Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles recently hosted the Spirit of Amarok Media Challenge in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga which put 30 of South Africa’s motoring media through their paces behind the wheel of an Amarok 3.0 TDI V6 in an effort to find the most competent 4x4 media pair in the country.
In a display of focused, skilful and precise driving, Cars.co.za journalist and photographer, Gero Lilleike and driving partner, Ferdi De Vos, claimed overall victory in the world’s first-ever Spirit of Amarok Media Challenge held last week. It was also the first time that the Amarok V6 (which is the #CarsAwards Leisure Double Cab Bakkie champion) was used in competition leading up to the Spirit of Africa and Spirit of Amarok events.
The Spirit of Africa and Spirit of Amarok 4x4 events are curated by South African motorsport and rally legend, Sarel van der Merwe, a man who knows a thing or two about kicking up dust and getting the most out of a vehicle in challenging terrain.
Sarel van der Merwe needs no introduction. He is a South African motoring legend...
The Spirit of Amarok is a renowned amateur 4x4 championship event with international status that brings qualifying teams from across the world together to compete for the coveted Wolf Trophy which symbolises the prowess of the Volkswagen Amarok.
Teams from Namibia, Botswana and South Africa will compete in the Spirit of Africa event (currently taking place) with the top 2 teams progressing to compete in the Spirit of Amarok International event held in August 2019 where the best teams from countries such as Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Taiwan, China and Russia gather to battle it out for ultimate 4x4 bragging rights.
For more information, visit www.vw.co.za/en/spirit-of-amarok.html
Getting down and dirty
The technical 4x4 challenges require precise driving to successfully navigate the course without being penalised.
The Spirit of Amarok Media Challenge saw 30 local journalists (15 two-person teams) completing a range of difficult challenges including technical driving challenges, high-speed challenges and a tricky reverse blindfold slalom challenge.
For the technical challenges, teams are required to navigate a number of 4x4 courses in a predetermined time and all teams start each challenge with 100 points. The challenges are set against a mountainside with the tracks featuring steep gradients and loose rocks which make driving particularly difficult. Poles are strategically placed throughout the courses and if these poles come in contact with the vehicle, points are deducted. Teams are also penalised for arriving late or early at the finish line, so precise driving through the poles and planning is essential in achieving maximum scores.
The Amarok V6 is powerful and fast, making for a thrilling drive in the high-speed challenges.
The high-speed challenges are also timed and take place on flatter terrain. Driver’s are required to drive through the course as fast as possible. The team with the fastest time gets maximum points and poles are also placed throughout the high-speed courses which demand a high level of driving precision to navigate successfully at speed without being penalised.
Driving blindfolded while following verbal instruction is not easy...
The final blindfold reverse slalom challenge required effective communication and teamwork. The driver is blindfolded and is required to reverse the Amarok V6 through a slalom course under the verbal direction of his/her driving partner, ending with the Amarok being placed between the finishing gates. While many teams failed at the task, Gero Lilleike and Ferdi De Vos were the only team to complete the challenge without hitting any poles.
With its powerful 3.0-litre turbodiesel engine with 165 kW and 550 Nm of torque, the Amarok V6 performed admirably throughout the day and tackled the most difficult 4x4 tracks with absolute confidence. A major highlight of the Amarok is how user-friendly it is in off-road situations. The driver simply presses the off-road button and then the Amarok's gear and throttle calibration are automatically primed for offroading while hill descent control and the offroad-ABS are activated. With the rear differential lock engaged, the Amarok was virtually unstoppable on the steep and rocky mountainside. The Amarok, once again, proved its capability in tough conditions.
“Consistency played a big part in this victory, but we also played off our strengths which helped us secure the win in the end,” said Gero Lilleike.
Andile Dlamini, Head of Group Communications at Volkswagen and Sarel van der Merwe announced Gero Lilleike and Ferdi De Vos as the first 2019 Spirit of Amarok Media champions and handed over the floating Wolf Trophy. Cars.co.za looks forward to defending the title in 2020!
The Top 5 standings are as follows:
Gero Lilleike (Cars.co.za) / Ferdi De Vos (RoadTrip Magazine) - 829 points
Sean Parker (Wheels24) /Brent van der Schyff (Motor Magazine) - 784 points
Brendon Staniforth (Maroela Media) / Gugu Masuku - 780 points
Melinda Ferguson (City Press) / Lawrence Smith (Ride & Drive) - 777 points
Sean Nurse (AutoDealer) / Lawrence Minnie (AutoTrader) - 735 points