Land Rover Leg­ends: Part Three

Af­ter win­ning the 1989 Camel Tro­phy, Bob Ives went on to join the event’s man­age­ment team and com­pete in var­i­ous other in­ter­na­tional off-road driv­ing events be­fore be­com­ing an in­de­pen­dent con­sul­tant re­spon­si­ble for ve­hi­cle projects around the world. This

Land Rover Monthly - - Contents - Story: Gary Pusey Pic­tures: Bob Ives Ar­chive, Camel Tro­phy Own­ers’ Club and Gary Pusey

Af­ter win­ning the most gru­elling Camel Tro­phy event of all, Bob Ives went on to do some re­mark­able things

In 1930, the Royal Au­to­mo­bile Club awarded the Se­grave Tro­phy to Sir Charles Kings­ford Smith for his east-west solo air cross­ing of the At­lantic from Ire­land to New­found­land, and for his vic­tory in the Eng­land to Aus­tralia Air Race, in which he also flew alone. The tro­phy had been es­tab­lished that year to com­mem­o­rate the life and achieve­ments of Sir Henry Se­grave, who was the first per­son to hold both the land and wa­ter speed records si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and also the first per­son to travel at over 200 mph in a land ve­hi­cle. The tro­phy is still awarded to this day, just as it al­ways has been, for Out­stand­ing Skill, Courage and Ini­tia­tive on Land, Wa­ter and in the Air: the Spirit of Ad­ven­ture.

Since that in­au­gu­ral award in 1930, the Se­grave Tro­phy has been pre­sented a fur­ther 63 times, oc­ca­sion­ally posthu­mously, and the list of its re­cip­i­ents reads like a Who’s Who of the most suc­cess­ful, dar­ing and brave men and woman ever to have raced a car or mo­tor­cy­cle, or set new speed records, and any num­ber of other re­mark­able motorised achieve­ments on land, wa­ter and in the air: Amy John­son, Sir Mal­colm Camp­bell, Donald Camp­bell, Sir Stir­ling Moss, Wing Com­man­der Ken Wallis, Sir Jackie Ste­wart, Barry Sheene, Andy Green and Lewis Hamil­ton, to name but a few.

So Bob Ives and his brother, Joe, are in very exclusive and pres­ti­gious com­pany, be­cause the Se­grave Tro­phy was awarded to them in 1989 “for vic­tory in the off-road marathon the Camel Tro­phy, with its 1062-mile route through the Brazil­ian rain­for­est from Alta Floresta to Manaus”. They were the only UK team ever to win this le­gendary event.

Where the love for 4x4 all be­gan

Bob and Joe Ives grew up on the fam­ily farm in Hamp­shire, but this did not pro­vide the in­tro­duc­tion to 4x4 driv­ing that we might ex­pect. In­stead, Bob’s taste for of­froad ad­ven­tures started in 1979 when, at the age of 19, he had spent a year work­ing his way around Aus­tralia.

“My fa­ther knew a farmer in Western Aus­tralia,” Bob re­calls, “and I de­cided to go out there to work, ba­si­cally to

broaden my knowl­edge of farm­ing. Af­ter a while I thought it would be a good idea to ex­tend the ex­pe­ri­ence, so I bought an old petrol Land Cruiser FJ tray-back, lashed on a 45-gal­lon oil drum as an ad­di­tional fuel tank, and set off for Queens­land. It was this that got me hooked on off-road driv­ing and four­wheel drives.”

In 1982 he spent a fur­ther year tour­ing Aus­tralia on a Suzuki DR400 mo­tor­cy­cle, and on his re­turn to the UK he bought his first Land Rover, a Se­ries IIA, and im­me­di­ately started tri­alling with it. He was soon im­mersed in the of­froad tri­als scene with the All-wheel Drive Club, com­pet­ing in Land Rovers and Range Rovers.

As an ex­pe­ri­enced long-dis­tance off-road and tri­als driver and com­peti­tor, it was log­i­cal that Bob found the idea of en­ter­ing the Camel Tro­phy an ap­peal­ing one, and so be­gan what he de­scribes as a per­sonal cru­sade to rep­re­sent his coun­try in this amaz­ing and chal­leng­ing event. In 1985 he ap­plied and went through the se­lec­tion process for the 1986 event, and was nom­i­nated as a re­serve to the cho­sen team. He ap­plied again in 1986 for the 1987 event, and by this time brother Joe had re­turned from trav­el­ling and work­ing in the USA. Joe en­tered too, and made it through to the re­serve list, whereas Bob did not. “I didn’t talk to Joe for months!” Bob laughs. En­ter­ing again for the 1988 event, both made it to the re­serve list. So at least some progress was be­ing made.

