The Landrover g4 challenge – stage 1

Tim Pickering

The Landrover G4 Challenge

It was like being in an action movie; running to all the iconic landmarks with a time limit, an urban off-road driving course purpose built on Broadway. My head was spinning as a New York cop held the traffic for me in Times Square.

 

The start horn blew and there was a star burst as sixteen competitors exploded from the podium; I ran looking at the map but it wasn't until our first waypoint, on a bright orange Landrover, I realised it was at the bottom of the Empire State Building in New York, it began to sink in, I was on an urban orienteering course in New York. I had just set off on the race of a lifetime. The start line: Broadway, the beginning of the Landrover G4 Challenge, ahead lay twenty eight day of a global adventure race.

It was like being in an action movie; running to all the iconic landmarks with a time limit, an urban off-road driving course purpose built on Broadway. My head was spinning as a New York cop held the traffic for me in Times Square.

By the end of the day things were a little different; when we arrived in New York we had spent our first nights in the Plaza Hotel on the corner of Central Park and Fifth. So finding ourselves in a tent in the aptly named Frost Valley in Catskill Mountains, made famous by the writings of John Burroughs, with the temperature down around minus twenty, the ground frozen so hard you couldn't drive a peg in was a bit of a shock, but that was the reality of the race.

Landrover has a history of events to demonstrate their vehicles are not just for show but they 'do what say on the can'. The Camel Trophy did this but the G4 Challenge was not the same this was an adventure race where the vehicle would allow the competitors to access remote locations and compete in challenges and adventures in a bid to win the prize; a Range Rover.

For me making the the start line was a prize; don't misunderstand I was there to win if I could but it had been an adventure getting there: Almost a year before at the National Selections at Eastnor Castle in Herefordshire in England we faced a series of tests which were not just about our physical abilities but also driving ability, working with others and media skills. It was tough and we needed to be thinking all the time. If I hadn't been selected at any stage the experience Landrover had set up would have been reward enough, I would have been disappointed but not disconsolate. A few months later this was followed by the International Selections again at Eastnor, a week where I raced against Byron, the other UK hopeful, for the chance to represent my country.

Navigation

Paul and I began to think of more film references: we had been in 'Die Hard' running though New York now we were in 'Brother Where Art Thou' forever running though forests.

 

After our New York City Urban Maximiser, the first day of hard racing started at seven o’clock sharp, in the snow, with a Strategy Pit. In the Pit we would decide on our day's strategy, which of the Hunters (special stages) we would visit, doing this as quickly as possible to beat the other teams away to get the maximum racing time.

The magic of the race was that on each stage we would race with a different international competitor and in the first one I chose Paul from Ireland. Paul was a genius with the map and GPS (Global Positioning Satellite navigation system), a dry stone waller who surfs. Our first day was a mixture of running, climbing and mountain biking. Although we were given a bit of a shakey start when we took a wrong turning away from the first Strategy Pit, we quickly fell into a routine of me driving and Paul navigating in our Freelander, the vehicle chosen for the first stage.

Paul and I were off to a good start because we were not the favourites when we had come out of the first day in first place so it was a bit of a surprise to the other competitors and we set about consolidating this. The racing in this first stage was done in the stunning maple, oak and beech forests and very quickly Paul and I began to think of more film references: we had been in 'Die Hard' running though New York now we were in 'Brother Where Art Thou' forever running though forests.

Holi Festival

The race was not shaping up the way the pundits has expected it was beginning to look like brains and not just physical strength were going to be important players over the next three stages.

 

 

 

Tim Pickering

Tim Pickering is an outdoorsman who lives in the Outer Hebrides; teaching outdoor education and first aid. As a seasoned adventure racer he represented the UK in the Landrover G4 Challenge Global Adventure race in 2003; winning the Team Spirit Award and he recently completed his first ultra marathon.

You can follow his blog at www.58DegreesNorth.co.uk or twitter 58degreesnorth

Each day the timings were difficult; we missed a kayaking stage by two minutes at the end of one day after we missed a turning and getting to campsites after a days racing were always tight. We arrived several times with only minutes to spare but for Chester and Guy (from South Africa and Australia) and Nancy and Sergi (from the US and Russia) they missed the cut off for the camp at eight one evening and lost a whole day's score. No questions; late, bang, no points. A bitter blow particularly to Chester and Guy who were favourites.

Paul and I continued to run through the forests and mountains quietly gather point. We kept away from the politics and just ran our own race. Coming up with more film references; we had to stop in one town as we drove past the Amity Horror house perched on top of the hill and Forest Gump continually echoed through our heads saying 'Run Forest Run'

At various points in each stage all the competitors raced head to head in a Maximiser. The two racers scores were then combined to give you your points; on the first stage it was an urban one in NYC and a remote one; skiing at Wildcat Mountain. This was great for me, I ski quite well after living in a ski resort in France, for Paul who was from Southern Island it was a little different; Paul had never seen more than a dusting of snow a couple of times in his life. So his philosophy was 'I have done a lot of surfing how different can snow boarding be?' As we came down the final straight carrying our respective national flags Paul was using his snowboard like a tea tray, a large ball of snow careering towards the finish line. We were very happy; we pegged third in this Maximiser.

For Paul and I it had been a great week and we were placed in third and forth behind two other surprises, Jim a computer specialist from Canada and Rudi a fighter pilot from Belgium. The race was not shaping up the way the pundits has expected it was beginning to look like brains and not just physical strength were going to be important players over the next three stages.

After over a thousand miles of driving, three mountain ranges, twenty one Hunters and two Maximisers we drove to Newark airport ready for a flight over the equator to South Africa, a change of temperature, a change of partner and another week of racing ...

 


Don't miss out. Sign up to receive free monthly email updates from Sidetracked here.

Next Story