Competition series ends but support of scientific research continues, Goodyear South Africa MEDIA RELEASE – February 2007

The exciting annual 4x4 Eco Challenge established in 2001 by Goodyear South Africa and conservationist, Gerhard Groenewald has tackled its last adventure in its current competitive form.

While its focus on scientific research and overland discoveries will continue, the highly competitive aspect of the series has come to an end. Dubbed “the thrill of a lifetime: the pioneering 4x4 Eco Challenge was founded primarily to promote eco-awareness, improve 4x4 driving skills and encourage responsible off-road driving. With respect for the environment now at an all-time high and the Eco Challenge concept having spawned a host of similar operations, the organisers and it’s chief sponsor, Goodyear, considers the project: mission accomplished.

“We feel we have successfully achieved all that we set out to do with the Eco Challenge. The concept was created at a time when 4x4 vehicles were being handled irresponsibly in terms of their environmental impact. Since then, knowledge of and respect for environmental sensitivities have become cemented in the minds of most off-road drivers,” said Goodyear Sales and Marketing Director Mike King.
“The awareness created around events like the Eco Challenge has further encouraged forward-thinking government regulations surrounding off-road driving and ecology. Still, as long as Goodyear manufactures off-road specific tyres like those in our acclaimed Wrangler range, we will maintain our commitment to ‘going anywhere, but only where we’re welcome’,”

As off-road competitions go, the 4x4 Eco Challenge was truly unique. Each year, finalists participated in a different environmental research project specific to the area in which the event was held. Some of the highlights include tagging Bronze Whaler sharks on the Skeleton Coast, mapping the distribution of reptiles for the Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment (SACRA) programme and, in 2006, the ground-breaking discovery of a new bat colony in an uncharted cave system in Mozambique.

“The 4x4 Eco Challenge was the first and biggest of its kind, “said Groenewald. “Over the years it attracted prestigious 4x4 vehicle manufacturers and trained thousands of off-road drivers. Professional coaching throughout the event concentrated on driving techniques in a variety of terrains and included lectures about environmental impact, conservation and overland travel in Africa.”

The Goodyear Academy remains committed to its policy of involvement with scientific and environmentally oriented projects. With the support of Goodyear and Toyota, the Academy will continue its work with SACRA, bird and bat research as well as the HiQ sponsored school projects. “Training has already begun for the next research trip into Africa, specifically Mozambique. We aim to promote environmental awareness, fine-tune 4x4 driving skills, encourage responsible off-road driving and increase the pleasure all 4x4 owners can get from our magnificent environment, today and long into the future,” Groenewald commented.

The Goodyear Academy is also involved in the National Parks ranger driver training at its ‘Serious Freedom’ 4x4 Training Academy at Klipbokkop. The Academy is run by the Groenewald family and is distinguished world-wide for its emphasis on eco-sensitive driving. In 2006, more than 550 international trainees were put through their paces at Klipbokkop.