Aspiring professional off-road drivers from Botswana and South Africa in the Northern Province, for some been their experience of their lifetime, got off to an opportunity to test their driving skills at the Sand Dune 4×4 Challenge held at Khawa recently.
The event, which was coordinated by Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) received a good response from the Khawa 4×4 challenge enthusiasts as they witnessed Twenty-nine drivers and their navigators taking part in the event. The challenge, now in its second year running, was supervised by Wimpie Olivier a well-known Professional 4×4 driver and instructor from North West, South Africa.
Each vehicle was made up of a driver and a navigator, and at the starting point, the navigator would be expected to jump off the vehicle while idling, to fetch a bottle of water a 4 meters away from the car and return back to join the driver. Wimpie would then give a signal to the driver to flatten the accelerator paddle towards the snake like curvy road on heavy heaps of sand, on the side slopes of Khawa’s “Smally” Sand Dune.
While the crowd cheered to the roaring and reverberating sounds from the exhausts of the different makes of vehicles, it also became evident that most drivers were inexperienced as fear and anxiety was visibly in their faces. The snakelike obstacles proved to be hard to maneuver while some trucks experienced punctures at the heavy curves of the dune track.
According to track manager and challenge instructor Wimpie Olivier, the challenge did not have any categories but there were some obstacle rules to be observed by drivers while considering the amateurship of most of them. “The event is growing in terms of response from the public while drivers are also coming in good numbers to test their skills and their vehicles engine and suspension power. Last year we started with eleven 4×4 vehicles and as the day went on the vehicles increased to 22, while this year we registered twenty-nine vehicles,” Olivier told The Botswana Gazette.
Olivier said in 2017 the challenge was supported by a local 4×4 club while this most of the drivers were individuals and new to the challenge. Based on last year’s evaluation of the track and planning format, they noticed some challenges that needed some improvement hence they would want to make the challenge more attractive and become family oriented.
“We want to encourage families to venture into the challenge, and it would be nice to see husband and wife either one of them driving or navigating, but for women drivers it would interesting to see how their test their skills in the 4×4 challenge.
Olivier said BTO has been supportive of growing the sport, as it brought local journalists, print and radio to cover the challenge. “We had an opportunity to be interviewed by Leisure Wheels and going forward we will liaise with them and other print media houses to place columns and explore other marketing strategies of the 4×4 challenge in Botswana with them,” Olivier, also preferably known as Wimpie, said.
He said the 4×4 industry has huge potential to grow but it can only reach an expected high climax if turned into a national 4×4 challenge festival supported with some incentives such as driver of the challenge just to mention a few, to attract enthusiasts.
Turning to drivers who participated in this challenge, Wimpie was delighted with the way ladies were able to handle the wheels in the dunes and with due effort from all of them, I would give them 5 out of ten.
“My plan is to work closely with BTO and other potential stakeholders so that we institute a 4×4 training club in Botswana. That way a driver will know more about vehicle set up, quick gear and damage free transition as well as navigation acquaintance.
For his part, the coordinator of the 4X4 challenge from BTO, Thuso Masemola was appreciative of the fact that the event showed tremendous growth in terms vehicle participation and crowd attendance. “We have received positive feedback from the crowd and it is for us now as BTO and current partners to work on the modalities of bringing more stakeholders so as to also strive for intensive market of the event,” Masemola shared.
This year’s challenge attracted drivers of different ages and from different walks of life with youngest participant been 23 years old while Petrus Scholtz won the challenge on Toyota Prado 4×4 3.0.