By Sala Masindane
Off-roading can sometimes be a daunting and risky activity affair. Not only does it require precision and focus; you will also need a capable car. This car (read 4×4) should be able to adjust to different terrains and demands. Damage is sometimes unavoidable and these vehicles sometimes do not come cheap. Knowing all of this, why do people take these cars to get scratched in the bush? Well the answer is simple; it’s exhilarating and fun. It’s also time away from our busy lives. The other reason is that you learn to appreciate and handle driving situations differently. This is of course up until Oom Sarel Van der Merwe comes into the equation and turns that into a competition that will change your thoughts forever.
A bit of history on Sarel Van der Merwe (affectionately known as SuperVan to his fans) is arguably South Africa’s best motor racing export who has won the 1984 24 Hour Daytona race, 11 South African championship and was placed third on his debut at 1984 Le Mans. In fact, if it wasn’t for his “imposing height” he would have raced in the Formula 1. Be that as it may, he remains one of the best and his rally experience has served him well in the past ten years. After many years in the gruelling dust, in 2004 Oom Sarel started the Spirit of Africa as an everyday driver event for the drivers to test their off-roading skills. In 2010, when the Amarok was first introduced, Supervan teamed up with Volkswagen South Africa to curate the internationally acclaimed Spirit of Africa or Amarok. Where his racing skills are used to the optimum level.
The Spirit of Amarok is an amateur 4×4 championship, where drivers pit themselves against one another with the ambition of being the ultimate off-road master and get the chance to test their skills against similar winners from across the globe. Now in its tenth year, we had the privilege to test our skills against other media representatives before the competition was rolled out to the public.
The 2019 Spirit of Amarok edition took place at the Cussonia Private Game Ranch that is situated 38kms away from Nelspruit. The ranch was perfect for such an occasion, as its tranquil, spacious, rocky and has great trails for adventure. On arrival we were met by the Amarok V6 TDI which would be our companion on the trails and, we would be the first to test the trail in the capable V6.
While we were getting comfortable with the V6, we were reminded by Andile, Group Head of Communications, of our sleeping arrangements, which was camping and not glamping as we had hoped for. Nonetheless, the camp site was cosy, with outdoor showers and bathrooms close by. The tent had a stretcher as a bed. VW threw in an Amarok “rugsack” or goodie bag to make the experience more pleasant. The rug sack included, a cap, windbreaker, sleeping bag, blanket, t-shirt, light with USB charging and more. This came in handy for our time at the camp site and will come in handy for all future camping activities.
The second day commenced with a briefing from Oom Sarel about what was in store for us. First up was the technical event, this took place over certain measured courses where my co-driver and I had to drive up and down hills that are rugged and rocky without touching any flags along the route as we would be docked points. All of this was to be done in a specified time. This was the same for the speed events and rally events, where the only difference was the faster speed in which you could complete these.
Truth be told, the Amarok is one those bakkies that appear as if they were not made for off-roading, maybe it’s the premium look? But don’t let the looks fool you, the Amarok is more than capable. The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine is at home off-road. The 165kW of power and 550Nm of torque pumped through all the obstacles. The 180kW and 580Nm overboost function was never needed. Unfortunately, we did not win the overall competition but we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Spirit!!!
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