OFFROAD

Ranger Odyssey Finalists Selected at Four-Day Boot Camp in the Karoo

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Four intense, action-packed days of Boot Camp training and evaluation held in the small Karoo town of Prince Albert from 18 to 21 June have led to the selection of the Top 20 contestants for the 2015 Ford Ranger Odyssey in Namibia.

A total of 38 contestants made their way to the start of Boot Camp, having been chosen from thousands of online entries received for this year’s event on www.RangerOdyssey.com and via dealer events held in selected Sub-Saharan Africa markets. The group comprised 29 South Africans along with four entrants from Nigeria, two each from Mozambique and Ivory Coast, and one from Angola.

The programme commenced on Thursday with in-depth instruction on the theoretical aspects of the Ford Ranger and 4x4 driving in general, along with the crucial elements of vehicle recovery techniques. The team then had to haul their luggage by foot to the overnight campsite around 2.5 km away, then set up tents for the chilly mid-winter nights spent under the stars.

On Friday the contestants set off at 5am on a 9km trail run to get the blood flowing, then had their first opportunity to take the mighty Built Ford Tough Ranger off-road. A series of challenging 4x4 obstacles were laid out in the dry bed of the Gamka River around 12km north of Prince Albert which, for many in the group, was the first time they had driven the Ranger or been off-road.

From climbing soft river sand banks to negotiating challenging rocky ascents and descents, the tight but technical course had it all – and the contestants were amazed how capable the Ranger proved in what were particularly intimidating tasks.

Learning the ropes in terms of vehicle recovery is critical before embarking on any 4x4 expedition – and particularly in the difficult and remote route planned for this year’s Ranger Odyssey in far north western Namibia.

The Ford instructors took the contestants through the full regime of winching, operating a high-lift jack and using scissors lifts and recovery ropes to extricate a stranded vehicle.

Day three was all about the regime of safe convoy driving, and the contestants took turns behind the wheel as the 17-vehicle fleet traversed the breath-taking Swartberg Pass, headed through Groenkloof to Calitzdorp and worked its way through the scenic Seweweekspoort Pass.

With tiredness and fatigue coming into play, day four started off even earlier at 04:30 with in-depth instruction on GPS navigation by the team from Navworld that is supplying the Garmin units to be used on Odyssey.

The final assessment comprised a nerve-wrecking interview with the judging panel, comprising the Ford instructors, the media crew and a representative from Ford South Africa.

Throughout Boot Camp the contestants were scored and rated daily on a variety of aspects, including overall attitude and group interaction, grasp of practical and theoretical elements of 4x4 training, communication and leadership skills, as well as overall demeanour.

The Final Top 20

Ranger Odyssey Boot Camp revealed which of the semi-finalists are indeed tough enough, have the right level of endurance and the ideal disposition for the challenging 12-day adventure which sets off for Namibia on 23 July.

“The Boot Camp action was intense, but we had a great group of contestants and everyone gave it their all, enjoyed themselves and learned a lot over the four days,” said Tracey Delate, General Marketing Manager for Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA).

“The 20 finalists chosen for Namibia represent a fantastic mix of individuals that bring a superb level of energy, enthusiasm, camaraderie and a desire for adventure to this event. We look forward to setting off for Namibia in July with them for this truly life-changing experience.”

Among the finalists are 14 South Africans, along with two each from Nigeria and Ivory Coast, plus one each from Mozambique and Angola.

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