Land Rover G4 national selection weekend
National selection weekend Land Rover G4 Challenge (Blue Mountains)
Where do I start…
Maybe I should start a long, long time ago in the 80’s when I remember watching the Camel Trophies on television… I guess that’s when it all started. And that’s maybe why I love the Defenders so much 😉
Anyway, a few months ago I saw entries were open for the Australian Land Rover G4 selection weekend and I decided to apply. Just being able to answer the questions was a great feeling. A few weeks later I received a letter in the post telling me I had been selected – whooohoooooo!! And finally last weekend I flew to Sydney for a weekend of amazing activities, great people and some awesome cars which we were allowed to take off-road. And I mean seriously off-road!
We were assigned the lovely orange Defender for the first day and after getting changed into our running gear we left head office Land Rover and drove to the Blue Mountains. An orienteering on foot followed in which I didn’t do that badly. I managed to pick up 9 controls and get back on time, finishing by climbing over a huge fence and running in. Great to get you started on a Friday arvo!
We then drove to a swimming pool, where they had built up one of those adventure playgrounds in the water. Great fun! Even I can do that 😉 Unfortunately we also had to swim 400m after that which didn’t go very fast…
We went to the Hydro Magestic after that for some food and tests, trying to find out if we knew what a gasket was and what to do with a snake bite. Beautiful views from there!! It was a very short drive from there to our campsite where all the orange G4 tents were already pitched! What a great sight!! We all went to bed quickly as we were getting up at 5 in the morning!!
The next morning it was still a bit nippy, but luckily the sun came up soon. We drove further into the Blue Mountains (I think) and ended up near a quarry that was filled with water and had some ropes hanging off rocks… We were in for a treat which required me to swim in open water (aarrgggh) and jump off huge cliffs…. We were the first lucky group to start on this activity whilst others did the interviews and got lessons in 4WD-ing from the Land Rover instructors which we all did afterwards.
The course started with a mass start by jumping into the water from the weir, swim around a buoy (freeeeeezing cold!) and climb out onto high cliff. Jump off the cliff (ieeeeeeehhhh) and swim back to the kayaks. Into the kayaks (now that’s the easy bit) and paddle into the gorge until you find the CP. Paddle back and clip in to walk over the weir to the start of the run through creeks and over rocks, through some thick scrub and back down along the 4WD track to the quarry. Jump in again and climb out onto another rock. This one had the flying fox on it (yiieehaaaaaa), land in the water and swim back to yet another rock. And here comes another scary bit… After climbing out using a thick rope and scrambling to the top you start the abseil on the same cliff you jumped off before… Only the abseil rope only comes until half way down the cliff so the rest of it is yet another free fall!!!! aaaarrrrgghhhhh I must have landed a bit wrong as I still have a leg covered in bruises from it 😉 Swim out to the finish line and then spend a couple of hours trying to get warm again… Luckily we do an exercise where we have to push the cars to the other side over a rocky area which warms us all up!
We then started the 4WD-ing in convoy. It is sooo cool to see all the cars go through everything in one long line! We all take it in turns to drive, have heaps of fun and manage to take some amazing photos! We are all getting pretty hungry now as the convoy slowly creeps towards our lunch spot The Lost City. What a beautiful spot!! We eat a bit and then we do our next activity – a communication exercise without sound… One of our group (Peter) is the navigator and he gets the map after the rest of us (Millie, Steve and I) have gone beyond the next line (100m or so). He then needs to tell us where the 3 controls are located without using any sound… Interesting… We manage really well and come in 3rd for this one after running around all the pagodas and climbing to the top of most of them 😉
More 4WD-ing in the afternoon, well it is almost evening by now, until we arrive at the next campsite with another sea of orange tents – awesome sight! Before we are fed dinner we have to do another exercise… Find places shown on photos to find out what bit of the car we need. We went really well until the last photo… a wombat hole… We found many, but unfortunately not the one we were after ;-( so we ended up dead-last in this exercise. Food was great and because we thought they were going to get us out of bed in the middle of the night we went to bed shortly after dinner. But…. we get woken up at 5AM…
Time to pick up and load bike, we are in one of the orange Discovery’s today, so we pick up 5 bikes. Before breakfast they make us race against each other on a little course. This is where I had my stack, flying over the handle bars and landing on my hip and elbow – ouch. The next exercise is a rogaine and mountainbike, but unfortunately the ones who started with the rogaine never got to ride the bikes as we ran out of time. Jacqui and I teamed up and we had lots of fun chasing checkpoints that weren’t there 😉
Breakfast was demolished very quickly and we were on our way again to the next activity – an abseil!! What an amazing way to end the weekend!!! We went over the edge, had a few meters on the rock and then a free abseil from the overhang. Awesome!! And the way out was almost as fun as the way down, climbing up little rokcy sections and ending by squeezing yourself through a very narrow gap in between rocks – sideways only!
Back at the Hydro Majestic they announced the international candidates (not me – sniff) who will go to the UK in February, we had some more food and then we had to jump into the bus to get to the airport on time!
What a great weekend – I can’t wait until next time!
History of the Land Rover G4 Challenge
The Camel Trophy has been called ‘the Olympics of 4×4’. The events were all about adventure and exploration. These gruelling tests of human endurance were often subtitled ‘1,000 miles of adventure’. The Camel Trophy brought together teams from around the world in the hope of triumphing in some of the most treacherous off-road conditions imaginable. Team work and camaraderie were crucial. The competitive element came in a series of ‘Special Tasks’, such as winching and timed driving routes, in which the national teams competed against each other.
