Toughest Toyota Fortuner challenge yet produces first female winner
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Johannesburg - This year saw the sixth running of the Toyota Fortuner Challenge and, without a doubt, it was the toughest one yet.
It might sound like the challenge is about driving a Fortuner but that only constitutes a small part of the overall day, with a combination of physical, mental and driving challenges put together to test competitors to the limit. After all, the winner walks away with a 2.4-litre Toyota Fortuner.
The concept pairs four “heroes” and four members of the public selected from entrants representing four media houses.
The heroes this year were Toyota Gazoo Racing SA driver Giniel de Villiers, Cheetahs rugby player Oupa Mohoje, ex-Miss Namibia and wellness coach Steffi van Wyk-Brink and crossfit athlete and trainer Zaakirah Khalek.
The contestants included commercial pilot Anneri Kemp, pharmacist Shaheen January, functional-medicine practitioner Justin Maguire, representing Independent Media, and Obstacle Course Racing (OCR) athlete Greg Averienos.
The event took place in Gauteng for the second time, with the heroes and contestants paired up with a random draw at the Kloofzicht Lodge & Spa. Giniel and Anneri were the first team paired up, followed by Shaheen and Steffi, Greg and Zaakirah and then Justin and Oupa, the two big boys.
Things started hotting up immediately with the first challenge that required the contestants to cycle almost 10 kilometres on their specialised mountain bikes while their hero partners covered the same distance on a static simulator.
What started as a cool day soon saw the sun come out and beads of perspiration on the next Specialised Capture the Flag challenge that had the heroes needing to solve mathematical questions, the answer indicating which number flag the contestant had to cycle to on a tough and tricky “pump track”.
Thankfully for the contestants, challenge three was in the comfort of the Fortuner which would be put through its 4x4 capabilities in the Salomon Fortuner 4x4 Challenge.
The heroes guided the contestants through four different obstacles set out with poles, one that included reversing, which saw some contestants believing they were at Kyalami rather than on a tight, undulating sand obstacle.
At this stage it was clear that the 2021 version of the Fortuner Challenge was going to be the tightest one yet, with no indication of a leading contender to take home the ultimate prize.
Back at Kloofzicht, the Fortuners were ditched in favour of crossing a dam in the Garmin Raft Regatta.
Teams had to use their Garmin Fenix smartwatches to navigate to specific co-ordinates, where they would find the materials to build a raft which had to carry them across the dam.
Our Oupa and Justin decided to get creative with their directions, which cost them a lot of time before they were coaxed in the right direction to start the task.
Fortunately for them, only De Villiers and Kemp managed to get the raft into the water, but it came apart meaning that there were four “did not finish” scores.
Onto the Garmin Archers Edge challenge where teams had to keep a considerable wind in mind while aiming for a bull’s eye, shooting at two separate targets. By the time the last pairing had finished there was still no clear-cut leader.
What was thought to be the last challenge would sort the chaff from the wheat - a real military-style challenge in the form of the Quartz Lubricants obstacle course.
In tethered pairs the teams had to climb through a spider’s web of string and over a netted wall, parallel bars with a 30kg sandbag thrown in for good measure, zigzag between vertical poles again with the sandbag and onto what would be, for the spectators at least, the most entertaining challenge.
Each team had to pull their Fortuner tug-of-war style over a predetermined distance and, once that was completed, one of them had to pull and suspend a bag equal to their body weight using only their hands to keep it off the ground, while the other had to put together an intricate puzzle.
Teammates could swop if the weight became too much, and much anguish, grit, shouting and desperation ensued as they grappled with both the physical and mental challenge.
By this stage things were still very tight on the leader board and just when everyone had freshened up and was starting to wind down, competitors, not the heroes, had to get behind the wheel of the The Toyota Gaming Engine simulator race to see who could clock the fastest time using the Toyota Yaris World Rally Championship (WRC) car and WRC 9 game over a specific stage.
When all the scoring had been tallied and audited, Boeing pilot Anneri Kemp, representing Media24, paired with Giniel de Villiers, walked away as the first woman winner of her own Fortuner.
It was bittersweet for Kemp who had placed an order for a Fortuner just before the Covid-19 pandemic, so when lockdown came and planes were grounded she found herself unemployed for nine months and had to cancel it.