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Spirit of Africa Challenge: All-New Nissan Navara Undergoes Grueling Testing

Nissan’s all new built of more Navara has undergone its most grueling test to date, being driven by more than 300 drivers over one of the toughest rallying courses imaginable – designed by the great Sarel van der Merwe.

It’s dubbed the Spirit of Africa, an intense three-day off-road experience.

Held this year outside Bloemfontein in the centre of South Africa, hardcore Nissan enthusiasts from all walks of life have been vying for the right to make it through to the national finals. Scheduled to be held on 13-16 July, 2023, on the same uncompromising track under the eagle eye of Van der Merwe, only one winner can emerge.

Nissan Africa managing director Sherief ElDessouky believes the Spirit of Africa challenge is the best possible showcase for the Nissan Navara, proving its ability and the quality of its build in a real time, real-life environment with real drivers – the people who actually buy the vehicle.

This is the 19th edition of the Spirit of Africa, but the first one involving Nissan and the Navara. Van der Merwe set up the challenge series precisely to give the ‘average’ driver an opportunity to test their off-road driving ability under competitive conditions. Today the Spirit of Africa is unchallenged as the toughest 4×4 competition on the continent.

For 11-time SA Rally Champion Van der Merwe, one of Africa’s most decorated racing drivers – on and off the track – and a veteran of Nascar in the US and Le Mans in France, partnering with Nissan has been a return to where he began.

As he says: “Having worked for the company in the late 60’s, it feels like I am returning to my roots. The first rally win of my career and my first championship were won in a Nissan product. Apart from that, I also raced a 160U SSS and won a class championship. It is great to be back with the Nissan family.”

The 300 teams have been whittled down to just 20. These finalists are the teams that recorded the top scores during the elimination rounds. They have now been invited back to Bloemfontein for the final round on the 13-16 July, but only one team will take home the trophy.

The Nissan Navara is the toughest vehicle the company’s engineers have ever designed, without stinting on either the luxury or the technical innovation that the marque is renowned for.  The all new built of more Nissan Navara is made for Africa, in Africa by Africans – and now it is being tested by the people who buy them to drive them.

The Spirit of Africa challenge is helping to create a community of adventure seeking off-road fans, says Nissan Africa’s chief marketing manager Stefan Haasbroek, under the banner of the Nissan Adventure Club, which was created to introduce inexperienced Navara owners to off-road driving, while teaching them invaluable defensive driving techniques in the process.

“We are proud of the turnout for the first edition of Nissan’s Spirit of Africa, which saw drivers contest through all the dust, terrain, sport and navigation to secure their spot in the finals. We can’t wait to see who will win the trophy.

The Nissan Navara has proved to be an ideal choice for the Spirit of Africa’s course: rough terrain, characterised by steep inclines and even more heart-stopping descents; muddy crossings, all of which demand precision, speed and endurance.

“The Nissan Navara has been meticulously enhanced for African roads, offering a bakkie that is not only competitive globally, but also tailored to thrive in the unique conditions found in Africa. Our commitment to delivering the right products for the markets we serve across the continent is evident in the Navara’s innovative design and capabilities,” says Haasbroek.

ElDessouky hopes the next editions of the challenge will have more drivers from Africa taking part.

“We are unique among automotive manufacturers that we have two wholly owned manufacturing plants in Africa – in South Africa and Egypt – and another two with partners in Ghana and Nigeria. The Navara is built in South Africa and assembled in West Africa, but available throughout all our markets on the continent.

“The potential to expand this challenge is immense, either taking it into Africa or bringing African drivers to South Africa. The end result remains the same, to prove over and over again why the Navara is a very worthy successor to the legendary Nissan NP 300 Hardbody and the best in its class, in every way.”

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