I have been privileged enough to have taken part in the last two Toyota Rust De Winter 4x4 jamborees and this year, being the 25th year that the event has been sponsored by Toyota, I got the opportunity to take part, again. This time however I would be behind the wheel of the all-new Toyota Hilux.
Keen to get going, other media, their partners, my girlfriend and I, left the Toyota head office and headed out to the event in a convoy of three Hilux bakkies and two new generation Fortuners. All the vehicles taking part featured top-of-the-range engines from Toyota, the 2.8-GD-6. I was happy to get a six-speed manual derivative, which develops 130kW and 420Nm, plus an array of new off-road assist features.
The 4x4 Jamboree was held at the Rust de Winter campsite - about 100km north-east of Pretoria. On the open road the new Hilux delivers a much more compliant ride quality than before. The new interior is also a pleasant place to be with a large touch screen taking centre stage on the dashboard facia. It has definitely entered the 21st Century, and it’s about time.
The whole event took place from the 29th of April until the 2nd of May. Arriving at our campsite on Friday afternoon we were each allocated caravans, supplied to us by Kempton Caravans. It was an early night for me because I knew what lay before me.
The event on the Saturday consisted of various technical 4x4 obstacles. Obstacles such as a mud pit, which saw many a brave 4x4 driver getting stuck. There were also axle twisters, steep inclines and tight courses aimed at testing the driver and their vehicle’s off-roading capabilities. Points got deducted for the touching of flag poles, going over the specified times given and even for role-backs and reverses.
Don't think for a moment, that co-drivers just sit there looking pretty. Oh no! They had their own tasks to do, which also counted for points. As the driver entered an obstacle the co-driver would be handed a puzzle to complete, hold a bucket of water on their lap without spilling and in one particular instance my co-driver had to get four metal balls into four holes inside a box while I was driving over some axle twisters - we lost that one.
On the Sunday we once again woke up before the sun to get ready for a whole day of cross-country off-roading over some pretty challenging terrain. Periodical time checks were done along the route as well as the odd question here and there, meaning that both driver and co-driver had to follow the route-guide provided by the organizers.
The cross-country route was extremely technical and our armada of stock standard Hilux bakkies and the Fortuners handled everything thrown their way. Some of the routes were graded as Level 5, which is quite extreme. The directions consist of various bum-clenching routes. For example, the very first obstacle of the day was driving up a rather steep rock. The marshals would say, “Make a mistake, and it’s tickets!”
As these were stock standard vehicles doing courses predominantly chosen for modified vehicles, damage on our war horses was somewhat unavoidable. Slight front bumper damage was apparent but that was all. We left other contestants - who had spent hundreds of thousands on kitting out their Jeeps and other various 4x4 vehicles - in awe. Not because of the impressive ability of the Hilux but probably because they thought we were bonkers doing the serious stuff.
After a long day out in the beautiful African bush we arrived back at camp; our Hilux bakkies and Fortuners did well and they had the scars to prove it. A few rear bumpers were bent and spare wheels were needed.
The 2016 Rust de Winter 4x4 Jamboree was once again an amazing event for friends and family. There was endless entertainment for the kids and of course for the adults and their big toys. The event, although point-orientated, is a fun event. Sure there are prizes for teams who scored some of the highest points but for the Toyota SA media team, the biggest prize was to take part, finish, and not break a vehicle.