The Cape to Cape expedition: already two months of thrills and 14,000 kilometers under their belts: the halfway stage report

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The Cape to Cape expedition: already two months of thrills and 14,000 kilometers under their belts: the halfway stage report

The mission of the Cape to Cape expedition was to cover the distance from the North Cape to the Cape of Good Hope, leaving Norway on March 1st and arriving in South Africa on July 8th. In all, six Keraxes and six Sherpas will travel the 30,000 kilometres between the two Capes under extreme climatic conditions: from biting cold to searing heat! And what about the vehicles that have tackled such hostile conditions? At the halfway stage, the situation is positive. Here, we look back at two months of adventure.

After the North Cape, the convoy went through Russia (St Petersburg, Moscow, Voronej) fighting through snow, ice and fog. Ukraine, Romania and Hungary followed, and their capital cities (Kiev, Bucharest, Sophia). Finally, a change of continent into Turkey, Syria and Jordan. These were the last destinations of this first half of the Cape to Cape expedition. In all, 14,000 kilometres have already been eaten up.

The expedition’s mission: A human adventure, a far-reaching commercial event and a technological challenge

The ambition of Cape to Cape was to stage a full-on human experience. For the first part, as will be the case in the second, the vehicles were driven by men and women from Renault Trucks. The twenty very enthusiastic volunteer drivers for the first part of the expedition recognise the unique experience offered by their trip. “Warm welcome” and “fantastic discoveries” are the words most often heard from them. From Nordkapp (North Cape in Norway) to Aqaba (Jordan) via Moscow, the convoy received an enthusiastic welcome at each stage, attracting great attention from local populations. In Belomorsk (Russia), a gaggle of children and teenagers greeted the convoy: a real local attraction! The Cape to Cape route was also fully of surprises for all the drivers. Some of them magical, such as the stunning green of the Turkish landscapes, some of them surprising, like the amazing number of official portraits of the Syrian president Bachar El-Assad all along the country’s roads.

The Cape to Cape human adventure has also been a commercial quest. Renault Trucks chose to go in search of its customers in promoting the quality and sturdiness of its trucks. In all, twelve commercial events have taken place during this part of the journey, bringing together some 1,500 customers: a real success! St Petersburg hosted the biggest event with 500 customers present. For that occasion, TranKo (one of the market leaders in national transport for container traffic in Russia) confirmed their order for 70 Premium Long Distance vehicles to Renault Trucks, which will be delivered in the first half of 2009… just one example among many.

On the technology side, the Cape to Cape adventure was also an opportunity to demonstrate the reliability of Renault Trucks technologies under real and often very tricky conditions. And in particular, our SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) system. This exhaust gases post-treatment system chosen by Renault Trucks has really been put to the test over these first 14,000 kilometres. At the halfway stage, the results are encouraging since no problem has been encountered thus far. As for the trucks, they have passed the test with flying colours. Only a few minor repairs have had to be carried out as a result of driving errors.

So all that remains now is to cross West Africa. Undoubtedly there will be increasing technical difficulties for the drivers to deal with.

They were there on the cape to Cape run...

Marc, Renault Trucks Defense Demonstrator (Versailles)
The Sherpa 2 is to some extent Marc’s protégé. He feels that “discovering Scandinavia and Russia was a really exceptional experience” which “I would never have lived if I hadn’t been on the Cape to Cape”. Especially as during those stages he was able to “discover interesting new people, from a human but also professional point of view”.

Valérie, 3P Test Department (St Priest)
“Cape to Cape was a real opportunity for me. The stage between Kiev and Aqaba was really very varied… from the Ukrainian plains to the desert via the mountains”, explains Valérie, who is responsible for quality management in the test department and for interfacing between her department and Financial Control. Leaving was not so much a problem for her: “My husband looks after all the day-to-day stuff with the kids and the housework”.

Kàroly, Technical Services and Warranty Department (Renault Trucks Hungary)
Kàroly has travelled extensively throughout his life and has a gift for foreign languages. Apart from Hungarian, his mother tongue, he speaks French, English, Turkish and Arabic. These were certainly attributes during the Cape to Cape expedition. “When I learnt that my candidature had been accepted, I was really, really happy. Thanks to my family and work colleagues, the dream has come true”. What about his experience in the Sherpa on the Turkish tracks? “I do a bit of motocross riding and driving the Sherpa is really easy, even in the mountains. With the Kerax, because of the width and the weight of the vehicle, driving it is pretty hard work”.

Frederic, Touch-up Electrician (Bourg-en-Bresse)
For Frederic, known as “Djus” on the Bourg site, Cape to Cape was “like a dream I didn’t want to wake up from”. It is important to note that he celebrated his 26th birthday in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, a real treat. His HGV mechanics and electricity knowhow came in handy at each stage, hence the large number of “overtime hours” worked. However, because he is really passionate about his mechanics (during his spare time he rides a motorbike, is a snowboarder and restores cars), none of this was going to be too much for him. And because of his happy disposition he was really popular with the team. Even in the tightest corners he kept cool even if sometimes he had to keep it to himself. “The trip between Bursa and Istanbul in Turkey was really long and stressful because of the traffic; it really was the longest day!” But he also has some nice memories of the Cape to Cape trip: “The last camp in Jordan was really magical. When you drive side by side with several vehicles in the desert, you feel like you’re on a cinema set!”

Sébastien, Mechanic (Renault Trucks, Grand Lyon)
Sébastien joined Renault Trucks in September 2004 and since then has been working as a mechanic at the Lyon-Corbas branch. His workshop experience and time as a breakdown operator with Renault Trucks 24 has already been put to good use for some minor repairs. Were there any surprises along the way in the Cape to Cape expedition? “Yes, in particular discovering handling the Kerax… I’d never thought we’d be able to do so much of it”.

Patrice, Vehicle Tests, Customer Synthesis (St Priest)
“My job is to put myself in the customer’s shoes and validate the services of the vehicle overall”, explains Patrice Charoud. For him, Cape to Cape has a dual interest. “I was interested both in the adventure and discovering these foreign countries. But also because for me it was an opportunity to drive the Kerax in different kinds of situations. It is very complementary to the test that we have to do internally”. Also, Patrice is familiar with the Arabic world because when Sonacome was in Rouiba in Algeria he enjoyed “a very interesting period on a professional and personal level. And I rediscovered that same intensity thirty years later with the Cape to Cape expedition”.

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