The General Grabber X3 extreme 4×4 tyre is renowned for rugged performance and durability, and there are arguably very few tests of a tyre’s off-road capability that are more punishing than Rhino Charge Kenya, which is widely regarded as one of the toughest one-day 4×4 events in the world. It puts competitor teams through the most demanding terrain and navigation challenges imaginable – all for a great cause, as it raises funds to support the Rhino Ark Charitable Trust which tackles the conservation and protection of Kenya’s mountain range ecosystems.
The 34th Rhino Charge this year saw 52 entrants compete for glory and raise 173 million Kenyan Shillings (around R23-million) for the Rhino Ark conservation efforts. It was held in Nkoteyia, Samburu County, and featured 13 checkpoints that the teams had to pass in the shortest possible distance to score maximum points. Once again this was the perfect playground for the tough General Grabber X3 which excelled in the most arduous of conditions. Its impressive performance in these extreme tests of grip and durability has significantly enhanced the reputation of the General Tire brand in Kenya, and contributed to growing demand for the Grabber X3, the new Grabber ATX and the all-terrain Grabber AT3. For the second year running, General Tire sponsored the Grabber X3 tyres for the Land Rover Defender 90 V8, known as ‘Car 9’, which competed in the Unmodified Class entered by two-time class winner John Bowden, supported by his four team-mates. Proving just how difficult this event is, the team broke the vehicle’s rear winch on the first stage which cost them significant time – and then they rolled twice due to the extreme angles the vehicle reaches while traversing the rocky and mountainous terrain, all at walking pace or less.
Nevertheless, with the raft of safety equipment installed, including a full roll cage, there was minimal damage and the Car 9 team went on to earn its third class win in a row, and the second on Grabber X3 tyres. They reached 12 of the 13 checkpoints, with just four teams in the Super Modified Class for purpose-built off-road vehicles making it through the final test. Car 9 finished seventh overall to take the Unmodified Class win, and was second overall and first in its class on one of the extra tough Tiger Line routes thanks to some excellent navigation and teamwork. “This was the toughest Rhino Charge I’ve done in 23 years, with serious navigational and physical decisions to be made, and some major challenges faced,” said Bowden, MD of independent Land Rover specialists Gumtree 4×4 Ltd in the UK. “The Grabber X3 tyres stood up really well in these tough conditions, and gave us the confidence and grip to tackle the extreme obstacles as we worked our way through each of the checkpoints in the shortest possible distance.”
All-women team – the Fat Unicorns Car 9 wasn’t on the only team relying on the proven Grabber X3 tyres at this year’s event. The ‘Fat Unicorns’ – an all-women team – tackled their First Rhino Charge in a Range Rover Classic V8 (#29), fondly named Baby Betty, and equipped with Grabber X3s sponsored by General Tire. Even though this was their first 4×4 competition, the Fat Unicorns managed to get through eight checkpoints. They finished a commendable fifth in the Unmodified Class and 31st overall – exceeding the team’s expectations, as well as that of many of the experienced competitors.
They also earned the Kijabe Award for the best first-time entrants. “We were nervous and excited all at once not knowing what to expect and feeding off the horror stories we heard from other participants, yet we kept our cool and focused on why we came to the Rhino Charge, as we wanted to take the challenge head-on, enjoy the beautiful landscape and most importantly have fun while doing it,” said Ulisha Singh, the team coordinator and part of the crew that included Tilana de Meillon, Devon Maylie, Khevna Naran and Louise Collette. “We all live in Kenya and, aside from Louise, we work together at the International Finance Corporation/World Bank,” Singh explained. De Meillon, Naran and Singh are South African, Maylie is American and Collette is from Kenya. “We’re also hiking buddies, having climbed Mount Kenya Elephant Hill and Table Mountain in Cape Town, so we have a history of taking on challenges on getting the job done together. “Coming together for a new challenge on Rhino Charge was a natural fit and we were one of three women’s teams competing this year, which included Bush Babes and the Girls in Pearls who have participated in this event for many years,” Singh said. “Girls in Pearls are iconic, and when I saw them competing last year it made me want to enter our own ladies team.”
As 4×4 competition novices, the Fat Unicorns approach the Rhino Charge with determination, spending most weekends since the start of the year practising working on the car, using the winch, changing tyres, understanding Baby Betty’s little quirks, running, learning how to read maps, figuring out spanners from crowbars and engine fluid from coolant. “We had come a long way since we decided to enter, and this was our moment to put all these skills into play. ‘We Got This’ was our motto,” Singh said. “We loved the spirit of the event, the teamwork, camaraderie and the sheer resilience as we achieved so much more at each checkpoint as we gained confidence in each other and the car and did more than we thought was possible when we started. “The toughest part was ploughing through the hot midday heat, and feeling lost in the middle of nowhere. There were boulders, dongas, rocks and drops in every direction. We were dusty, dirty and exhausted. We kept saying the next point would be our last and then the adrenaline of making it through made us keep going from one point to the next,” Singh added. “We reached eight checkpoints, which was good going for a bunch of girly rookies, and better than some of the macho old-timers.” The team praised the performance of the Grabber X3 tyres in the extreme conditions. “The tyres were hardy and just chomped through the rocks, bush, thorns and generally unruly terrain effortlessly. Knowing that we had a strong, robust set of tyres gave us the courage to be a little more daring because we trusted the equipment,” Singh said.
Through the generous support of friends, family and corporate sponsors the Fat Unicorns managed to raise 1.4 million Kenyan Shillings (around R180 000) for the Rhino Ark conservation efforts. “A few of us will be moving on to new locations and new life challenges next year but we are aiming to enter a team again, and are hoping to attract some young blood into the mix who are faster, stronger and hungrier for a win,” Singh added. “Next year we should be able to raise more for Rhino Ark as we should have few car expenses, having spent a lot on sprucing up Baby Betty this year.” Aside from the main Rhino Charge competition, General Tire also sponsored a radio-controlled car 4×4 track, which was immensely popular amongst the children and added a fun association with the General Tire brand. With one entry per day, the person who recorded the fastest lap won a set of four General tyres to the value of KES100 000 (almost R13 000) to be fitted at a ContiPartner store – with victory going to a teenager from Kenya.
Proving Anywhere is Possible “The exceptional performance of the General Grabber X3 at Rhino Charge has created increased brand awareness and a reputation for capability for the entire General Tire range in Kenya,” says Clint Henderson, Regional Sales Manager (Indian Ocean Islands and East Africa) for Continental Tyre South Africa. “It has also resulted in our Grabber ATX range selling very well in the country.” Building further on the proven capabilities of the General Tire brand, the all-terrain Grabber AT3 is fitted as original equipment on the Isuzu D-MAX pickups that are sold in Kenya, enhancing this versatile vehicle’s go-anywhere abilities. “We were recently awarded OE fitment for the limited edition Eliud Kipchoge 1:59 Isuzu D-MAX, which was introduced by Isuzu East Africa in honour of Kenya’s two-time Olympic marathon champion,” Henderson says. “It is a privilege to be associated with Kipchoge, who is a legendary long-distance runner with a huge following in Kenya.”