KNYSNA - Throw together four heroes and four members of the public, put a Toyota Fortuner up as a prize at the end of two gruelling days and you have the makings of an epic competition.
That was indeed the case for this year’s Fortuner 4x4 competition held in Knysna in weather that added an extra twist to an already tough event.
How it works is that Toyota select four “heroes” and members of the public get to enter via four media houses following a set of criteria that has to be met. Each media house then creates a short list and much discussion and debate follows before a final candidate is chosen to try their luck at taking home a Toyota Fortuner 2.4 GD-6 4x4 Automatic.
The four are then paired with heroes that this year included South African Dakar legend Giniel de Villiers; Fitness expert Nkateko “Takkies” Dinwiddy; Cheetahs rugby player Oupa Mohoje; and Springbok rower Kirsten McCann.
In addition,members of the public can then also vote on which hero’s team they think are likely win. The winning voters are then grouped together and a draw determines who gets the keys to their own Fortuner.
On arrival, rain and wind greeted contestants. This pretty much set the scene for the rest of the challenge days but first the pairings had to be sorted. Heroes drew a coloured ball from a bag and then the contestants, which saw Giniel de Villiers with Michelle Meyer, Nkateko Dinwiddy with Jacob Maboja (Independent Media’s team), Kirsten McCann with Trevor Lagerwey and Oupa Mohoje teaming up with Dieter Pey.
First up, three batons planted in the sand, four contestants lying down facing away and then turning around to run and grab a baton until there is one left and two contestants fighting it out for honours.
The nautical theme continued with the pairs paddling a flat bottomed double canoe in a howling wind on the Knysna lagoon twice around a marker.
Not everyone was comfortable with getting into paddling sync, the wind pushing them off course constantly, and the cold water. It did, however, set the scene for the rest of the challenges to come in terms of physical and mental preparedness.
Day one was rounded off with a 5km cycle and running challenge, the contestant on a bike followed by the hero in the hilly Pezula Hotel area with way-points on their Garmin watches, with a downpour just to make things a little more trying.
And as they say in the classics, that’s not all. Waiting for them was a map of Africa on the Fortuner’s bonnet and a handful of countries’ names that they had to place correctly. The SADC countries were easy enough but as they went further north it became a lot trickier and there was much guesswork involved that cost teams time.
De Villiers had the obvious advantage here having criss-crossed most of Africa behind the wheel of his racing Hilux.
Heading for bed, contestants and the media had little idea of how things stood. What they did know, however, was that the bar had been set and Tuesday wouldn’t be any easier.
At least the rain stayed away for day two of the challenge but a cold wind had picked up just to remind contestants that it wasn’t going to be a breeze to walk away with the keys of a Fortuner.
A 5km run again with way-points and the ocean as a beautiful backdrop got rid of the cobwebs in the morning as did the questions specific to the Fortuner after crossing the line, all timed of course.
A quick drive to a short but tough mountain bike course had contestants listening out for the heroes shouting directions as they pedalled over bumps and sharp corners. Even the fittest of them commented that this was one of the hardest challenges as lungs and leg muscles screamed out for relief.
No such luck, I’m afraid.
Waiting just below was a farm dam that needed to be crossed on a raft.
Easy enough, you’d think, but not so much when everything you need to build it is placed at co-ordinates on the Garmin watch which saw teams criss-crossing the veld gathering drums, rope and poles.
Throw in the wind against the direction they were heading and large water lilly leaves as an added obstacle and unfortunately two teams were timed out and didn’t finish.
Lunch filled hungry stomachs before the final two challenges that would determine who gets to take home his or her Fortuner.
Blind driving tested communication between hero and contestant as they were guided through a tight obstacle course before the last test of the day which by our reckoning would be the decider as the top two teams of De Villiers and Meyer and McCann and Lagerwey seemed to be neck and neck.
For some of the contestants who had never pulled off a shot in anger the group did damn well when it came to clay pigeon shooting.
The trap catapults clay targets in the air, shots are fired and orange targets shatter in the air.
Now it was up to the judges to deliberate while the four contestants went through a couple of nail-biting hours.
The covered Fortuner loomed large in the dining hall but after a suitable time to grow the tension during dinner Toyota’s GM of marketing and communications Lettie Labuschagne stood up behind the podium and to the delight of Trevor Lagerwey and teammate Kirsten McCann the Capetonian was handed the keys to his own Fortuner.