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A ONE NIGHT STAND-OFF – 2014 BF Goodrich 4×4 Night Challenge

Team Land Rover AFICA Magazine, represented by the duo of tech editor “Oom” Ian Theron and art director “Danger” Dave Androliakos, braved the night in a Defender 110 Td5 to complete the BF Goodrich 4x4 Night Challenge. Along with 40 other vehicles, Oom’s experience and Danger’s youthful wits was exactly what was required for this demanding, all-night adventure challenge. Here's Oom Ian's account of their experience... Original Posted on September 2, 2014 by Anton Pretorius

When the sun goes down…

About forty 4x4 vehicles (including Toyota Hilux’s, Mitsubishi’s, Colts, Defenders and Fortuners) gathered at N1 City in Cape Town one Saturday afternoon. As the sun slowly set over Atlantic, challengers from all across the Western Cape came out of the woodwork – some even dressed up as if they’re attending a Halloween party! I could already tell that this was going to be an interesting night.   IMG_2401   We each received a boerewors roll and juice before the start of the challenge to line our stomachs for the hard work that lay ahead. To get the ball rolling, we were handed a scribbled piece of paper with mysterious drawings and distances.  So my co-driver and navigator Danger Dave Androliakos studied the piece of paper and off we went.   IMG_2428

4x4s and mind-games…

After about an hour, we reached the first of many obstacles in the parking lot of Chrysler Jeep Century City. Within a time frame of five minutes, we had to piece together a rudimentary puzzle that resembled Africa. Sounds easy right? Wrong. With the clock ticking, the team ahead of us found themselves fumbling for puzzle pieces in the dark (with only a small torch to help them). Suffice to say, they couldn’t complete the puzzle in the allocated time. That’s when I started getting worried.   IMG_2408   But luckily, Danger and I had our wits about us and completed the puzzle within a record time of three minutes. Challenge two was literally just 20 m down the road, and competitors had to weld two steel rods together. But seems like my welding skills are still sound (I was beginning to wonder if I still had it in me!) and I managed to finish the job within one and a half minute.   IMG_2433   Next we headed to Challenge three where participants were instructed to make use of their high-lift jacks to raise the rear wheel high enough to roll a cooldrink can underneath. Danger’s Red Bull can was a good choice as it is slim and small. Again, we nailed the challenge and it was onto the next. Chrysler Jeep’s 4x4 track in Century City presented our first 4x4 obstacle. By then, it was so dark that you could hardly see your hands in front of your face. We were just in time to watch a Toyota Hilux bakkie being towed and recovered from the obstacle and the Fortuner in front of us chickened out. We knew we couldn’t let the Land Rover brand down and we went for it.   IMG_2441 The obstacle wasn’t half as bad as we thought and my Defender powered its way over the hills with ease. Feeling quite satisfied with our performance on the track, we were given GPS co-ordinates to our first check point and headed North on the N7 towards Zone 7 near Cape Town’s Ostrich Farm.   IMG_2445

On the road again…

The dark roads gave us a good opportunity to test out our new spotlights supplied by Extreme-Lights, fitted only a few hours prior to the start of the race. And with these 70 Watt LED spots that boast a reach of half a kilometre, the event might as well been called a“Day” Challenge. The night came alive with these lights and made my HID lights look pale in comparison.   IMG_2411   We reached Zone 7 for our next challenge. This tricky section through the trees with deep dongas and sharp cutbacks wasn’t ideal for a Defender 110. Although it was a time trial, we made a strategic decision to take it slow and sacrifice seconds instead of the car. The night was still an embryo and the car would still need to get us through several challenges.     IMG_2458   After receiving our next reference point, we cruised along the famed West Coast road where we were given the task of identifying and allocating different countries on a map of Africa and match the correct flag and currency to each country. This proved to be a piece of pie as we just recently completed a trip through Africa (Cape to Dar es Salaam Expedition 2014).   After that we headed down to the seaside were instructors handed us a metal detector and were told to search for a metal bolt on a vast stretch of beach. This was a daunting task, but after eventually finding the “needle in the sandpit”, we moved onto the next challenge. Arriving in Atlantis, marshals instructed us to remove our air filter, clean it and present it for inspection. This was another time test and the team who managed to successfully complete this challenge in the quickest time were awarded 100 points.   IMG_2461

Shooting bunnies

The next set of GPS co-ordinated led us to another check point through seemingly impassable bushes, marshes, sand dunes. We had to cross treacherous mud holes, drive along railway tracks and headed East into the darkness. About an hour later, we were stopped again by a Marshall for the next challenge. They handed us a compass and told us to take a bearing to the point the marshal pointed out. Our navigation and map-reading skills were put to the test and teams only had one minute to complete this challenge. Those who guessed a reading accurate within two degrees scored 100 points. We managed ours in a respectable time and we headed off into the direction of Wellington and into the mountains of Baines Kloof. The howling wind proved to be no help at the next challenge point where we were instructed to shoot down a target in the shape of a bunny. Armed with kattys (catapults), we had one shot at bring down a dummy bunny. With windy conditions and poor visibility, this wasn’t going to be easy. However, one shot is all it took for me to bring the target down. After that shot, I twirled the katty, blew off the “smoke”, slipped it into my pretend-holster and uttered: “are you feeling lucky, punk?”   IMG_2477   Chuffed with my shooting performance, we headed down the pass towards Worcester for more 4x4 challenges. Somewhere in the valley, the next obstacle was waiting. We had to reverse across a bridge and down a ditch within the confines of two flags. This seemed easy enough. But then the twist: Marshalls handed Danger a shallow dish (like a Wok Pan) filled with one a half litres of water, which he had to balance on his lap and keep himself and the interior of the vehicle dry as a bone.     IMG_2489     The GPS took us high up into the mountains on a 4x4 trail which never seem to stop climbing into the starry sky. We reached a spot where the marshals asked us to throw a rope loop over a peg then tie two metal rods together and then unhook our vehicles keys from a clothesline two meters away. Danger had the task of sliding a metal loop over a curled wire without touching the wire. To cut a long story short, he nearly made it.

Call it a night…

A few kilometres through a treacherous trail, we reached a point where we had to reverse up a hill through some flags. By this time it was 04:30 am, and way beyond my bed time. Needless to say, sleep-deprived and drowsy, we stuffed up a few challenges. But after some damage control, we zig-zagged our way through some mud, jumped into a canoe and delivered water to marshals waiting on the other side. IMG_2504   The final was a bake off where each team had to make a rooster koek and present it to the judges. They left the best for last as each team’s baking skills were put under the microscope as part of the grand finale challenge. Baking is not considered a common characteristic amongst a band of geharde 4x4 manne, but some of them showed they secrets talents and I was surprised that some didn’t enter MasterChef. IMG_2515   In a challenge where presentation was everything, we styled our home-made rooster koek to perfection (well, in our minds yes!). However, the judges didn’t look too impressed with our offering. Presenting it to the judges with a glass of red wine might not have been the best idea. As the sun rose over the mountains, we lit our first fire and sat down with an ice cold beer. It was time to cheers on a job well done and to making it through the night. This is certainly one event that not only tests your 4x4 skills, but also your common sense. We also made some great new friends along the way. The BF Goodrich Night Challenge was certainly one for the books. The final standings are yet to be released. Watch this space as we’ll published the final results of the event right here. Thanks to Greg van der Reis and his team of marshals for a well-organised and flippen lekker event.   IMG_2503     IMG_2522
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