If you are among the thousands if not millions around the world that still miss the days of the Camel Trophy, if you feel the demise of the Trophy robbed you of a chance to test you mettle in the “Olympics of four-wheeling”, if you watch Camel Trophy videos saying to yourself “I could do that”, it’s time to put your money where you mouth is ‘cause Land Rover has a new adventure challenge that’s Camel Trophy in all but name.
The new game in town is the Land Rover G4 Challenge and is part “Race around the World” and part “Paris-Dakar” and Land Rover is searching for global adventurers to experience what Land Rover promises will be “the adventure of a lifetime”.
Australia, Belgium & Luxembourg, Canada, France, Germany, the Gulf Region, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, UK and the US have all signed up for the first of what is to become a yearly event. The participating countries are scheduled to hold national try-outs at the end of the year to select the two individuals who will travel to, where else, Eastnor Castle for the “International Training and Selections”. In G4 only one competitor will represent each nation, not two as in the Camel Trophy. This is one of the differences between G4 and Camel Trophy. Others are: the event itself will consist of 4 consecutive Stages and last 5 weeks, not 2; by necessity the competitors will also travel by air; all 4 Land Rover models will be used; the competition will take place in remote and urban settings; and each competitor will be teamed with a different co-competitor on each Stage.
The Land Rover G4 Challenge is set to begin on March 30th, 2003 in the greatest city of all, New York. The teams will compete in a series of “urban challenges” in and around Central Park. Expect the competitors to make full use of their mountain bikes, kayaks, and climbing gear. Having some of the competitive events take place in urban areas will allow more of us to enjoy the Challenge. From the urban jungle of New York, competitors will drive their specially outfitted “Tangiers orange” Freelanders through the mountains of Vermont to the remoteness of interior Quebec. The seasons will seem to roll backwards as they go from spring in the city through the spring melt or mud season of Vermont to winter in the Canadian interior. The Challenge’s First Stage will end on April 3rd, after the competitors have driven nearly 1,000 miles encompassing everything from Manhattan rush hour traffic to mud covered, boulder-strewn mountain trails.
The format of each G4 Stage will be similar to the last Camel Trophy (Tierra del Fuego 1998). The competitors make their own way to pre-selected nightly stops, and along the way each 2-person team is free to decide which markers to ‘bag’. Each marker has a pre-set point value that is based on the degree of difficulty involved in reaching it. The team with the most points will win the Stage. To reach some of the markers, competitors will have to: climb (buildings as well as mountains), kayak, mountain bike, as well as drive off road. Throughout the Challenge orienteering, both GPS and old fashion map and compass will be vital, as will planning and strategy. The team that best matches its collective skills to the challenges “guarding” each marker will emerge as the winner of the Stage.
From French Canada competitors will fly to Land Rover’s spiritual home, Africa for the Second Stage. From April 7th to 15th they will drive their Defender 110’s from Cape Town, on the west coast of South Africa, to Durban on the east coast. As in North America the Second Stage will feature both urban and remote settings. After completing challenges in Cape Town’s famous Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and Table Mountain, the teams will drive through South Africa’s wine country, across the Great Karoo Desert and through the African plain where a menagerie of antelopes, zebras, impalas, wildebeest, giraffes, elephants, lions, cheetahs, and leopards will look on with curiosity. The Defenders will have to contend with desert, beach, savanna and the slick clay mountain tracks of the Kingdom of Lesotho.
Gleaming in the early morning sun, the magnificent sails of the Sydney Opera House will welcome the teams as they arrive to the Land Down Under for the Third Stage on April 17th. As was the case in New York City and Cape Town, Sydney will host a variety of urban challenges. Expect some of them to take place on the waters of Sydney Harbor and surrounding surfing beaches.
From the hustle and bustle of the city by the Harbor, the teams will drive their Range Rovers north across the vastness of the Australian outback all the way to Darwin on Australia’s northern coast. Along the way, they will experience life in aboriginal villages, learn of the “Dreamtime” stories of these first Australians, and marvel at the dramatic landscapes of Australia’s “Top End” where streams plunge hundred of feet over the sandstone escarpments of Kakadu. Competitors beware: the Top End is home to prehistoric beast: the salt-water crocodile. These leviathans are found on all fresh and salt-water rivers, streams, lakes and ponds throughout the north and have been known to take on small boats, and win!
From Australia the competitors will fly to the barren rocks of the world’s greatest off road driving mecca, Moab, Utah, for the Fourth and final Stage of the 2003 Land Rover G4 Challenge.
Moab, conjuring images of near vertical rock faces, of stone needles piercing the blue desert sky, and of vehicles overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles will test the teams ’ability to maneuver their Discovery’s through twisting rock chutes and along narrow rock fins barely the width of the Discoveries. It will take careful and precise driving to overcome obstacles with names like Rubble-Trouble, Tip-Over Challenge, The Waterfall, Wedgy, the Bellybutton, Tippy-Spot, Launch Pad, and Double Whammy, and do it allagainst the clock. In addition to some of the finest off road driving anywhere, competitors will also have to make full use of their mountain bikes and climbing gear.
The competitors will cross some of the Southwest’s most haunting landscapes with stops, and challenges, in Canyonlands, Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon, on their way to the finish line. The City of Lights, Las Vegas will host the Challenge’s grand finale on May 2nd. Everyone will be hoping their luck holds out and fate deals them a Royal Flush as the Challenge comes to a close. After all, at stake is not just a trophy but a brand new Range Rover.
When all’s said and done, the competitors will have been on the road for 5 weeks, covered 25,000 miles and circumnavigated the globe. Along the way they will have driven some 5,000 miles, mostly off road, biked hundreds of miles, climbed and rappelled countless walls, natural and man-made, and kayaked across lakes and rivers and in 5 different oceans. The 16 lucky competitors will indeed have had the adventure of a lifetime!
And how about the rest of us? Sure we will enjoy the TV coverage of the Challenge, maybe get to see some of it in person, and certainly experience it on line with Land Rover G4 Challenge Interactive (they’ve go some cool prizes!), but G4 will benefit all Land Rover fans because it will re-focus the company. In launching the Challenge, Land Rover is striving to re-capture the lead in the automotive adventure field and is taking Land Rover back into the outdoors and out of Rodeo Drive.
At a time when auto-makers around the world are ‘evolving’ their SUVs into the old family station wagon, it is good to see Land Rover re-discovering its heritage and making a stand. Of course G4 is about marketing. But taken together with the latest Range Rover and Discovery models, which combine car-like comfort and safety with even better off road capabilities than the models they replaced, it’s clear that Land Rover knows where its heart is. Like G4, Land Rover is all about adventure and an “up for it” attitude. And isn’t that exactly why YOU drive your Land Rover?
So rattle some pots and pans, make some noise and get excited about G4. Let Land Rover know they are back on track and you are on the TEAM!
Feeling Adventurous? To try out for a spot, stop by a Land Rover dealer or log on to www.landroverG4challenge.com .
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