Land Rover G4 Challenge Stage One, East USA

Eastern USA Stage Summary

SPRINGFIELD, Mass., April 4 -- Five days, three New England states, more than a thousand miles, and 21 competitive elements later, the first stage of Land Rover's round-the-world G4 Challenge produced its first set of results on Thursday, with three week-long stages to go, each in a different time zone.

The results of the two Maximizers, 18 Hunters and International Selections combined have produced new top eight competitors, although the actual order of merit will not be revealed until that top eight are about to choose a team mate from the remaining eight at Team Partnership Selection in Cape Town, at the start of Stage Two this weekend.

  The top eight, in alphabetical country order, are:
  Arabia             Chris Perry
  Belgium            Rudi Thoelen
  Canada             Jim Kuhn
  France             Franck Salgues
  Ireland            Paul McCarthy
  Netherlands        Erik den Oudendammer
  Turkey             Cneyt Gazioglu
  UK                 Tim Pickering

Since kicking off on Sunday with an urban 4x4 obstacle course on Broadway in New York City, the 16 international competitors have been sweating by day and freezing by night as they battle each other and the end of a New England winter. If the first day of the Land Rover G4 Challenge on Broadway was all show, Monday brought the 16 competitors in the world's newest and most challenging adventure down to earth with a bump.

"Welcome to the Strategy Pit," bellowed Nick Horne, welcoming the teams to the daily moment of truth and decision. The LRG4 Challenge is as much strategy as speed, strength and stamina. Each day, eight pairs of competitors must decide, in The Strategy Pit, in which order they will complete up to six "Hunters" or physical tasks between one night's campsite and the next.

These pairings went head-to-head on the streets of New York but now the battlefield was the snowy Catskill Mountains and an awesome selection of physical challenges, from running and snowshoeing to mountain biking, climbing icy river beds to kayaking the barely thawed waters of the mighty Hudson's raging tributaries.

Navigation proved to be a major stumbling block for many of the teams. But there were other problems. Chris Perry and Franck Salgues were the first team to stare disaster in the face.

"We left our Visa behind at one checkpoint and only because another team were kind enough to tell us, did we make it back, pick up the Visa and continue without too much time lost," sighed Perry. The Visa, a device which allows Challenge management to ensure teams don't try to make up time between Hunters by speeding on the roads, must remain in the team's possession at all times.

Most of the Hunters on Tuesday, or Day 3, were around Lake Placid, home to the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics. This was the second day of chasing down Hunters, and the teams could feel the difference in their confidence and capability. Trusting of each other's abilities and of their equipment, they started pushing themselves to the max.

But the real drama of the day, and arguably of the week, came late at night in the campsite. At thirty seconds to ten o'clock, thirty seconds on the right side of the deadline given to teams to return to base without losing all that day's hard-earned scores, Chester Foster and Guy Andrews reached the safety of base.

Or so they thought. In the black night the teams could not find the exact spot where they must register their arrival with an electronic key or "dibber." The clock hit ten fifteen and more than 300 miles of hardship and effort was erased in a heartbeat. Then, to compound the incomprehension, news came through that Chester and Guy were not the only latecomers. Capt. Nancy Olson and Sergey Polyansky, from the United States and Russia were also late into the Vermont camp and had their day's work nullified.

"There is a lot of competition left," says Olson of their error, "and a lot can happen in the next three weeks."

Wednesday included the first dedicated 4x4 element to the Hunters. Having nursed their trusty Land Rover Freelander V6's round over 1000 miles of New England, now they had to put them to the test round a slalom course at Equinox, in western Vermont.

Stage one of the month-long adventure closed out with a dramatic mountain ski and snowboard race in the New Hampshire White Mountains. The Wildcat Maximizer was won by the Dutch/Turkish duo of Cneyt Gazioglu and Erik den Oudendammer. Second was the pairing of U.S. Marine Corps Officer, Nancy Olson and Russia's Sergey Polyansky.

Land Rover North America, established in 1986, imports and distributes Range Rover, Discovery and Freelander vehicles manufactured for sale in the U.S. by Land Rover in Solihull, England. Land Rover's worldwide operations are wholly owned by Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan.

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