South African built Hilux AT44 6x6s at the ceremonial South Pole.
South African built Hilux AT44 6x6s at the ceremonial South Pole.
Hilux AT44 vehicles en route to setting another record.
Hilux AT44 vehicles en route to setting another record.

South Africa's Toyota Hilux AT vehicles (built by Toyota SA and converted by Arctic Trucks) have set some new world records in the harsh Antarctic climate.

The first record was already recorded late last year when the vehicles, as part of an expedition organised by the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society, crossed 2308km of the Antarctica High Plateau from Novolazarevskaya station (Novo) to the South Pole in 108 hours.

On the return journey this record, officially recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records, was unofficially bettered to only 3.5 days, at an average speed of 27.5km/h.

Using two Hilux AT44 6x6 and two Hilux AT44 4x4 vehicles, a team from Extreme World Races earlier this week set a new world record for the fastest time to reach the Pole.

They followed a route from the ice edge near McMurdo Sound on the southern side of Antarctica, across the Ross Ice Shelf and on to the Antarctic plateau to reach their destination.

Their journey started on 16 December and the Pole was reached on 18 December 2011 - only 47 hours (less than two days) later, of which only 17.5 hours was spent driving.

This still unofficial record was set as part of a bigger expedition by the EWR team: To twice traverse the Antarctic continent from coast to coast. The first continental crossing was achieved on 14 December.

The team's second arrival at the South Pole (on 18 December) also meant they notched up another accolade - as the expedition that has driven the longest distance ever on Antarctica and also completed the longest traverse from coast to coast.

From Novo to McMurdo they covered almost 4500km and back to the South Pole another 1350km, a distance of 5850km (more than four times the distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town!) - in snow and ice, freezing conditions and white-outs.

The vehicles performed admirably in the dangerous conditions, negotiating crevasses “big enough to swallow all the cars”, as one team member succinctly put it, on the Ross Ice Shelf.

Another remarked that the Hilux vehicles can carry 3-4 tons of equipment “and still float over the surface”. A decision to only load the 6x6's to a maximum 2.5 tons “has saved hundreds of litres of fuel” and “the vehicles are performing better than ever”. “They are a God sent!” he exclaimed.