New Sasol GTC cars set for thrills

The iconic Grand Prix Circuit will present a new challenge to the GTC drivers as they tackle the country’s fastest racetrack on June 16.

Suzuki’s new Swift hatch and sedan in SA

Suzuki kicks off its new model assault with an all new Swift hatchback and standalone sedan called the Dzire.

Eco Challenge teams

2005-08-04 11:41

They will embark on an overland adventure later this year - an experience of a lifetime and an opportunity to assist with a wildlife research project.

True to the tradition of the 4x4 Eco Challenge, the team members come from all walks of life and represent a wide array of professions.

However, they all share a love of nature and keen adventurous spirit.

In celebration of five years of the 4x4 Eco Challenge, finalists from previous events were invited to join the selection of teams for the 2005 adventure.

After initial screening and tough selection days held at Klipbokkop in the Western Cape - home of the Goodyear Serious Freedom 4x4 Academy - as well as four newly-approved Goodyear 4x4 accredited training facilities around the country, 120 teams of aspirant contenders were subjected to driving trials in the treacherous red sand of Kuthula Farm Lodge in the Kalahari desert.

Navigation skills

Apart from off-road driving in some of the toughest conditions imaginable during the semi-final rounds, their knowledge of GPS navigation, 4x4 basics, tyre selection, medical matters in emergencies, and ecological awareness were assessed in a written examination.

Now in its fifth year, the Goodyear-sponsored 4x4 Eco Challenge is widely regarded as the biggest event of its kind in the world.

It offers an unusual combination of scientific research, ecological awareness, and off-road driving.

From modest beginnings in 2001, when teams negotiated the terrific dunes of the Namib Desert, a two-year bronze whaler research project was conducted along the Skeleton Coast and the Namib region of Angola in 2002 and 2003.

The final 2004 shootout was held in the Liuwa Plains of Zambia.

"Goodyear?s commitment to sound environmental practice has gained momentum and its dedication to responsible off-roading is manifested in its support for the 4x4 Eco Challenge," says Gerhard Groenewald, a highly-respected conservationist and creator of the event.


"Together, we gave prominence to various ecological research projects through the years and can truly say that the 4x4 Eco Challenge has made a difference.

"We were the first to break new ground in the Namib Desert, and our efforts have opened the Skeleton Coast for vital studies to preserve nature.

"This year, the 4x4 Eco Challenge will include a behind-the-scenes visit to the project team responsible for research sponsored by Goodyear to combat Bovine Tuberculosis in the Kruger National Park and Mozambique.

"The aim is to capture lion and buffalo to be tested and treated for the condition.

"International recognition and the tremendous interest shown by researchers and adventurous enthusiasts with a love for nature alike, underscore the 4x4 Eco Challenge?s claim to be the biggest of its kind in the world.

"Goodyear?s support for the Kruger National Park research project fits our environmental thrust perfectly, because the need to combat Bovine Tuberculosis is great," says Gerhard.

"As South Africans we need to unite and contribute in every way we can, to prevent and cure the spread of this terrible disease in order to save our wildlife heritage for future generations."


Through the years the 4x4 Eco Challenge saw a shift from driving tests in rugged conditions to an even greater emphasis on ecological awareness and scientific research. While it does pit man and machine against the elements, the true value of this event lies in its environmental force.

"In essence, the 4x4 Eco Challenge is an adventure geared around the concept of enjoying the untamed beauty nature has to offer.

"That is precisely what serious freedom is all about."

According to Groenewald, Southern Africa offers a myriad of opportunities for exploring unknown territories and an abundance of varied terrain for off-road activities.

"But the freedom to explore brings responsibilities and means a caring attitude towards the ecology and the wonders of nature," says Gerhard.

The 2005 Goodyear-sponsored 4x4 Eco Challenge is supported by the Imperial Group (logistics), National Luna (refrigeration and electrical equipment), Campmor (tents and camping gear), and Hi-Q (Goodyear Wrangler off-road tyres).

The teams

Wiela Botha (Thabazimbi, Farmer)
Zagrys Jordaan (Thabazimbi, Builder)

Alec Swanepoel (Cape Town, Builder)
Francois van der Merwe (De Rust, Farmer)

Erik Bakkes (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Branch Manager)
Adriaan Naudé (Lusaka, Zambia, Procurement Manager)

Christo Brisley (Windhoek, Namibia, Branch Manager)
Leentjie Brisley (Windhoek, Namibia, Financial Manager)

Bob de Villiers (Klawer, Winemaker/Cellar Manager)
Dr Elsie Campher (Melkbos, Change Consultant)

Willem Viljoen (Robertson, Farmer)
Alex van Eeden (Ashton, Electrician)

Niel Hamman (Worcester, Farmer)
Nico de Wet (Worcester, Farmer)

Johan Loots (Germiston, Self-employed - Transport)
Paul Horn (Germiston, Operations Manager - Transport)

Wimpie Kamffer (Karasburg, Namibia, Garage Owner)
Billy Kamffer (Nelspruit, Manager, Delta EMD)

Dirk Croucamp (Kathu, Farmer Services Co-op)
TJ van der Westhuizen (Kathu, Electro-Mechanical Technician, Millwright)


There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.