Look back at the birth of the original Land Rover | How Land Rover has driven adventure and scientific exploration | GQ Editor Dylan Jones discusses inspiration with Chief Design Officer Gerry McGovern | Exploring the potential impact of electrification and connected vehicles | Tackling the 999 steep steps up to Heaven’s Gate in China
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DRAGON CHALLENGE “If your driver crashes here, he will die,” says Mr Wang, Chief Park Engineer at the Tianmen National Park in China. But that didn’t deter Land Rover from going one step beyond previous extreme challenges to prove the capabilities of the new Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) WORDS G E O F F P O U L T O N PHOTOGRAPHY D O M R O M N E Y A damp mist hangs like a curtain in the early morning air around the Tianmen Mountain in Hunan Province, China. Jaguar Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung, a Le Mans 24 Hours winner, and former F1 reserve driver, settles behind the wheel of a Range Rover Sport P400e (PHEV). Adrenaline pumping, he gives the thumbs up to the support team next to his vehicle, takes a deep breath and prepares himself for the biggest test of his racing career – a life or death 20 minutes. “The Dragon Challenge is by far the riskiest thing that anyone at Land Rover has ever done,” says Phil Jones, Land Rover Experience Expert with Jaguar Land Rover Experience, who led the extensive preparation work. Rising just over 1,500 metres, the limestone peak of Tianmen Mountain is home to Heaven’s Gate: a 55- by 130-metre archway that looks directly up at the sky. It’s an iconic site and a popular tourist attraction reached by climbing 999 steps – nine is a lucky number in Chinese numerology, representing good fortune and eternity. Visitors have two ways to reach the steps – a spectacular 30-minute cable car ride, or by bus along the 99 turns of a winding 6.8-mile road that clings precariously to the side of the mountain. Officially called Tongtian Avenue, most simply call it ‘The Dragon’. Normally open only to the tour buses ferrying visitors up the mountain, an elite group of cars has been permitted to race up the Dragon before. What nobody has ever attempted, however, is to continue that drive – up the 999 steps to Heaven’s Gate. And so the Dragon Challenge was born. “When I first heard about it, I could barely believe it. I knew the site and just didn’t think it was possible,” recalls Ho-Pin Tung, who was born in the Netherlands to Chinese parents. “Some of the steps are at a 45-degree angle – that’s incredibly steep.” Closed course. Professional driver. Do not attempt. Optional off-road tyres used. 81
Land Rover Magazine showcases stories from around the world that celebrate inner strength and the drive to go Above and Beyond.
In this issue, New Defender is put through its paces by two inspirational young adventurers as they prepare for an expedition to the South Pole. We also celebrate 50 years of Range Rover by taking a journey of discovery to Dubai. As well as looking back, we look to future as a group of visionaries explain the technologies that could change the future for all of us.