They en­tered for a fourth time and on this oc­ca­sion it was Bob who made it to the fi­nal four, to­gether with David Walk­ley, Dun­can Mans­field and Si­mon Day. The fi­nal selec­tions for all the na­tional teams were held in Tener­ife and the four Brits did what you do in Tener­ife – they had a day off so they hired a Mini Moke and set off to ex­plore the is­land. Sadly, it re­sulted in a head-on col­li­sion with a bus that left David, Dun­can and Si­mon in hos­pi­tal, and Bob walk­ing wounded.

The event or­gan­is­ers im­me­di­ately brought in Joe. Al­though not se­lected as a fi­nal­ist that year, Joe had been a fi­nal­ist and re­servist in the two pre­vi­ous years, so he was the ob­vi­ous per­son to step in. An un­for­tu­nate in­ci­dent with a bus on a twisty moun­tain road had there­fore de­cided who would rep­re­sent the UK in the 1989 Camel Tro­phy and cre­ated the first team of broth­ers in the event’s his­tory. “Af­ter four years of try­ing, I al­most missed my chance,” says Bob.

Con­quer­ing the fa­mously-gru­elling Camel Tro­phy

By now, the Camel had be­come firmly es­tab­lished as the world’s tough­est off-road driv­ing chal­lenge, and the or­gan­is­ers de­cided to mark the an­niver­sary with a re­turn to the dense forests and tough jun­gle trails of the Ama­zon, the lo­ca­tion of the very first event in 1980, al­though one im­por­tant dif­fer­ence was that the 1989 event was timed to co­in­cide with the height of the rainy sea­son.

The cho­sen route was to start at Alta Floresta in the Mato Grosso and head east to join the BR163, then head north to the junc­tion with the Trans-ama­zon­ica high­way, fol­low­ing this east­wards for some 50 km be­fore re­join­ing the BR163 for the run north to the town of San­tarém on the Ama­zon river. From here, the teams would take a barge west­wards to Itapi­ranga on the northern bank of the Ama­zon, and then fol­low jun­gle trails to the fin­ish at Manaus, a to­tal jour­ney of over 1900 km, of which 500 km would be by river boat.

Th­ese dust-cov­ered Ama­zo­nian high­ways present few chal­lenges dur­ing the dry sea­son when they are used by huge Brazil­ian lor­ries, but when the rains come they are turned into gluti­nous, slip­pery, bot­tom­less mud, which of­ten strands the trucks for months on end.

There had been over a mil­lion ap­pli­cants to join that year’s Camel Tro­phy, all hop­ing to se­cure one of the 28 seats in the 14 teams that would take part that year, rep­re­sent­ing Ar­gentina, Bel­gium, Brazil, Ca­nary Is­lands, France, Ger­many, Italy, Ja­pan, Nether­lands, Spain, Switzer­land, Turkey, UK, and Yu­goslavia. His­tory would later de­cide that the 1989 event was the tough­est-ever Camel Tro­phy.

In late March 1989, Bob, Joe and the other com­peti­tors and sup­port crew flew into Alta Floresta in a Boe­ing 737, which was quite a big deal for the lo­cals, who were used to rather smaller aero­planes at their lo­cal land­ing strip. They showed their de­light at the ar­rival of the Camel Tro­phy team with a fan­fare welcome.

Once they heard what the con­voy in­tended to do in 12 days, they were rather blunt in their views as to its achiev­abil­ity. Many made bets on the out­come and there were not many tak­ers for suc­cess – not in 12 days, not even in 60, seemed to be the pre­vail­ing opin­ion. But they had clearly not al­lowed for the de­ter­mi­na­tion of a Camel Tro­phy con­voy.

