2003 LAND ROVER G4 CHALLENGE
About 2 months ago, I was passed a cutting from a local newspaper from a friend. It was an advert for the new Land Rover G4 Challenge. As with most things, the idea of entering seemed appealing, but it got brushed aside and forgotten about. About 2 weeks before the closing date, I decided to go for it, and applied. A while later the application form arrived – all 10 or so pages, crammed full of questions, mostly about describing yourself and asking things like ‘What is the most adventurous thing you have ever done?’ Well, I filled this all in, boasting a bit for some (as you do), and posted it off.
A while later I received more forms to fill in. This involved sending 5 questionnaires to your friends to basically find out about what other people thought of you (oh no!). This was also duly carried out.
The following day, I received a phone call for Land Rover. They congratulated me on getting as far as I had with the challenge and told me that I was invited to attend the National Selections in 6 days time at Eastnor Castle. Strange I thought, since I had not sorted the other forms yet. Even so, they had deemed myself worthy for one of the 50 places available out of hundreds of people from the UK that had applied. I would travel up to Herefordshire on the Friday morning for an 11.30am start. The challenge had begun!
I already knew a rough idea of what lay ahead, as the directions arrived and this included a kit list of things to take. I was told I should be prepared for the following activities – Off road driving (obviously!), climbing, kayaking, trail running and mountain biking. God – the amount of kit I packed looked like I was going for a fortnight!
Day 1 – After a good trip up, I arrived at Eastnor and was confronted by the very nice orange G4 challenge vehicles. There was a line up of the vehicles to be used – Defender 110, Discovery, Range Rover and Freelander. Unfortunately we were not to use any of these, but got to play with a fleet of 15 or so G4 110’s in the same spec as the one in the line up. From the start you could see what sort of off-roading you were going to be faced with. They were all fitted with underbody guards, snorkels (except the Range Rover) and roofracks. The Freelander and Defender were treated with winches. No roll cages, sill guards, sand ladders etc – the type of kit missing that was present on the Camel Trophy vehicles.
After signing in and being issued with competitor vests (I was number 46) and a wristband containing a computer chip for timing purposes, we were off for a briefing of what lay ahead. Out of the 50 people there (including 2 female) – 30 people would be asked to leave after lunch on Saturday. Sunday morning would see another 10 leave, the final 10 reduced to 2 on Sunday evening. Only one person per country would compete, one as standby, the idea being that your teammate would be a different person from another country, which would change on each stage of the event.
Anyway, back to the selections. Friday afternoon had the following in store; First would be a general drive round in the 110’s, four people in each vehicle, taking it in turns to show that you had a basic knowledge of driving a Land Rover. This was not a problem for me, but some people had never driven one before! This shows they were not looking for much driving experience in the applications. This lasted for about two and a half hours, then it was back to the meeting marquee for another briefing. We then had 5 tasks to carry out – mainly involving filling in multiple choice questions on a number of subjects including First Aid, Navigation, general knowledge etc.
After that (it was about 7pm by now), we had a brief few moments to gather our thoughts, then it was back to base for another briefing.
We were split into 10 teams of 5, and lead out into a wet, muddy field in the dark, with a line up of 10 110’s. There was some floodlighting but not a lot. We were faced with the 110’s sat on a log, with the O/S/F wheel missing, no jack, no ignition keys, no wheel (or nuts), a large barrel of water and at the end of the course, a tube with a ball at the bottom (supposedly containing the keys). Our task was to drive the 110 down the field, over the finishing line. We were given a clue sheet with some riddles on to help locate the necessary bits to drive the 110. The keys were obtained by filling the tube with water and floating the keys up (not forgetting to plug the many holes drilled in the tube to stop loss of water with fingers, noses, tongues and whatever else was handy!) To get the jack we had to run into the darkness and obtain it from a wooden hut and the spare wheel was then fitted from the back door (notice the one tied on the roofrack had been removed!) The jack was the standard Land Rover equipment (not a hi-lift), so it took ages to jack up and down. We all tried lifting the 110 by hand to help let it down, but found the nice chequer plate sills almost coming off in our hands (eg – no H/D sidebars!) All that was left was to jump in and welly it down the field to the finish line. We finished 3rd. I assure you, it was a lot more difficult than it sounds!
We were now off for dinner and a large drinking session. Unfortunately, I didn’t think the judges would be impressed (if they were still watching) with our contribution to the G4 - the table with the most empty beer/wine bottles on it! Retired to bed about 11pm but kept awake by a snoring teammate all night! (Not me!)
Day 2 – Up not bright but far too early at 6.30am for breakfast and briefing. Today was going to be the day of the most physical activity. We had 8am till lunchtime to fit in 5 tasks of about 30mins each. This included off road driving/manoeuvres in the 110’s, at a rough guess a 2m trail run, kayaking exercise, mountain biking and climbing. Even though we were in teams – we were being marked on our own individual performance. We started with the driving, which involved driving the 110 forwards round a coned out course in a field and then reversing back to the start (extreme stuff – not!), also including a number of mechanical questions, ‘What is a differential?’ and all that.
We were then off for the trail run – a nasty, mostly uphill trail in the thick mud, swamp and to make things more interesting – an assault course half way round. My legs weren’t talking to me by the time I got to the course, they definitely objected to the obstacles! Did this (never again!) – now off for the kayaking. This was on the Eastnor estate lake, approx. 250m in length, which involved us collecting points with our computer wristband from 10 hidden markers around the lake.
Then straight off to the climbing wall – a revolving metal belt that changes the angles from climbing up a slope to the most extreme overhang. The points were awarded for the longest time you stayed on the wall without falling off within 5 minutes. Being a climber, I excelled at this and stayed on the overhang for 4.35 minutes. This was the best until someone from the last group got 4.41 minutes.
It was now time for the mountain biking. We had a 30-minute course to complete, with extra points given on some extreme uphill sections. The further you got without putting your feet down, the more points you obtained. The mud was so slippery, most resulted into running up these hills pushing the bikes. Once the course was completed, you had to simulate a puncture repair by taking the front wheel off, remove tube and replace and re-assemble in the quickest time.
It was now time for a well earned shower and with it being now about 1pm, it was time for the results. They kept us 50 waiting round for much longer and really, most of us were dreading being picked to stay – we had seen the orienteering course set out and we were too knackered for that!
In turn, 10 people were asked to stand at a time, and they were then told if they were to stay or leave. Left until the second to last group, I was elected to leave (along with most our group – again we reckon it was down to our bottle collection the night before!) We collected our consolation packs (t-shirts, hat, badges etc) plus a certificate. As we had a leisurely lunch, within 20 minutes of the final 20 being announced – they were already re-clothed in their wet muddy gear for a biking/kayaking/running task. I was pleased I was going home. It was a goodbye to all the newly found friends, and I was off.
I may be prepared to enter again, maybe if I started training now! Really I was hoping for a more ‘Camel’ style event, and even though I am into all the extra outdoor sports that we had to do – I would have preferred a more off-road biased event. They have had to move away from the Camel Trophy of old due to green issues, it is no longer looked at as right to hack your way through virgin rainforest. I can still see some good points in the Camel – such as re-opening old and lost trails but these are all forgotten with the G4. Land Rovers are simply the vehicles to ferry personnel and equipment from A to B (still though with a slight off-road challenge).
Well, that’s my experience – only just stopped aching 4 days after the event. Back next year? We’ll see.
Ps – Check out LRO and LRM for coverage, no fancy pictures of me but I’m in some of them if you look closely! Also look at www.landroverG4challenge.com.