Just after sundown on 16 April, a group of 4×4 drivers, co-drivers and marshals were standing around nervously outside 1st Outdoor & 4×4 in Stikland. Gerrie van Eeden welcomed everyone to the first ever event in the Dust Challenge Series. This was the start of a whole new way of doing 4×4 events…
After that night, the first three qualifiers for the final got their golden tickets, and the seed was planted for this series to grow. There was sand to navigate, mud holes to overcome and the darkness of night to wrangle down. During the year two more events followed, and the competition was fierce to gain an all-important spot into the final.
Because only if you are in the final do you have the opportunity to win and to say that you are the ultimate best off-road driver in the Western Cape. Because that is the philosophy of the Dust Challenge Series – not only one aspect of off-road driving is tested. You are not at an advantage if you have a super modified off-road vehicle with more chips than a kids’ party and more diff-locks than all your neighbours and their friends combined.
The events does not focus on using force to overcome obstacles, but rather on using your wit, skill and knowledge of your vehicle, your surroundings and knowledge of off-road driving.
In the end, 7 vehicles pitched up for the MAXXIS Tankwa Dust Challenge to try and claim that all important first title. Next year it is going to take some defending to retain that title, but also some skill will be needed to wrestle that title out of the champion’s hands.
On the Friday morning of the final, the teams were tasked with a navigation rally in the picturesque Tankwa Karoo. Sights like the Ouberg Pass, Ganaga Pass, Sutherland, Middelpos and the infamous Tankwa Karoo-highway were on the menu, and drivers and co-drivers alike welcomed the air-conditioned comfort of their vehicles as the temperatures soared throughout the day inside and outside the vehicle. As they returned, Elrico Koen set the pace by finishing closest to the target time. They were closely followed by Rieger van Rooyen and Charles ‘Charlie Verdwalie’ Muller claimed the last podium spot, despite making Middelpos look like a sprawling metropolis as he drove around looking for the right road to take. The infamous Tankwa-highway did its reputation proud with no less than 5 tyres returning to camp a little more deflated than they were when they left. But alas, that was not the end. Fortunately the Maxxis first prize was a tyre voucher to the value of R10 000 – quite a handy prize after a weekend in the Tankwa.
But the competitors were not done for the evening, as upon return to camp, they were informed not to get too stuck into the beers around the braai, as the organisers still had something lined up for them later that night. As darkness settled over Stonehenge Nature Reserve, where the final was held, and a dark moon rose on the horizon, teams were given a night navigation course to test their mettle after a hard day’s driving. This simulated a real life situation that you might find yourself in out on tour in the wilderness – if the sun is down, and your ice runs out or a snake decides to nibble on someone, you need to be able to navigate and find the nearest relief.
During this event it became apparent that the teams were here to win. Organisers originally estimated that it would take drivers about an hour to 90 mins to complete the trail on the farm. Elrico Koen in his Land Rover Discovery V8 once again set the pace at just over 20 minutes, with Rieger van Rooyen’s 80 Series Land Cruiser coming a close second, only 28 seconds slower. Herman Neethling showed his eagerness to put his Mitsubishi Pajero through the mill claiming the third podium spot. The only casualties of the trail through extremely sharp flint in the dark was Retief ‘Nervous’ Nel and Hannie ‘Montel’ van Rooyen who both limped into camp with flat wheels. After that the competitors were free to head to dreamland for a well-deserved rest.
The following morning had a leisurely start to it with not a lot of long distance driving on the menu for the day. Instead, competitors had to use their heads in a variety of recovery, knowledge and short driving tasks. The competition was ended off with a good ol’ fashioned drag race. Here Hannie van Rooyen set the pace in his Nissan Navara and Denille ‘Verniel’ de Kock bought up the rear in his Isuzu KB.
But all good things must come to an end, and with competition so fierce, the announcement of the winner was awaited with great anticipation.
Not only did the winner walk away with the bragging rights as the first ever Tankwa Dust Challenge Champion, he also got a R10 000 tyre voucher from Maxxis Tyres. The second placed also has some bragging rights, and a R5000 voucher from Gomad 4×4 while third place got a R1500 voucher from 1st Outdoor & 4×4.
Thanks to the sponsors for making the hosting of this event and the final possible through their sponsorship.
The final results are as follows:
- Elrico Koen and Pierre Genis – Land Rover Discovery V8
- Rieger van Rooyen and Piet van Heerde – Land Cruiser 80-series
- Charles Muller and Michael Fourie – Toyota Hilux
- Hannie van Rooyen en Rustie du Preez – Nissan Navara
- Herman en Henry Neethlingh – Mitsubishi Pajero
- Denille de Kock en Corné Twakkie du Toit – Isuzu KB
- Retief Nel en Poen van der Westhuizen – Nissan Navara
With plans already well underway for next year’s event, and a contingent from the Free State also entering, do you really want to miss out? Watch this space for more information.