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Mon, Dec. 09

Dunlop teams roll through Williams

For 10 days, 26 competitors from Germany have been in the Southwest participating in a wild driving rally and scavenger hunt sponsored by Dunlop Tires of Germany, Toyota and United Airlines.

On Friday, the Dunlop Iron Drivers Cup passed through Williams but not without stopping traffic along the way. That’s because part of Route 66 was blocked for an in-line skating competition in front of Route 66 Gift Shop and Magazine.

“It’s just for fun,” said Holger Frob, driver in the contest from Hanau, Germany. “We’re here competing in different competitions. We started off today doing off-road, quad contests and we’ll end in Las Vegas in 10 days to race around the NASCAR track.”

This is the second year Dunlop has held this rally. Last year, it was in Argentina and Chili. Next year it’s tentatively scheduled for South Africa. Each day the competitors are challenged in a new and interesting way, said Thomas Ryll, from Cologne, Germany.

“The different competitions present different challenges,” he said.

While in Williams the contestants participated in an obstacle course on the taxiway of the H.A. Clark Memorial Field and the in-line skating contest downtown.

Ryll said getting selected was the biggest hurdle to overcome. He said more than 10,000 Germans applied.

“We sent a letter to Dunlop with our hobbies and professions,” he said. “They pre-selected 300 people based on their letters.”

These 300 people were then put to the test.

“We started with a go-cart race,” he said. “Then you had to find your way in the forest. Then they had you drive your own personal car through a brake test.”

From there, the contestants were asked to drive up and down steep hills, swerve barriers and drive an all terrain vehicle — with every second counting.

“All these tests were for time,” Ryll said. “The 26 best challengers drive this cup.

“It’s for fun, but it’s also to test the tires and cars.”

The tires on the land cruisers are “Radial Rovers” and are only available in the United States. During the rally, the 13 two-person teams did doing more than drive. They also participated in events like panning for gold, in-line skating and cooking competitions, such as the Navajo fry bread contest.

A new leader is selected daily dependent upon the total number of points each team has. Points are received for the different contests along with the correct answers in the roadbook.

“For each section of the roadway, there are questions in the roadbook,” said Ryll.

On Friday Frob was part of the day leaders’ team, along with Wilfred Ehrlich. Frob said there are four to five questions to answer each day in the roadbook. He said teams take turns driving and get points taken off for speeding.

Not all the participants were men either. Four women (two of the teams) are also competing. Gloria Sauer, from Hamburg, Germany, said competition was tough.

“It’s hard,” Sauer said through interpreter Tatjana Donhoff, a writer for Playboy of Germany, who is following the event for the magazine. “It’s difficult because guys are one with cars. They grow up with cars.”

Sauer said she originally got involved in the contest to prove it wasn’t just for men.

“I thought the idea would be fun and wanted to show the guys that I could do it,’ she said.

Christopher Scheffman, international consultant and owner of e-maZing Global Services in Phoenix, said a big emphasis was put on making the course run the same paths used by pioneers a hundred years ago.

“This event offers an authentic route with genuine Southwest character,” Scheffman said. “The driver’s start at an old historic ranch (Bumble Bee Ranch) one hour north of Phoenix — it’s an old stage coach stop.”

Scheffman said the historic route is important because one of the big contributors to the event is Meiers-Weltreisen, a large tour operation in Germany. He said Meiers will use the route to offer tours through this area.

“All communities along the way should see a tremendous tourism benefit,” Scheffman said.

The drivers started off driving brand new Toyota 4Runners. When they got to Flagstaff, where they had a press conference at McCoy Motors, they switched into Toyota Celicas to head to Williams. All in all the vehicles are worth $1.2 million.

After the skating competition downtown, the teams left for the Grand Canyon. From there they headed north to Page, Tuba City, Monument Valley and the Navajo Nation. After leaving the Navajo Nation they went north again to Utah and Zion National Park, then west to Las Vegas where they ended their 10-day excursion with a three-lap trip around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a NASCAR track.

“They’ll stay at the Golden Nugget and turn in their vehicles on March 29,” Scheffman said. “Then they’ll fly back to Germany.”

Along with Playboy, TV Spielfilm (a large TV network in Germany) and Deutchland TV Sports (the ESPN of Germany) also accompanied the troupe.

“They’re doing a large sports documentary on this,” Donhoff said.

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