Vleesbaai 4×4

By PG & Johnie Jonker

It was a clear sunny December morning when we arrived at the Vleesbaai 4×4 route for a bit of dune driving. Whilst doing the preliminaries more vehicles arrived.

Eventually 7 vehicles set out on the route, following the Colt DC (petrol) leader vehicle. I was a passenger in bro’ Johnie’s Tiguan.

At the first real dune those who still not had their tyres deflated did so.

Being a bit of a techno-freak bro’ Johnie made an adaptor that could keep his camera in position on the roof of the Tiguan to get some good video clips.

The first obstacle was a steepish dune that required some speed to make it over the top, but over rather uneven ground. This somehow caused the Pajero’s cowl to become unstuck. Fortunately the handy guys in the crowd could get things up and running in no time.

In the meantime the rest of the crowd was getting the hang of things, rushing up and down the dune. One of the drivers got a bit carried away with his Discovery V8. He enjoyed himself so much that he sommer came back the way he went – forgetting that this would but him right in harm’s way of someone charging up the blind hill of the dune! Fortunately no harm done.

However, shortly thereafter I noticed steam coming from underneath the bonnet of the V8, so I’m not quite sure that no harm was done there.

I thought the Tiguan was doing rather splendid given its demeanour as a bit of a town’s car, rather than a serious off roader.

Some of the obstacles proved too much for most of the vehicles. At one of the dunes only the lead vehicle and the next vehicle could make it to the top. None of the rest could, although not due to lack of trying. It made for some spectacular viewing.

Only one vehicle did not attempt the obstacle. The gentleman with a Touareg told me that he had a few thousand Rands worth of repairs done to his vehicle after he damaged it on that exact obstacle only a few weeks earlier.

At this stage I was having my doubts about the Drive Out Magazine’s difficulty rating of only 2 – 3. Watching, and listening to some of the laborious efforts of the engines of some of the vehicles, I thought it might warrant a slightly higher rating. But then again, I’m not really into heavy off-roading, so maybe it’s just me.

Now just for the sake of perspective I have to insert this picture.

 The angle is not quite correct, but picture you’re travelling slowly down a dune, minding your own business. In front of you is this Defender. The gap between the Tiguan and the Defender is becoming smaller at an uncomfortable constant speed. The reason being that, although we are only driving at 30km/h, the Defender is doing 25km/h.

This should really not be a problem. I mean, as is the custom, the Tiguan is fitted with brakes. So the application of this fairly basic bit of technology should solve the problem.

Not so.

I will let Johnie take up the story from here, as it becomes slightly technical.

“My VW Tiguan suffered considerable front-end damage due to the failure of the ABS system to stop the car, resulting into tailgating the vehicle ahead of me. Although the brake pedal was depressed, gently initially but with more force [it went along with some verbal encouragement as well – PGJ] when I realised the car’s braking was ineffective, the only response was the continuous kicking of the pedal under my foot for the time it took to run into the vehicle ahead.

This specific part of the route was a gently winding descent on a sand road – not overly loose, at trailing throttle – the vehicle in front was probably travelling at 25 km/h and the Tiguan at 30 km/h at the moment of impact.

The top of the bonnet was crushed by the rear door mounted spare wheel of a Landrover Defender 110, which did not suffer any damage. [So now we know why it is called a Defender. The gentleman in the Defender was unaware even of the impact! – PGJ]

Once the radiator had been clipped back into position to stop the cooling fan wearing away the broken air inlet ducting and makeshift repairs were made to enable the bonnet to latch, we travelled further.

The problem appeared to be the ESP. As the ESP resets itself to ON every time the ignition is switched off, it is required to disable it before starting off each time. This was diligently done for the preceding 20 engine starts, except for this one, seeing that it was going to be downhill all the way on a relatively solid sand road. Tyres were deflated to 0.8 bar, giving a good footprint/grip on the surface.

Following the collision, I decided to verify whether the situation could be simulated or whether it was a once-off occurrence. On the return path to the route start, I reversed downhill over the same route with ESP ON, and then applied the brakes, with the same result – the pedal just kicking under my foot – this time stopping the car with the parking brake.

I then disabled the ESP, repeated the same exercise, and the car stopped immediately.”

In any event, the sensation of sitting and watching in slow motion how you hit the car in front of you is a riveting experience, although not necessarily one that one would like to have a repeat of.

The result of the impact on the Tiguan was as follows:

After a bit of tinkering on the car back at the Gouritsmond Caravan Park it looked like this.

Not quite as be fore, but at least the bonnet could close again properly.  After a subsequent visit to the panel beaters it was restored to its former glory, which looked even better.

So, lesson learnt: when driving off roading in a car with all sorts of high tech gizmos, maybe it’s best to get out and take pictures from a distance?

Alternatively, RTFM [read the freaking manual] beforehand.



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