Leav­ing Alta Floresta at 9.00 am the fol­low­ing morn­ing,

“His­tory would later de­cide the 1989 event was the tough­est”

the teams faced the first of three spe­cial tasks to be com­pleted that day, all timed against the clock, as well as a long drive of 140 km to the first fuel stop and a fur­ther 100 km to the planned camp­site. Many of the com­peti­tors would drive too fast in those ini­tial tri­als or fail to pay at­ten­tion to the route mark­ers, but Bob and Joe’s ex­pe­ri­ence in All-wheel Drive Club tri­als stood them in good stead and by the end of the first day the Bri­tish team was lead­ing the pack on points.

It was Bob’s 29th birth­day, and he com­mented at the time: “Orig­i­nally we wanted to get on the trip just for the ad­ven­ture, but now we just want to win the damn thing. It’s been a great first day and the best birth­day present I’ve ever had.”

The con­voy never reached its in­tended des­ti­na­tion for the night, due to one of the lead­ing ve­hi­cles break­ing a trail­ing arm bracket that had to be welded be­fore the con­voy could con­tinue. Twenty-three hours af­ter leav­ing Alta Floresta, and in pitch dark­ness, they fi­nally stopped to make camp. They were 65 km short of their in­tended des­ti­na­tion.

The fol­low­ing day in­tro­duced them to the real chal­lenges of the Ama­zon in the rainy sea­son, as the con­voy picked its way through a twist­ing track with wash-outs drop­ping down 50 feet. One mis­placed wheel would have led to dis­as­ter. Soon, they reached the first sec­tion of deep, flooded mud. Ev­ery team had their own opin­ions as to how to ap­proach the chal­lenge and many got stuck. There was no sign yet of the “all for one, and one for all” team spirit that would need to be es­tab­lished if the group as a whole was to suc­ceed.

Again, the con­voy did not reach its planned des­ti­na­tion that evening. Ahead, over a dozen heavy trucks were stuck and at­tempt­ing to get through this sec­tion would re­quire day­light. A makeshift camp was es­tab­lished for the night.

“We’d thought about our sleep­ing ar­range­ments and brought a huge mos­quito net with us, which we rigged over the roof-rack and the whole front end of the car each night. This meant we could climb onto the bon­net and take off our muddy boots and clothes be­fore get­ting into the roof tent. Other com­peti­tors were not quite so or­gan­ised. One night, the Ital­ians rigged-up their ham­mocks be­tween our ve­hi­cle and theirs. In the mid­dle of the night, we heard the twang as one of their ham­mock cords snapped, fol­lowed by a thud as the oc­cu­pant was dumped in the mud!”

Af­ter break­ing camp the fol­low­ing morn­ing, the con­voy found it­self fac­ing a morass of seem­ingly-im­pass­able mud stretch­ing more than a kilo­me­tre ahead. Flooded ruts that would top­ple a One Ten stretched ahead and within no time three of the teams, in­clud­ing Bob and Joe, and one of the sup­port ve­hi­cles were hope­lessly em­bed­ded in the bog. It took over four hours to re­cover them. Heavy trac­tors with winches and re­cov­ery chains that were ac­com­pa­ny­ing the con­voys of trucks were called in to help. The rainy sea­son was big busi­ness for them any­way, with plenty of trucks to re­cover, and the lengthy Camel con­voy was a bonus. Some could ap­par­ently earn $20,000 dol­lars a month putting their trac­tors and their re­cov­ery skills to good use.

For up to 20 hours a day, the teams fought to get through the end­less mud. For sev­eral days, the con­voy man­aged only a few kilo­me­tres per day, and on one un­be­liev­able day cov­ered just 800 me­tres in 24 hours, and only then with the as­sis­tance of a huge, winch-equipped trac­tor.

The av­er­age of four hours sleep per night was al­ready tak­ing its toll and the phys­i­cal and men­tal strain was im­mense. But, grad­u­ally, bonds of friend­ship and team­work were formed and the much-vaunted Camel spirit be­gan to take shape. Along­side be­ing the out­right win­ner of the Camel Tro­phy, the Team Spirit Award was highly-cov­eted. Voted on by all the teams at the end of the event, the award went to the team that the com­peti­tors them­selves thought had con­trib­uted most to the over­all suc­cess of the event. Many would try very hard to win it, but as the event leader said: “You can­not win it if you try. It has to come from the heart.”

