2024 Toyota Fortuner Challenge: meet our challenger

Published Nov 9, 2023


Meet Jan Withaar, our participant in this year’s Fortuner Challenge taking place in Stellenbosch on November 13 and 14.

It’s not called a challenge for nothing.

There will be two days of tough competition and challenges that will stretch competitors to the limit both physically and mentally but to be able to drive away in a Toyota Fortuner is worth all the blood sweat and sometimes tears.

“I’d heard about the Fortuner Challenge in passing and wondered what it was about, so now I’ll get to experience it first hand,” he said while sharing a coffee.

We’d met up at a restaurant in Centurion so I could give him some background on what to expect but the reality is that every year the competition is different with one thing that’s constant; it’s hellishly tough.

Four competitors from four different media houses that have gone through a selection process get the opportunity to test their skills and fitness levels against each other teamed up with four “heroes” and when the scores have all been tallied, the winner gets to put a Fortuner in their name.

The heroes this year are Toyota motorsport legend Giniel de Villiers, veteran Fortuner Challenge competitor and Toyota Cheetahs rugby player Oupa Mohojé, South African judoka, Olympian, and Commonwealth Games gold medalist, Geronay Whitebooi and Sam Sanders, a professional cyclist and marathon rider who has South African colours.

Names are pulled out of a hat to make up the teams and from there things get serious until the winner is announced after the second day’s trials and tribulations.

Withaar, himself an elite category mountain biker that has represented South Africa in World Cups and cross country marathons, is no stranger to the world of tough competition.

“From what I’ve read and watched I reckon the mental challenge will be toughest. When your body is aching and you have to direct your partner on how to build a puzzle unseen while you’re holding on to heavy weights, that’s when you have to push hard.”

With cycling an integral part of the competition, Withaar who has completed three Cape Epics and placed in the top 20, is banking on his skill in the saddle to give him an edge.

“It’s in my blood, so I’m looking forward to that, but questions about my proficiency in golf, swimming, puzzle building and skydiving gives me the impression that we’ll be tested well beyond our comfort zones.

“The skydiving bit had me scratching my head, I hope it involves tandem jumps and not being thrown out of an aeroplane,” he joked.

“I’ll also be spending some time at a driving range to hit a couple of balls because I’m used to handlebars and not golf clubs.”

He’s also a qualified civil engineer and by his own admission a bit of a perfectionist.

“I want to do well and perform at the top of my game, not just to win the Fortuner but to know that I gave everything.”

So do we Jan, so do we.

Related Topics: