Eighth Spirit of Africa competition calls for finesse rather than gung-ho driving.

The first of 25 groups of 20 competing teams in the 2012 Amarok Spirit of Africa off-road driving competition will engage low range and set off to tackle the latest 4x4 driving challenge devised by legendary South African rally champion Sarel van der Merwe in Limpopo on Thursday, 3 May.

The 20 teams of two (driver and navigator) will compete in the opening elimination round at Kondowe Nature Reserve, a Selwane community project in the Limpopo bushveld near Phalaborwa. Once all 25 groups have completed the elimination process, the top 20 teams - as judged by 'Supervan' - will be announced, and will contest the finals in Botswana later in the year.

This is the eighth time that Van der Merwe has staged this unusual contest, that combines off road-driving performance with adventure, environmental awareness and community outreach.

“There are some changes this year in addition to the new venue.”

He said: “Our objective has always been not only to provide a real test of man and machine in the toughest of African conditions, but also to explore some of the more beautiful and remote parts of our country.

“That's why we emphasise the need to 'tread lightly' and show proper respect for the environment, while at the bringing economic benefits to the communities where we visit.

“Regular competitors will find some changes to the format of the competition, making it a lot more technical - for them it will be like a brand new event.”