The Landrover g4 challenge - stage 2

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.


As the one o’clock gun cracked it's report over Cape Town, it echoed off Table Mountain and we started running; we ran towards Lion Mountain and the field began to spread out; I felt good and sat in the middle of the pack. As the incline increased the heat began to work it's magic and coming from the frozen East coast of the US the previous week it began to take it's toll. The ground steepened, the run became a walk and the heat built ...

We had just started the second stage of the Landrover G4 Challenge Global Adventure race and for this week we would be racing in South Africa using Landrover Defenders as the competition vehicles and little did I realise how eventful this week was going to be.

The first control point was on top of Lion Mountain, at each control was an electronic box of magic which we pushed our 'dibber' into, recording the exact time we were there. I 'dibbed' at the summit and turned to make the descent. The downhill came as a relief and I was making good ground. Arriving at the next check point, at the base of the hill, I reached for my dibber …

It wasn't there ...

A string of expletives spewed out, not at the loss of a dibber but at the penalties I would incur: loss of my score for the Maximiser, the loss of my third place in the race and the loss of points for Nancy from the US who I was partnered with for the week.

More swearing. Think, I had to stop and think where had I lost it.


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.


There was a marshal at the check point and they radioed the summit to see if they had found it, they hadn't. I only had one option; I had to retrace my steps to the summit looking for it, hoping to find it. I turned and started running back up the Mountain. As I passed marshal after marshal and the competitors who were behind me, each replied they hadn't seen it. As I hauled up self doubts went through my mind:

How I had let my new partner, Nancy, down. How I had lost any chance of winning the race. How could I have been so stupid to loose my dibber. Should I be here because I am not good enough?

The endless list whirled through in my head: this was pointless, I had to run to the summit see if it was there, if not take the consequences and get on with the race, there was still nearly three weeks of racing ahead.

Finally the summit approached and all my hope was gone. Suddenly the marshal came trotting towards me in his hand was my dibber. Relief rushed through me but now I was at the back of the field, a long way behind, so I turned, threw caution to the wind and drove myself down the hill.

Like all the Maximisers it was multi disciplined, the times of the bi-national team's added together to calculate their placing and so their score for the day. The next stage of this maximiser was a mountain bike section, off road to the outskirts of Cape Town then hurtling on road down to the docks.

At the transition I asked the marshalls 'how far am I behind?'

'There are a couple of the others just a few minutes ahead of you' was the reply.

'You beauty' I thought, 'I might be able to catch them'.

The track was a boulder strewn river bed and I began riding hard. I don't know what made me suddenly realise I was going too fast, I guess some sort of inbuilt self preservation switch, but I braked and began to scrub some speed off the bike. Just over a week into a four week race it was not the time to break myself in an accident. No sooner had this thought finished when bang, I was flying through the air without the bike.


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.


The impact didn't hurt, initially. I picked myself up and picked up the bike, straightened the handlebars and attacked the track again. Now it started to hurt. I had rattled hard and there was pain, there was blood running down my legs from a couple of scraps and my elbow hurt like hell. All I could hear was Benny, a friend from the French Foreign Legion, 'pain is only weakness leaving the body'. I pushed on.

I hit the tarmac and accelerated, I was hauling several people in, I could see them. We were heading for the docks our destination; a mine laying ship, our challenge to jump off the bow roller and then scramble back up the side on a cargo net and back on the bike to the next section an off road driving course and the finish, oh and a visit to the race doctor to see how much damage I had really done.

As I sat with Mike; the race doctor, he cleaned me up, giving me the all clear, he told me about the injuries Jim, the Canadian, had suffered when he had crashed his bike on the same section; he had needed extensive stitching up and his race was over. My South African adventure had just begun.

Each race day started with a 'strategy pit' where we were given details of the stages available to us for the day with their latitude and longitude, we had to decide which ones we were going to visit based on the points we could gain and its location. With six Hunters open each day we had to work out which ones we could achieve, it wasn't physically possible to visit all six because of the distances and the time to complete each hunter. On stage one, the East Coast of the US, Paul from Ireland and I had almost made six in a day, missing the final cut off by less than a minute.

On the second day we set off from the camp site after the Strategy Pit in our race convoy; each racing pair had a support vehicle with a support driver and journalists, in my case this included a television crew. There were also journalists in our Landrover Defender. The rules stated we had to stay together and as we drove down a dirt road heading for our first Hunter, we arrived at a junction and waited for Nanda, our support driver, to catch up. We waited, then gave her a call on the radio. There was no reply so we waited a little longer. With a sick feeling we turned round and headed back up the road.

As we rounded a bend there was a local car stopped and people looking over the edge, with our hearts in our mouths we jumped out and rushed over. The team were all there sitting by the side of the side of the road, thankfully all in one piece with just a few bumps and scrapes. Looking over the edge the vehicle lay at the bottom about ten metres below, smashed.

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 or twitter 58degreesnorth

We got on the satellite phone to race control and they sent the doctors vehicle and the recovery team. The race controller arrived and as Nanda was passed by the doctor as fit to drive we were given one of the other vehicles, transferring all the kit we set off for the Hunter.

The day passed in a bit of a blur and out hearts weren't really in the racing and so we didn't score well but we laughed a lot. My Landrover was full of beautiful women the two embedded journalists and Nancy; they joked I was racing in a testosterone free zone for the week.

The Hunters in South Africa were a stunning mixture of mountain biking, running and kayaking with some swimming, off road driving and a bungee jump after jumaring eighty metres up to the bridge. Jumaring is where you use some foot loops and a clever piece of hardware to climb up a vertical rope in this case free hanging. When I reached the top the photographer commented he had a picture of me and he thought it described pain perfectly.

One of the most beautiful stages was at Eden Alley. We arrived on what looked like a college campus and following the GPS finally found the start of the stage. We ran into what looked like gardens and found a small river which we dropped into and followed it up stream. The sides became steeper and the gorge became narrower, as we approached the dibber the gorge was ten metres deep and the vines overhung so much there was just a small slither of sky visible. It was like being in Jurassic Park and we only half joked about the monsters which might lurk in the black water we were swimming in.

To a soundtrack of Avril Lavigne and Queen, we laughed our way through the week towards the Remote Maximiser at the end of the stage.

The Maximiser was a mountain bike ride to a run along the base of stunning cliffs overlooking the Indian Ocean, because of the searing heat it was an early start. The path at the base of the cliffs wound it's way over boulders, up and down until climaxing with a blistering zig-zag path to the viewing point several hundred metres up. It was as much as I could manage to walk up it, hands pushing on knees to drive myself to the top and the finish, and the end of the South African stage.

As the charter plane took off the pilot told us, out of the port windows we could see the cliffs we had raced along. It was a nice way to say farewell and start thinking about the next stage as we flew on towards Perth and the even hotter Outback of Western Australia: stage three ...


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