By David Findlay, Autoworld Rally Team Captain
The Elephant charge is an off road rally challenge filled with adrenaline and adventure. Each team of up to 6 members drive in mountainous terrain in a 4x4 trying to get the shortest possible distance around the course of 10 checkpoints. That’s it!
It’s not so much speed that wins, but slow and very technical driving. The race is an 8 hour event and in that time the winning team should complete a total distance of 25-30 km. This is easier said than done as there are hardly any roads on the course and teams solely rely on GPS navigation. However the Elephant charge is not only about being thrown about in a 4x4 for eight hours in order to stand a chance of winning a trophy. Its true purpose is one of greater importance ...
Raising money for conservation
That’s the key! The teams have a mammoth task ahead of them each year to approach companies and individuals to seek sponsorship. This can be done in many different ways. However the Autoworld team has partnered with all our local and international suppliers around the world. When they offer special discounts on purchases we buy, we pass these onto the Elephant charge each year. This has been a highly successful method, raising a total of USD156,443 from 2010 to date. And still counting!
The sponsorship funds raised each year are used for conservation, specifically for education and anti-poaching initiatives. There are many conservation organisations from all over Zambia supported by the Elephant charge. These are listed here https://www.elephantcharge.org/beneficiaries
Besides raising money for conservation, Team Autoworld has won three trophies for the shortest net distance, one trophy for the overall race and tsetse line, and four trophies for the gauntlet (a section of the course designated as ‘extreme terrain’).
Our Elephant charge team finds it a great pleasure and privilege to represent not only Autoworld but also the many suppliers that support this cause!
The Autoworld Rally car - ups and downs
In 2010 the Autoworld team started the race in a Fiat Jeep which broke down after only a few kilometres. We completed the race in a standard Land Cruiser vehicle - with poor results.
In 2011 we built up a Hilux Surf, thanks to generous support from our sponsors. This vehicle, fully modified, eventually won the Elephant charge in 2014! We raced the Hilux Surf until 2017, when we received overwhelming support to build a new vehicle.
2018 Car and Sponsors
Throughout the year 2018 there was a lot of panic to get the new car working and ready to race in September. This cost me a broken hand while working with the engineers day and night to finish the vehicle. I finally completed the car with a team of mechanics/electricians and fabricators two nights before the race, leaving hardly any time for thorough testing.
I want to particularly thank the following sponsors for all the support to build this vehicle and raise a significant amount for conservation:
Tracks 4 Africa
Safeline brake pads
Tire World Exports
As mentioned above, we didn’t have enough time to complete the car and fully test it before the race. And this cost us the race! Unfortunately, an hour before the race began, on our way to a checkpoint, we hit into a tree stump which severely damaged the steering rod. We managed to dismantle the part during the race and temporarily fix it. But not having the under vehicle protection fitted was the problem. It wasn’t long before the steering rod was bent with rocks. This in turn caused strain against the driveshafts, and one of them eventually snapped completely. This left us with a vehicle with no 4WD when we needed it most. We put our heads together as a team and decided to at least complete the Gauntlet section and ensure we won one prize. We all sadly knew that we would not be completing the full race given the condition of the car at that point.
The Autoworld / TJM Treasure Hunt Trophy
Autoworld and TJM Australia each year sponsor the Elephant charge Treasure Hunt Trophy. There is a great prize to be won with this trophy - a 9500lb TJM winch! In order to win this prize a team must complete all the checkpoints of the course. At each checkpoint the team will receive a number which is part of the full coordinates leading to a peg hidden in the bush somewhere around the course.
The first team to get the full set of coordinates and find the peg wins the prize. The Hot Clutch team won the trophy last year, auctioning their newly acquired winch at the event. (All proceeds from the auction were given to one of the conservation beneficiaries.)
For all the final results of the 2018 Elephant charge, click here
I am so grateful for all the support, sponsoring the team so well that we were able to reach a great milestone last year with a new vehicle. Over and above that we were still able to raise a significant amount of money to come in at third place for money raised. Every bit counts and we all know the threat that wildlife and natural reserves face today. I am always thankful to be able to play my role in raising money for this great cause.
For 2019 my focus is to fully complete the vehicle in good time and ensure all the hurdles and teething problems are attended to beforehand. This will enable us to finally finish the race and hopefully get some better results. Most importantly as a team we want to strive for the first place for money raised - the most important prize of them all. With the continued support of our sponsors, I hope to achieve this goal. If we complete the shortest distance as well then that will be the cherry on the cake!
Thanks to everybody who played a part in this event from sponsors, to mechanics and team members. You all did a great job.
I feel really blessed as we prepare for a great 2019 Elephant charge coming up on 28th September 2019.
David Findlay, Autoworld Team Rally Captain
For more details about the Elephant charge, visit the official Elephant charge website www.elephantcharge.org