Land Rover's latest promotional stunt was also one of its most challenging ones yet, according to the British car maker. To demonstrate the immense torque available from its Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) system, they decided to drive a new PHEV Range Rover Sport up the 999 steps of Hunan Province's Tianmén Shan, or Heaven’s Gate, one of China’s most iconic natural wonders.
The steps are unfathomably steep at about 45 degrees. The stairway was all built by hand due to the inability to get mechanized equipment up the steep mountainside.
Prior to ascending the stairs, the vehicle was driven briskly up the treacherous road leading to the monument. The road is reportedly one of the most breathtaking drives in the world, with steep switchbacks and a total of 99 curves. According to the lore of Tianmen, the road represents the body of a dragon.
The driver for the "Dragon Challenge," as the drive became known, was Jaguar Formula E race driver, Ho-Pin Tung. The look on his face as he prepares for the final stage of the ascent does not appear to be one of complete confidence, and not without reason either. One misstep on the ascent and the Range Rover could easily careen off to the side of the stairs, or even worse, lose momentum and end up rolling backward, with almost certain death as the result.
Fortunately, Land Rover was not interested in having Mr. Tung sacrifice his life for the sake of the video, so their engineers devised a system of cables and one-way grapples to grab the cable in the event of a reverse slide. These were also used to safely return the car to the bottom of the stairs after the stunt was over.
Land Rover UK was nice enough to issue a full set of videos, including not only footage of the daredevil ascent itself, but also going into more detail on the history of the site, the culture of the area, and the research and testing involved in ensuring the vehicle and driver were prepared for the attempt.
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