Fancy taking your Land Rover around the military driver training areas, while topping up your navigation skills? If so, 4x4 navigation events are for you.
There are loads of off-road motorsport disciplines, and each has its own benefits, but one that dips its toe into many of them is 4x4 navigation. You need the timing discipline from rallying, the driver skills from trialling, the teamwork from winch challenges – and the best thing is that you can do it in a standard Land Rover.
The British Army Motorsports Association (BAMA) runs four 4x4 navigation events each year, scattered across the country – in 2023 they are as far afield as Dorset and mid-Scotland. Using a mixture of military and civilian land, a series of tests are set up to test the skills of both driver and navigator and they’re an enormous amount of fun.
An event will typically consist of seven or eight tests, and the competitive mileage will be somewhere in the region of 35 miles. And as the entry fee is around £60, you get a lot of competition for your money.
You’ll be given locations marked on aerial photographs to visit, or a line marked on a map to follow, or a grid reference to get to, or a series of map features to navigate by. The first time you compete you may feel completely bamboozled by the information – how on earth does it relate to what you see on the ground in front of you? But by your second event you’ll have a much better idea of what is going on.
BAMA has just held the first event of the year at Bovington Dorset, and as well as seven off-road phases, the event included road navigation and greenlanes. Twenty-three light 4x4s – mostly Land Rovers – competed, and there was a good mix of vehicles, from three 1960s Series IIAs to Discovery 4 and Range Rover Sport. The military was represented by crews from the British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force. On top of that, military motorcyclists could compete.
Tests ranged from a scatter – where you have to visit as many locations as possible in the time allowed and record the letterboard you find on your scorecard – to a gymkhana set out by the Dorset Land Rover Club – a long trial section across the churned-up terrain the British Army uses to teach tank crews their trade.
A roadbook took the crews off the training area and along the local roads, including a greenlane overlooking the Jurassic Coast and the ford at Moreton.
These aren’t speed events, but time is of the essence – the most important thing to remember is to get to the time controls on time; that keeps the event on track.
Some of the driving was easy and the navigation was hard; other times it was easy to find the route, but the driving was tricky – and a couple of vehicles needed to be recovered after misjudging the terrain. There’s certainly a variety.
Not only do they make an excellent training event for military crews, they’ll also help put the navigation training that 4x4 Response crews get into practise.
And if it sounds like something you want to take part in, the dates for BAMA events for the rest of the year are:
17 June 2023, Roadmaster, East Yorkshire
28-29 October 2023, Mudmaster, Mid-Scotland
2 December 2023, Magnum Spirit, Wiltshire
Want to know more? I was invited to talk about the events at the recent 4x4 Expo.