It’s like ‘Survivor’, Tommy Mika – Fast Lane (TFL) car – told me as we were getting into the car from the airport.
We were on our way to the Marriott in Montville, NJ, about to kick off the 2022 TReK event. This was no ordinary press trip. Instead of a luxury hotel and a comfortable drive, we’ll spend the next two days completing challenges and off-roading through the woods of Manchester, VT, behind the wheel of a.
Sales teams from across the United States will participate in TReK qualifying trials. The course is designed to educate sales and service technicians about the product in its natural environment. It is full of different challenges that test participant’s mobility, off-road driving and team cooperation. After the trials, the winning teams will compete against each other in the finals.
We were in the automotive media wave – made up of 15 automotive journalists – who got to experience what those brave souls would go through.
The first day of the Land Rover TReK 2022 event tested our physical and mental stamina
After a good night’s sleep at the hotel, our first day began with a brief overview of the challenge and divided everyone into five teams of three. She’s teamed up with Justin Westbrook of MotorTrend and Caleb Miller of Car and Driver. Looking at their prestigious posts, I thought I was in good company. Three of us were given T-shirts that read “Team 2”.
When the challenge coordinators asked the name of our team—thinking we’d come up with something catchy—we replied, “Team Two. But you have to write a 2.”
The challenge initially began with a relay race around the headquarters of Jaguar Land Rover. The run was fraught with obstacles that included an army crawling under a cargo net, a balance beam, climbing a five-foot wall, and running tires. After that, it was a long way around the rest of the building.
I thought I was doing really well—while I was panting so hard—until I was shocked by Tommy Mica, who casually ran into me and said, “Well done.” Thanks Tommy. I think I can feel my lungs coming from my throat.
His team came first. I did not.
The real TReK challenge started after entering Land Rover Defender
After the race, we rode in our cars for the weekend, which were fully equipped with ramps, electric winches, refrigerators, water cans, car covers and rooftop tents. There were more challenges at JLR headquarters as we had to drive around a conical track forward and backward using directions only reserved for the navigator in the passenger seat.
I was a navigator, and unfortunately I couldn’t remember all directions. Next, we partnered with another team to push an old Land Rover on a plank and rollers. Fortunately, we did better on this task.
Long distance to camp
The easiest part of the day was when we finally set off to the campsite. All teams were given map task-like directions printed on paper, and the challenge was to get to all the points as close to the mile markers as possible while getting to the destination quickly. The flight took four hours, but our team did really well despite missing one turn.
We had to stop at one point to complete other challenges which included pulling the winch across a line, driving in a specific sequence using a compass to draw coordinates, driving across a conical track with a trailer in tow, taking the spare tire from a Land Rover and carrying it through a track and back in the car in less than 15 minutes .
The challenges do not end in the camp
By the end of the day, we were both physically and mentally exhausted. But it wasn’t over when we got to the camp. The next challenge was to go buy food, come back to set up camp, then cook appetizers for three judges that would score us the quality, the presentation of the dishes, and the creativity.
We made the Pork Slider with Sriracha Aioli, Jalapeno, and Fried Egg on an Onion Bun. Gordon Ramsay would have been proud of that. Especially since we did it all in the dark.
Finally, it’s time to sleep. It’s too bad that there was a raucous concert nearby of live music that consisted of Whitney Houston’s greatest hits. It’s amazing how many of her songs I know of.
Day 2 of the TReK Challenge was more about the Land Rover Defender 110
After a good night’s sleep, all the teams had to take part in another relay race. This time, it was a one-mile run through the woods and over the rocky ground features. Our team did a good job. After that, we went through another series of challenges which mainly involved driving the Land Rover Defender.
Is Defender good for off-road driving?
The best challenge for us was when each team member had to drive the car on an off-road track and match the time set by their first teammate. The hard part was that we weren’t told the original time, so the other two members had to guess how quickly to complete the course. We were only 14 seconds.
Another challenge was driving the car over small peaks and valleys to touch the cones attached to a sticker placed on the car’s windshield. I drove while my colleagues were standing outside the car and shouting at the driving directions.
I quickly learned that it’s hard to follow instructions when two people shout “Left! Left!” When they really mean turn the steering wheel to the right. We have completed the task with that.
The easiest challenge was when we had to use a compass to find the planks that formed a small bridge for the Land Rover Defender to drive across. It was timed and scored, and we felt like we put in a good performance.
The Land Rover Defender has performed well through every challenge. While driving, I noticed that the 296-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine had no problems going up steep slopes. Also, the car’s air suspension and hill descent control came in handy when driving over some rocky terrain.
After completing the tasks that day, we went back three hours to the headquarters to clean up and see who won the overall challenge.
At the end of the Land Rover TReK Challenge, the results were surprising and not surprising
It’s no surprise that Tommy’s team won again.
But the biggest surprise of the weekend was that we finished third. I’ll take that, considering we basically set out to complete the challenges to the best of our ability while doing our best to conserve our energy. (Read: Don’t try it too hard)
In the end, it was a fun weekend of off-road driving that challenged everyone both physically and mentally. The Land Rover TReK Challenge wasn’t more about the car but more about solving the stressful problems retail employees have to put up with on a daily basis, just in the form of Survivor-like tests. It also gives them an idea of what the Defender 110 can do.
I can see why many Land Rover enthusiasts love their cars, as the Defender 110 was quite impressive. You have tackled all the hurdles of dirty, muddy and brutal highway driving without missing a thing.
But it’s still not quite as impressive as the “second team” that finished third at the weekend. Our gourmet appetizer even took second place. I think we really tried, after all