With each team were two jour­nal­ists from their home coun­try, most of whom re­alised that their role was much more than be­ing pas­sive ob­servers and com­men­ta­tors. They would have to throw them­selves into the chal­lenge to help their team get through. One, an Ar­gen­tinian, did not, and was con­sid­ered by the or­gan­is­ers to be crack­ing-up un­der the strain. When the sup­port he­li­copter met them on the route later that day to pick up the me­dia teams’ film and re­portage, it left with an un­ex­pected pas­sen­ger. The event leader had deemed it bet­ter for ev­ery­one if the jour­nal­ist con­cerned was air­lifted out.

“With us we had Mike Calvin from the Daily Tele­graph and pho­tog­ra­pher Marc Payne, whose day job was in­dus­trial pipe freez­ing,” re­calls Bob. “Both where re­ally com­mit­ted to Team UK and hap­pily mucked in to do what­ever needed to be done. It was re­ally a team of four and we thor­oughly en­joyed our­selves and had a ball!

“We spent a lot of time in train­ing and prepa­ra­tion be­fore we left the UK. We mapped-out cir­cuits on the lo­cal lanes and tracks near the farm, and prac­tised driv­ing them against the clock, day and night. The off-road tri­alling skills were also a great help. We also spent a lot of time think­ing about the de­tails; the lit­tle things that end up mak­ing a big dif­fer­ence in the mid­dle of the jun­gle. We kept the high-lift jack ready and ac­ces­si­ble on the floor, for ex­am­ple, in­stead of se­cured on the roof-rack, and two wheel­braces handy, and the four of us had a well-re­hearsed plan for chang­ing wheels that stood us in good stead.”

The con­voy reached San­tarém and faced a fur­ther bat­tery of timed tests. The UK and Spain shared pole po­si­tion upon their con­clu­sion, with 59 points each. The Span­ish achieve­ment was all the more re­mark­able be­cause they had re­built their One Ten af­ter a dra­matic high-speed roll-over, and com­pleted the tests with­out a wind­screen and with driver and co-pi­lot wear­ing gog­gles and en­cased in mud.

Af­ter the in­ten­sity and ex­haus­tion of the past few days, there was now a chance for re­lax­ation and in­tro­spec­tion, as the team em­barked on a river cruiser for the 36-hour, 500 km jour­ney up­stream to Itapi­ranga, with the ve­hi­cles shack­led to a barge that was towed along­side. Ever-fo­cussed, Bob and Joe spent the time re­plac­ing the shocks on their One Ten.

Once back on the track, the teams faced fur­ther timed

“For up to 20 hours the teams fought to get through mud”

tests that con­tin­ued into the night, but fate dealt a cruel blow to the Span­ish team who blew a tyre, tak­ing them out of con­tention. Bob and Joe con­sol­i­dated their lead, and the Brits were now ten points clear on the leader­board. They were able to main­tain their lead and, at the end of the event in Manaus, Bob and Joe were an­nounced as the over­all win­ners of the 1989 Camel Tro­phy. The cov­eted Team Spirit Award went to the Bel­gians. But as event or­gan­iser Iain Chap­man com­mented: “At the end there are no losers. You can­not mea­sure a sense of per­sonal sat­is­fac­tion.”

Life af­ter the Camel Tro­phy

The Bri­tish vic­tory was head­line news across the coun­try, and auto sport mag­a­zine con­cluded in its re­port on the event: “It was an epic, in­ter­na­tional event and four fine English­men won it in a man­ner of which we can all be proud’.

And Michael Calvin, who had been fil­ing reg­u­lar re­ports back home for the Dai­lytele­graph, com­mented: “Th­ese past 17 days, with their prob­lems and mo­ments of supreme self­sat­is­fac­tion, have welded us into a true team.”

Camel Tro­phy rules did not al­low com­peti­tors to en­ter the event again, but the Camel bug had bit­ten and Bob joined the event man­age­ment team as con­voy co-or­di­na­tor, with re­spon­si­bil­ity for the over­all safety of the teams from up to 20 com­pet­ing coun­tries. He trav­elled to Siberia, South Amer­ica, Africa, In­done­sia and Malaysia, com­plet­ing a fur­ther seven Camel Tro­phies.

In 1997 he turned his sights else­where, and took part in the FIA World Cup Cross Coun­try Rally Cham­pi­onships in Spain, the so-called Baja Es­paña. Bob had ac­quired the per­fect ve­hi­cle for the event, a De­fender 110 equipped with a TVR V8 churn­ing out some 300 bhp, with Kevlar body pan­els. It had orig­i­nally been pre­pared for the Paris-dakar, but not used.

