Team France Wins Camel Trophy Tierra del Fuego '98
25 August 1998Team France Wins Camel Trophy Tierra del Fuego '98; Americans Voted to Third Place in Team Spirit
USHUAIA, Argentina, Aug. 25 -- After criss-crossing the Patagonian region of Chile and Argentina for nearly three weeks, and putting nearly 5,000 miles on their Land Rover Freelanders and Defender 110s, the 20 teams of Camel Trophy Tierra del Fuego '98 arrived here late yesterday and handed in their scorecards for the last time. When the results were announced today, William Michel, 31, and Marc Challamel, 24, of Team France were declared the winners, with a narrow lead over their closest competitors, brothers John and Mark Collins, aged 24 and 29, of South Africa. Americans Dean Vergillo and Greg Thomas placed 11th in the Camel Trophy scoring, but were voted by their fellow competitors to a third place finish for the coveted Team Spirit award. Vergillo, 30, a stay-at-home dad from Duvall, Wash., said, "We just found about our third place standing in Team Spirit, which is really exciting. It's good to know that even though we didn't place as well as we had hoped overall, we made a lot of friends on this event. And right now, that seems more important than anything else." Thomas, 33, is a multimedia designer from Santa Cruz, Calif. "Camel Trophy is all about exploring the world and having fun, which is what we did," he reflected. Camel Trophy is an annual international four-wheel drive adventure competition, and since 1980, the event has traveled to the most remote corners of the earth in search of the ultimate team adventure, from Malaysia and Mongolia to Brazil and Burundi. This year, the teams set off from Santiago, Chile, on August 5, driving south to Ushuaia, Argentina, on the island of Tierra del Fuego. Equipped with mountain bikes, skis, snowshoes, snowboards and inflatable kayaks, all strapped to the roofs of the Land Rovers, the teams scored points by visiting Discovery and Adventure Locations. Discovery Locations could be reached by car, but the Adventure Locations were further afield, and often more easily reached by bicycles, kayaks or skis. Guided by GPS coordinates and local maps, participants trekked to as many of the 225 possible locations as they could. Three times during the event, all 20 teams arrived at common Meeting Points, to join together in non-competitive group activities: climbing to the 10,000-foot summit of Villarrica, one of Chile's many active volcanoes; rafting the Class IV rapids of Rio Futaleufu, one of the world's most renowned whitewater rivers; and exploring Glacier Grey, one the southernmost tongues of the Patagonian ice cap. Driving a four-door, 2.0 litre diesel-powered version of Land Rover's all- new four-wheel drive vehicle, the Freelander, the competitors were impressed with the way the vehicle handled itself in the varied terrain. Throughout the event, mud, rain, snow and ice all threatened to slow forward progress. "We pushed the Freelander to its limits," said Thomas, "and it did really well every time." Freelander will debut in the U.S. in early 2001. The two-person teams from each of the 20 participating countries were chosen through a series of national and international trials and selections, from more than a half-million applicants worldwide. Adventurers interested in applying for Camel Trophy '99, the location for which has not yet been announced, should write to Tom Collins, U.S. Camel Trophy, P.O. Box 587, Snowmass, CO 81654. Camel Trophy is organized by Worldwide Brands, Inc., marketers of Camel Trophy Adventure Wear, and is sponsored by Land Rover, manufacturers of premium British-built sport-utility vehicles. Team USA is sponsored by Land Rover North America, Inc., and additional support for the team has been provided by Michelin Tire Co. and Mountain Hardwear, Inc. Further information on Camel Trophy '98 can be found at either http://www.best4x4.landrover.com or http://www.cameltrophy.com.