To commemorate the centenary year of the legendary race between Roald Amundsen and Robert Scott to reach the South Pole first, Hilux AT vehicles have again showed their mettle by setting new world records in the harsh Antarctic climate.
The first record was already set in December last year when two Arctic Trucks, AT, Hilux vehicles, as part of an expedition organised by the Kazakhstan National Geographic Society, KNGS, crossed 2 308 km of the Antarctica High Plateau from Novolazarevskaya station (Novo) to the South Pole in 108 hours (4.5 days).
The purpose-built Hilux AT44 Expedition vehicles travelled at an average speed of 21.4 km/h with average fuel consumption of 2.2km/per litre. On the return journey this record, officially recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records, was unofficially bettered to only 3.5 days, at an average speed of 27.5 km/h. No comparable speed or fuel efficiency has ever been recorded for high plateau expeditions in Antarctica.
Using two Hilux AT44 6×6 and two Hilux AT44 4×4 vehicles originally built in Toyota South Africa Motors’ Prospecton plant in Durban last year and thereafter converted to AT44 specification at TSAM’s Sandton workshops, a team from Extreme World Races, EWR, earlier this week set a new world record for the fastest time to reach the Pole.
They followed a route from the ice edge near McMurdo Sound on the southern side of Antarctica, across the Ross Ice Shelf and on to the Antarctic plateau to reach their destination. Their journey started on 16 December and the Pole was reached on 18 December 2011–only 47 hours (less than two days) later, of which only 17.5 hours was spent driving.
This still unofficial record was set as part of a bigger expedition by the EWR team: To twice traverse the Antarctic continent from coast to coast. The first continental crossing was achieved on 14 December, precisely 100 years after Amundsen’s arrival at the South Pole.
The team’s second arrival at the South Pole (on 18 December) also meant they notched up another accolade–as the expedition that has driven the longest distance ever on Antarctica and also completed the longest traverse from coast to coast.
From Novo to McMurdo they covered almost 4 500 km and back to the South Pole another 1 350 km, a distance of 5 850 km (more than four times the distance between Johannesburg and Cape Town!)–in snow and ice, freezing conditions and white-outs.
The vehicles performed admirably in the dangerous conditions, negotiating crevasses “big enough to swallow all the cars”, as one team member succinctly put it, on the Ross Ice Shelf.
Another remarked that the Hilux vehicles can carry 3-4 tons of equipment “and still float over the surface”. A decision to only load the 6×6’s to a maximum 2.5 tons “has saved hundreds of litres of fuel” and “the vehicles are performing better than ever”. “They are a God sent!” he exclaimed.
With these feats the Hilux-based AT vehicles have again proved their inherent toughness and durability and according to Emil Grimsson, Executive Chairman of Arctic Trucks, there is a fast growing interest from customers who are looking to supplement slower, less fuel-efficient tracked vehicles in Antarctica with faster, lighter and cleaner vehicles.
“We have great respect for the fragility of Antarctica and our vehicles have opened up new possibilities for scientific research programmes to operate more efficiently in this environment,” he commented.