Offroad or 4X4 challenges are known to be the true test of man and machine versus the elements.
It’s not a race against time, it’s not about speed but it is about skill of the driver and the power of the machine being driven. The drivers take their vehicles through harsh, untamed terrain with steep hills, flooded tracks, boulders and rocks, and inclines so steep they at times tip over.
To get past these “natural” obstacles, drivers must in addition to brute force of their vehicles, use technical and tactical expertise to complete the multiple stages across the competition course.
This will be a test that drivers will face over the weekend at the Champagne Park 4X4 challenge in Kajiado, with an extra dose from the elements courtesy of the ongoing rains.
“There is a lot more water in on the tracks. This will make it more challenging,” says Johnson Kimathi, Patron of the Champagne Park 4X4 challenge. He paid a visit to the course that will serve as the battleground for the motoring enthusiast to gauge the difficulty.
Kimathi has been an enthusiast of rally for decades. In the early 1990s, he was a patron of Safari Rally, then known as Marlboro Safari Rally.
It was this love for car competition that would see him start up the Champagne Park 4X4 challenge in 2017. This weekend affair offered drivers and families an opportunity to watch cars battle it out on off-road challenges, closer to the city and at a more affordable setting.
“Rhino Charge was out of rich for many people, especially young drivers who also want the fun offroad driving,” he says. The challenge offered an alternative to the premier Rhino Charge which happens annual at varied locations across the country.
Champagne Park 4X4 challenge is held quarterly in Kipeto, Kajiado with this weekend’s event bringing in over 30 drivers tackling the 21 stages of the event.
“We have three categories in this event; beginner, intermediate and expert. Most of the competitors are in the intermediate category,” says Kimathi.
He took part in the first year of the challenge but has since passed on the baton to his son Leon Kimathi, who has participated over the past two years.
Beginners come in with their everyday use 4X4 vehicles to test the car’s power as well as the driver’s skill to maneuver the course set out.
This is not just a matter of accelerating, but how well the driver can engage the 4-wheel drive on the vehicle, and maneuver the turns, water and steep climbs.
The beginners need no prior training, just ability to drive.
The second category is the intermediate. The drivers have to first graduate from the beginner category. This involves attending a minimum three trainings, offered at Champagne Park when the track is not being used for competitions.
To graduate to the expert category, 10 of whom are participating during this quarter’s event, one must take up additional training—a minimum of 20 sessions—and own a modified vehicle.
The expert vehicles are a minimum 3000cc engines, have good tryes with great treads, a roll cage, safety belts and proper safety equipment.
“Most of our expert drivers come from different challenges including the Athi River 4X4 and Bungoma 4X4 challenge,” says Kimathi.
The challenge has no age limit for participation given the fact that it takes place in a controlled environment.