Land Rover G4 Challenge Now in South Africa - Africa
US Teams Up With UK for Second Stanza
CAPE TOWN, South Africa, April 8 -- It's being called the most ambitious adventure race ever staged with 16 competitors chasing around the world in a test of athletic skill, strategic thinking, on- and off-road driving and personal stamina. The first leg began in New York City on March 30 with a series of off-road driving and navigational tasks in downtown Manhattan thrown at the 14 men and two women competing in the event. From there, a 40-vehicle convoy of Land Rover vehicles headed into upstate New York where for the next four days the teams would search for special scoring opportunities using all their personal skills from kayaking to abseiling, mountain biking to orienteering. Nancy Olson, 29, of Arlington, VA chose Sergey Polyansky, 32, of Moscow, Russia as her first stage partner. They finished in the bottom half of the groups when the final scores were tallied at Wildcat Ski area in New Hampshire. Canadian Jim Kuhn and his partner Belgium's Rudi Thoelen, were first overall at the end of the US leg.
After a long overnight flight to Cape Town, South Africa, Stage Two of the Land Rover G4 Challenge yielded a new set of circumstances and a new teammate for Nancy Olson. The UK's Tim Pickering chose her to be his teammate during the race across the bottom of Africa this week. "After competing in freezing temperatures, this stage with its intense heat will test us in different ways," said Olson.
There was barely time to discuss strategy before the sound of the Navy cannon marked the start of the second stage. The competitors' first task was to scale Signal Hill, a vicious, rocky ascent that exposed them to the full fury of the South African sun. Half way into the grueling course the competitors were already strewn across the hillside with Germany's Dirk Ostertag, Belgium's Rudi Thoelen and Guy Andrews of Australia leading the way. At the rear, there was a special cheer for Japan's Shinichi Yoshimoto, who at 43 is the Challenge's oldest competitor.
This early test was not without drama. Pickering lost his identification microchip, without which he would be unable to score points. The plucky Brit ended up climbing the hill twice before he found the tag. The two female competitors -- Olson (USA) and Alberta Chiappa (ITA) -- also found themselves in difficulty. After taking a wrong turn, they missed crucial checkpoints and would score no points on the section.
Having sprinted back down the hill, the competitors swapped leg for pedal power. What followed was a tricky, off-road descent on mountain bikes back towards the city center. After a hot and exhausting run the challenging bike course tested competitor's endurance, skill and focus with several tumbles occurring as challengers pushed themselves against the clock and each other.
For event leader, Canadian Jim Kuhn, a high-speed tumble off his mountain bike left him with lacerations to his left elbow, left knee and right wrist. After attention from the Land Rover G4 Challenge medical team, Kuhn was patched up and returned, defiantly, to complete the driving test. "I will do everything I can to continue," he declared, to rapturous applause. Ultimately however, Kuhn was withdrawn by the event doctor and will be replaced by Kit Stringer, Canada's runner-up in international selections.
Already physically and mentally exhausted, the competitors arrived at Cape Town quayside to face a tough kayaking course around Table Bay. Fierce paddling was followed by a number of testing obstacles. For one control, competitors were required to tie up their kayaks, climb a cargo net, sprint along the top of a boat and finally dive 15m back into the water. For tired, aching limbs, it was quite a challenge.
Back on dry land, the competitors were able to snatch a bite to eat before the day's final challenge, a testing off-road circuit constructed on the edge of the bay. For the South Africa leg of the Challenge, the competitors have swapped their Freelanders for a Defender 110 TD5. The 'classic' Land Rover remains the ultimate off-road tool and more than proved its capabilities on the demanding course. As the Land Rover G4 Challenge now heads into the remote backcountry, the Defender will be tested to the max as they make their way Northeast to finish in George.
At the end of the day, the results of the Cape Town events were as follows:
1. Rudi Thoelen (Belgium) - Guy Andrews (Australia) 2. Franck Salgues (France) - Inigo de Lara (Spain) 3. Paul McCarthy (Ireland) - Dirk Ostertag (Germany) =4. Chris Perry (Arabia) - Sergey Polyansky (Russia) =4. Erik den Oudendammer (Neth) - Shinichi Yoshimoto (Japan) 6. Tim Pickering (UK) - Nancy Olson (USA) 7. Jim Kuhn (Canada) - Chester Foster (SA) 8. Cuneyt Gazioglu (Turkey) - Alberta Chiappa (Italy)
It was a brilliant performance by Andrews and Thoelen, but on this day, every competitor deserved credit. Thoelen described the challenge as "the hardest thing I've ever done," and he spends his working life flying jet fighters for the Belgian air force.
At the completion of the day's activities, the competitors and crew packed their Land Rover Defenders and departed in convey for their first camp at Hottentots Holland. Over the next five days the Land Rover G4 Challenge will camp at four different remote venues before completing the South African stage in George on April 11th, 2003.
On-site Media Center locations and contact details:
For more information during the Land Rover G4 Challenge (March 30th to April 26th incl), please contact: Frances Wain (Stages 1& 4 only) / Phil Vaughan (Stages 1, 2 & 3 only) Land Rover G4 Challenge Press Office E-mail: press@landroverG4challenge.com
Visit www.landroverG4challenge.com/pressroom for up-to-the-minute news on the Challenge, and downloadable image and text files. Photographs of Nancy Olson can also be retrieved in digital form by news media without charge from media.wieckphoto.com.
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.