Emil Grimsson, Managing Director of Arctic Trucks International.
The other six teams, with competitors from Britain, Norway, Ireland, the Netherlands and Germany, were also supported by Hilux AT44 vehicles — of which no less than five (including two 6×6 Hilux AT44’s) – were built in South Africa.
After 15 gruelling days, on January 19th, the Norwegian team reached the South Pole first, followed by the Welsh team 7 days later. Negotiating multiple crevasses, crossing snow bridges, and rising to 3 000 m on the high plateau in temperatures as low as -48 ºC, the South African team reached the Pole at 6 am SA time on January 28th – 24 days after starting the event. Interestingly they, like the Dakar Hilux team, also finished in third place!
According to the race organisers this was a remarkable achievement as the South Africans were not used to the extreme cold condition and skiing on snow. It was even more of a feat considering that they were pulling an extra 13kg each for nearly 200 km!
The two adventurers decided to assist when a member of one of the British teams broke his arm but decided to continue, although unofficially. “We took the weight of the sled he was pulling and stayed with the Brits until the finishing line. Its teamwork and bridging gaps between nations that will ensure a sustainable future, not trying to beat someone,” said Malherbe.
Van Kets, who has rowed the Atlantic Ocean solo and unsupported and Malherbe, who have run the entire Great Wall of China, both agreed the South Pole race was the most difficult endurance adventure they have ever done and they were unanimous in their praise for the Hilux back-up vehicles.
“We are hugely indebted to the logistical organisation and the Hilux vehicles, which in fact saved lives on this extreme expedition,” said Malherbe. “If it was not for the modified Toyotas it is highly unlikely that a British participant from a different team would have survived.
“He had contracted bilateral pneumonia and the only way a doctor could get to him was in one of these incredible vehicles. After diagnosing the problem, an aircraft was flown in and he was evacuated to a medical facility at the Russian base of Novo.”
After reaching the pole Malherbe and Van Kets overstriked 1 000 coins for the SA Mint on an antique press. This was another world first for South Africa, as no coins have ever been minted in Antarctica. The coins were transported back to Novo in a Hilux AT before being flown back to South Africa. Malherbe and Van Kets also arrived back in South Africa earlier this month.
The entire race was filmed by the Johannesburg based production company Urban Brew Studios and will be broadcast as a 4-part documentary series, Cold Sweat, on SABC 3 later this year.