The top 4×4 team
There is no doubt about it, drivers play a massive role in the performance of a vehicle … But how can you determine the skills of these important people? The final round of the 2013 Bridgestone 4×4 Club Challenge saw the 30 top teams fight it out at the Gerotek Vehicle Testing facility near Pretoria.
It’s a bit of a “mirror, mirror on the wall” question: which brand of 4×4 is really the better one, giving its driver a spectacular advantage on a tough 4×4 test?
Perhaps the Mercedes-Benz Gelandewagen or the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with differential lock on the front and rear axles? What about the tiny and very manoeuvrable Suzuki Jimny? And let’s not forget the barrage of double-cab bakkies.
But, in the weeks leading up to the final round, the real conundrum for Daniel Barbosa, of Bridgestone South Africa, was simply: how does one ensure that the competition is fair for all makes and brands, and that one particular party does not enjoy an unfair advantage?
The answer, as it turns out, was quite simple – give all the competitors the very same vehicles to drive, and the same obstacles to overcome. This way it all comes down to the skill of the driver and the crew’s ability to adapt to a 4×4 they’ve never driven before.
The surprise – and excitement – when Barbosa broke the news about the control 4x4s (from a Suzuki Jimny with no differential locks to a Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG with the traction control switched off) to be used at all the final obstacles was clear to see. But the more the news began to sink in, the more it seemed to make sense, and the more the competitors smiled. This would, most agreed, be as fair a 4×4 driving competition as the country had ever seen.
However, the final event wasn’t only about navigating between obstacles without a differential lock and with traction control switched off, but also about something that Bridgestone is very passionate about – the environment. At each task the marshals had to score the teams on specific environmental challenges.
At one obstacle, for instance, the marshals had left some empty cool drink cans on the actual obstacle. The competitors who picked up the cans and threw them in nearby dustbins scored top environmental points. So it was about a lot more than just pure driving skill.
Demonstrating that his talent is not all about the Gelandewagen in which he usually competes, in third place was Idmar Marx with co-driver Johan Bischoff. The team won a R10 000 tyre voucher from Bridgestone.
The Jeep Wrangler Rubicon that he normally drives may be a really capable 4×4, but the man that holds that steering wheel is also extremely skilled. In second place was Johan Swift, with co-driver Dieter Schaap. The team won a R20 000 Tough Dog suspension from Opposite Lock.
And, the winners on the day, with an excellent performance in the field and in the environmental stakes, were Danny Daniels and Tjaart Scheepers, who normally compete in a Jeep Grand Cherokee. They bagged a prize worth R100 000 – a Conqueror trailer.