Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is taking the Spirit of Africa Trophy to an international stage, by inviting teams from Australia, Namibia and Botswana to compete against South African winners in the inaugural Spirit of Amarok international competition in Botswana from 13 to 17 September 2015

"We have taken a decision to go international with the Spirit of Africa Trophy to mark our six years of sponsorship, as well as eleven years of the competition by inviting teams from our neighbouring countries, Namibia and Botswana and our sport arch-rivals Australia," said Jaco Steenekamp, General Manager: Sales and Marketing for Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles.

Steenekamp added: "Our association with the competition and rally legend Sarel van der Merwe has been tremendous in promoting the Amarok brand and showcasing its off road capabilities to the thousands of participants that we have hosted since Amarok's introduction in 2010."

Each country will be represented by five teams, each comprising two people that will be showcasing their technical off-road driving skills in the toughest 4x4 challenge in Africa.

"The international competition will be hard core and more technical to ensure that we challenge and test the 4x4 skills of the participating teams. Each of the five days of the competition will have different challenges. The results from each day will not be communicated to the teams until at the prize giving ceremony on the last day of the competition," explained Sarel van der Merwe, the host of the competition. "This will make the competition more exciting and intriguing to the teams."

The top five teams to represent South Africa at the 2015 Spirit of Amarok Trophy will be decided from the 20 teams that will be contesting in the local finals in August at the Kwalata Game Reserve in Botswana. The top 20 finalists emerged from 500 competing teams at the 2015 Spirit of Africa Trophy elimination rounds in Zeerust, which took place between April and June.

"This year saw the highest number of entries that we have ever had in the eleven-year history of the competition. We expect the entries to increase to over 600 teams in 2016. This is due to the popularity of the competition and proximity of Zeerust to Gauteng, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Free State, making it easy for participants to travel to the competition venue," said van der Merwe.

During the elimination rounds, each group of the 20 teams tackles different challenges over three days. The challenges include speed tests, reverse tests and off-road technical driving to determine the best and most precise drivers in the group. The scores from all 500 teams are ranked to determine the top 20 teams that will progress to compete in the finals of the Spirit of Africa Trophy. The format for the Spirit of Amarok International Final will be similar to the local finals which are held over five days.