“Un­for­tu­nately we had a se­ries of very an­noy­ing elec­tri­cal prob­lems,” says Bob, “and we didn’t fin­ish.”

In 1998 he en­tered the UAE Desert Chal­lenge in the same 110, ris­ing to sixth place by the start of the fi­nal day but, as Bob re­mem­bers: “We broke a univer­sal joint in the front prop shaft, and fi­nally fin­ished in 24th place run­ning in two-wheel drive only.”

Dur­ing his years with the Camel Tro­phy, Bob had met many like-minded in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing Dun­can Bar­bour and Andy Dacey, and in the early 1990s they formed Wild­track­ers, which or­gan­ises ve­hi­cle events in var­i­ous re­mote lo­ca­tions around the world. The fol­low­ing years were filled with many off-road in­cen­tive trips and 4x4 ve­hi­cle launches for man­u­fac­tur­ers in­clud­ing Land Rover, Jeep and Mercedes, in coun­tries such as Jor­dan, the USA, Turkey, the UAE, Oman, Canada, Zam­bia, Botswana, Ro­ma­nia, Ja­pan, Poland, South Africa and Morocco.

As well as th­ese events, which Bob is still in­volved in or­gan­is­ing and manag­ing to­day, since 2009 he has also been in­volved with the BBC Topgear show, and now its Ama­zon suc­ces­sor The­grand­tour, where he is re­spon­si­ble for route rec­ces and GPS route log­ging, as well as pro­vid­ing ad­vice to the pro­duc­tion team on the art of the pos­si­ble.

Dur­ing the film­ing of the pro­grammes, Bob drives the lead cam­era track­ing car and he is also, to­gether with Dun­can Bar­bour and Karl Trunk, re­spon­si­ble for keep­ing the par­tic­i­pat­ing ve­hi­cles go­ing over a va­ri­ety of ter­rains, as well as gen­eral ve­hi­cle main­te­nance.

“Or­gan­is­ing th­ese events is like a mini- Camel Tro­phy,” Bob says. “It was great fun to do the Death Road show in Bo­livia, and we have also done the show’s Christ­mas spe­cials. We are also called on to do film work, us­ing Dun­can Bar­bour’s BATT Land Rover track­ing ve­hi­cles, in­clud­ing Har­ry­pot­ter

and Sleepy Hol­low, and we’ve been in­volved with the Dis­c­world films based on Terry Pratch­ett’s books. It’s hard work and it takes me away for sev­eral months a year’.

For five years, he and co-founder David Parker ran the Camel Tro­phy UK Off-road Cen­tre, of­fer­ing team-build­ing and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment train­ing to industry, all con­ducted in Camel Tro­phy ve­hi­cles and in­volv­ing off-road driv­ing and ex­er­cises such as bridge build­ing.

Bob also or­gan­ises events in the UK, in­clud­ing off-road driver train­ing, lo­cal dealer hos­pi­tal­ity events and the mini Camel Tro­phy for own­ers of ex-event ve­hi­cles, known as Bob’s Bashes. He is a staunch sup­porter of the Camel Tro­phy Own­ers’ Club and be­lieves the Club and the events they or­gan­ise help to keep the Camel Tro­phy spirit alive. Many of th­ese events are hosted on the fam­ily arable and dairy farm in Hamp­shire, which he and Joe man­age.

Bob and Joe still own the One Ten in which they won the Camel Tro­phy in 1989, hav­ing pur­chased it af­ter the event. Orig­i­nal Camel ve­hi­cles are highly sought-af­ter by en­thu­si­asts and col­lec­tors and to any UK col­lec­tor, none is more de­sir­able than this par­tic­u­lar One Ten. “I’ve owned more Land Rover ve­hi­cles than I can re­mem­ber,” says Bob, “but this is the one that Joe and I will keep for­ever.”

“Bob has also been in­volved with the BBC Top Gear Show”

Yet an­other river cross­ing

A very clean One Ten as team UK pre­pares for the start

Vic­to­ri­ous UK team cel­e­brate in style

The 1989 Camel Tro­phy is con­sid­ered to be the tough­est ever

An­other in­ter­est­ing re­cov­ery chal­lenge Bob Ives, sec­ond from left and brother Joe, right Team UK rechris­tened Team Gringo Camel One Tens on the river barge with sup­port he­li­copter

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