The Camel Trophy originated in 1980 with three Jeep-equipped German teams exploring the Amazon. After that first event, the organisers turned to Land Rover and over the course of the next twenty years, the event used Range Rover, Series III, Ninety, One Ten, Defender, Discovery and Freelander vehicles.
Over the next eight years, the expeditions crossed Sumatra, Papua New Guinea, Zaire, Brazil, Borneo, Australia, Madagascar (the first north-south crossing) and Sulawesi before returning to the Amazon.
For the 1990s, the Camel Trophy headed to Siberia and the USSR, followed by Tanzania & Burundi, Guyana, Sabah-Malaysia, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile (the ‘Road to Hell’ event), Belize, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Kalimantan (a thousand miles and 18 rollovers to celebrate the first crossing of the island 100 years previously) and Mongolia. But the Camel Trophy didn’t just change venue. Over the years, the event evolved from a mud-plugging expedition to involve elements of adventure sport, such as kayaking mountain biking and winter sports. For some events, a million people applied to take part! One person’s hell is another person’s heaven.
Although the events had an impact on the environment through which they travelled, there were ways in which the Camel Trophy benefited local communities. The convoy’s progress reopened roads and tracks which had fallen into disuse and frequently rebuilt bridges, repaired sections of damaged tracks and rescued stranded vehicles. In 1993 the teams worked through the night to build an environmental monitoring station so ecologists could study the flora and fauna of ‘The Lost World’ of the Maliau Basin conservation area. It had barely been explored previously. The exercise was repeated in 1994 when the convoy halted to construct a scientific station.
In 1998, the Camel Trophy returned to Argentina and Chile for the penultimate Tierra del Fuego event. Shortly afterwards, Land Rover, a major sponsor, felt that the Camel Trophy was moving away from adventure and exploration and a news release indicated they would not sponsor future events. The 1999 Camel Trophy, planned for Peru, was cancelled.
In 2000, the Camel Trophy returned with a new style of event. It developed the spirit of the Tierra del Fuego but the 32 competitors explored Tonga and Samoa in RHIB powerboats. Although the event was successful as a sporting activity, it failed to give the sponsors the exposure they desired. In the future they would concentrate on fashion, not performance. It was to be the last Camel Trophy.
The demise of the Camel Trophy left a gap.
In 2003, competitors representing sixteen nations helped Land Rover fill that gap. Surprisingly, the inaugural Land Rover G4 Challenge contained many of the elements of Camel Trophy 1998, which Land Rover had reportedly been disappointed with. The ‘ultimate global adventure’ was a test of skill, stamina and mental agility in four separate stages, each in a different time zone. The prize: a top-of-the-range Range Rover. In true Camel Trophy style, the winner Rudi Thoelen, declined a Range Rover, and opted for two Defenders instead!
The 2006 Land Rover G4 Challenge was tougher than the inaugural event with a greater emphasis on vehicle-based activities. The competitors, working in bi-national teams were faced with thousands of miles of adventure in China, Laos, Brazil and Bolivia.
The theme is being developed further in the 2008-9 G4 Challenge, supporting the Red Cross: The Finals of Land Rover’s ultimate global adventure, the Land Rover G4 Challenge, will take place during 2009 in the most sparsely populated independent country on the planet – Mongolia. A blend of terrain offering arid steppes, mountains and the extreme climate of one of the world’s largest deserts, the Gobi, makes Mongolia a natural fit with Land Rover’s G4 Challenge.
The Challenge programme kicked off in September 2007 when the competition was announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Since then the recce teams have been exploring the toughest terrain in Asia to find a suitably demanding environment to stage the culmination of the competition in 2009.
Land Rover Australia Marketing & Public Affairs Manager, Jon Harris said: “We are very excited to confirm Mongolia as the main location for the Finals of the Land Rover G4 Challenge in 2009. Our team on the ground have been working to find routes that will push our vehicles and the competitors to their limits.
Mongolia is a spectacular country which will enable us to create a truly extraordinary Finals event in 2009. We are also investigating the possibility of extending the Challenge into another area offering different extremes.”
The 18 national teams (each comprising of one man and one woman) will be pushed to their limits in a thrilling competition involving off-road driving, and sports such as kayaking, mountain biking and climbing.
The Australian National Selections will take place in October to decide the two men and two women who will get an all expenses paid trip to the UK for the International Selections, and ultimately the Final in Mongolia.
The 2008/09 Land Rover G4 Challenge programme is run in support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This partnership aims to generate in excess of £1m over the course of the next two challenges. In addition to this, each participating nation will be raising funds in aid of their National Society. The winning team will receive a Land Rover to donate to their National Society.
As part of this partnership, a donation has been offered to the Mongolian Red Cross to support their Social Care projects. These projects aim to help the many vulnerable families in Mongolia and provide them with home care, referral services and a move to inclusion in the community. As a result of this it is estimated that over 10,000 people will be reached.
Choijilsuren Ariuntungalag, Social Care and Volunteer Programme Manager of the Mongolian Red Cross commented, “The Land Rover G4 Challenge is providing vital funding support to help the Mongolian Red Cross Society deliver a Social Care Programme which aims to improve the quality of life of the most vulnerable families in Ulaanbaatar”.