• 40 contestants for Karoo 'boot camp'
• Desolation Trail final route for top 20
• Winner gets Odyssey-spec Ranger, fuel
Ford's 2015 Ranger Odyssey has been officially launched, with entries now open for those seeking an action-packed adventure of a lifetime.
The third annual Ranger Odyssey will see 20 contestants from across Africa navigating through the extremely challenging north-western region of Namibia on a 12-day expedition that will push each person to the limit.
SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE
Following last year's exploration of the Kaokoland in the far north-east corner of Namibia, the route for 2015 heads north-west to traverse Damaraland. The adventure will start at Spitzkoppe and travel through Palmwag, Khuwarib and the barren and unforgiving Desolation Trail that follows the Huab River to Desolation Valley.
Along with tackling some extreme off-roading, from desert plains to soft river beds and punishing rock trails, the contestants will see some of the region's most breathtaking sights. These include a crater in Palmwag that is a Unesco heritage site, along with the Brandberg which happens to be Namibia's highest mountain at more than 2600m.
The general marketing manager, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa, Tracey Delate, said: "The Ranger Odyssey is a unique event that gives dynamic individuals with a spirit of adventure the chance to see some of the most spectacular parts of Africa.
"It will also give them the opportunity to take on some of Africa's most rugged and remote 4x4 trails while behind the wheel of the 'Built Ford Tough' Ranger."
While the life-changing experience is an exceptional prize in itself, there's also the allure of the grand prize which includes the use of an Odyssey-spec Ranger for a year, along with R5000 worth of fuel per month.
The first Ranger Odyssey in 2012 had around 700 entries, for the 2014 event more than 8000 people registered.
The competitive focus of Ranger Odyssey has been stepped up for 2015 as it returns to an individual-based competition with an even stronger focus on points-scoring special challenges that will ultimately determine the overall winner.
It's not all about sheer brawn, however, as there's an equal split between mental and physical tasks, while overall endurance in Namibia's unforgiving environment will remain key.
People who want to enter can register online at www.rangerodyssey.com before the closing date of May 24 for South Africa and neighbouring countries and May 15 for Angola, Nigeria, Mozambique and Ivory Coast. The application requires submitting a short personal biography, followed by a 'selfie' taken with an Odyssey-branded Ranger at any Ford dealership.
Dealer events are also planned during May that will give aspirant adventurers further opportunities to enter. The Cape Town event takes place in Cape Town on May 2, followed by Durban on the 10th and Johannesburg on the 16th - for more information, visit www.RangerOdyssey.com.
Visitors to the Nampo Agricultural trade show, which takes place in the Free State town of Bothaville from May 15-17, will be able to register and take their 'selfie' at the Ford stand.
A selection committee will then review the applications and narrow the selection down to 40 semi-finalists selected from South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, Nigeria and Ivory Coast, who will be chosen to attend a four-day Boot Camp in the Karoo from June 18-21.
The intensive training and evaluation programme will determine who is tough enough for the 12-day Namibian adventure. Just 20 finalists will ultimately be chosen for the life-changing expedition which takes place from July 23 to August 3.
Throughout the Ranger Odyssey in Namibia, the contestants will be scored each day on a wide variety of aspects, including off-road driving skills, communication, vehicle and location knowledge, as well as physical and mental endurance. There will also be several special tasks set up along the route to test the likes of vehicle recovery techniques and navigation.
In a fresh new twist, the competition now includes two elimination stages, where the two lowest-scoring contestants will leave the group on day four, followed by another four contestants on day 10.
The Ranger Odyssey website will include a leader board that will be updated daily with current scores. However, the organisers will retain an element of mystery and intrigue with the scores and ranking of the top performers remaining secret until the announcement of the winner on August 11.
The trip will once again feature a community project which, this year, will benefit the Palmwag community that runs the local 4x4 concession in the region.
For those that don't make it onto the Odyssey, along with families and friends of the Top 20 finalists, there is an added bonus with the 'Back Seat Driver' competition that runs on the Ranger Odyssey website.
The competition will run from from April 30 to August 4 and participants are required to register on the site, interact by viewing the content - including the daily blogs, photographs and videos - and book a test drive from June 18 2015.
Each interaction scores points so the more times you visit the site the better the chances of winning.
There are 16 prizes, a selection of which is awarded every three days, based on the highest scores as listed on the Backseat Driver leader board, which is refreshed after each three-day period. Entrants can only win one of the interim prizes, which include sunglasses, cameras and navigation units.
All entrants qualify for the grand prize - a Garmin Montana GPS unit valued at R9 500 - which will be awarded to the person who scores the most points over the entire competition period.
For more information on the Ranger Odyssey go to www.rangerodyssey.com and follow @FordSouthAfrica on Twitter using the #RangerOdyssey hashtag. You can also like the company on Facebook (www.facebook.com/FordSouthAfrica).