The Land Rover G4 Challenge is the ultimate global adventure unfolding amid both remote areas of outstanding natural beauty and dramatic cityscapes.
Australia was the setting for Stage Three of the Challenge and follows East USA (Stage One) and South Africa (Stage Two). The final stage will be held between Las Vegas and Moab in West USA.
Four flights and 36 hours after departing from South Africa, the 16 international competitors in the Land Rover G4 Challenge stumbled into the Karratha International Hotel in Western Australia.
Unlike the previous two stages, which have each started with a Maximiser, the Australian Stage started with two full days of ‘Hunters’ followed by a mid-stage Maximiser and culminating with an urban Maximiser in Sydney.
The Hunters have taken competitors to uniquely Australian locations such as Python Pool, Mosquito Pool, Mount Bruce and Mount Sheila, where they have battled searing heat, dust, labyrinths of deep gorges, mud flats, deep icy blue lagoons and steep rugged iron red peaks.
The hot conditions and rugged surroundings have taken their toll. Teams Belgium/Germany and UK/Italy found themselves stuck in mud flats, Australian Guy Andrews and Chris Perry (Arabia) lost their way in a deep network of gorges and all competitors suffered a thorough dosing of dust, flies and fatigue.
An intense Maximiser through Karijini National Park midway through the Australian Stage resulted in mixed results for many teams, but strengthened the standings of top runners, France’s Franck Salgues and Belgium’s Rudi Thoelen. The major placings were filled by Team France /Turkey, followed by Belgium / Germany, Netherlands / Canada and Ireland / USA.
The final day of remote competition was held between Marble Bar and Eighty Mile Beach with the edge of the Great Sandy Desert to the East and the white sand beaches of the Indian Ocean to the North. The six possible Hunter locations involved combinations of kayaking, climbing and swimming in the depths of the Carawine Gorge, to abseiling off razor sharp cliffs and climbing a 75-metre chimney on the Comet Gold Mine on the outskirts of Marble Bar
Completing the remote segment of the Australian Stage at Eighty Mile Beach, competitors enjoyed a sumptuous BBQ and beautiful surrounds, settling in for their first day of rest after nineteen days of solid competition.
Nancy Olson, a US Marine, was looking forward to the break, "I feel great! I just had a shower and two steak-burgers on the beach – and I don’t have to do anything tomorrow.
I’m not a lay-out-in-the-sun type of person, but tomorrow, I might just spend the whole day on a blanket on the beach, for the first time in my life."
Sydney was the next stop for the Land Rover G4 Challenge and competitors had to reacclimatise themselves to a cool and damp Easter Sunday as they prepared themselves for the Sydney Maximiser.
This final Australian challenge consisted of a two and a half kilometre sea kayak across the most beautiful harbour in the world, a run across the bridge into the heart of Australia’s biggest city and then on towards a perilous technical four-wheel-drive course aboard a massive ocean-going barge.
"I was chilled to the bone by the time we started the kayaking," said the UK’s Tim Pickering, an accomplished sea kayaker based in Scotland’s wild Outer Hebrides.
Pickering, though, got a bad start and it was local hero Guy Andrews, who powered through the waves faster than anyone else. By the finish he had a full kilometre lead and was already on the far side of the bridge by the time the final competitor, Shinichi Yoshimoto, was out of the water.
The battle for Maximiser honours fell then to the closely matched pairings of South Africa/Arabia and Turkey/France. South African Chester Foster finished second in the kayaking but was hounded by Frenchman Franck Salgues, Chris Perry of Arabia and Turkey’s Cüneyt Gazioglu.
With the result an amalgamated time of both team members, it was too close to call by the time the four of them reached the end of the run at Wharf 8 on Darling Harbour – site of the 4x4 driving course.
The specially designed course was made more difficult by the harbour swells that rocked the barge from side to side, further testing the driving skills of competitors.
After a demanding afternoon guiding the competition Range Rovers around the course the results were released for the Sydney Maximiser, and were as follows:
Following these results, the top eight ranked competitors were announced in alphabetical order by country/region. Competitors will be kept waiting until the start of the final stage in Las Vegas, before the actual order and scores will be announced.
The top eight competitors at the end of Stage Three are as follows:
|Netherlands||Erik den Oudendammer|
|South Africa||Chester Foster|