Land grab

Even in South Africa’s tough economic times the growth in the SUV market continues – as does the demand for tyres that equally meet requirements for top level on and off-road activity.

General Tire, a brand of Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA), has launched its latest offerings in the form of  the all-terrain Grabber AT3 and the extreme-terrain Grabber X3.

The Grabber AT3 replaces the previous-generation Grabber AT, General Tire’s multiple award-winning tyre designed for all-terrain applications. Retaining the 50/50 on/off-road bias of its predecessor, the new AT3 was developed to meet the needs of sport utility vehicle (SUV), bakkie and off-road vehicle drivers who demand the combination of exceptional off-road abilities and confident on-road manners.

In the aggressive new Grabber X3, General Tire has a flagship mud-terrain tyre that delivers uncompromising off-road performance coupled with good on-road manners. Relying on its 80/20 off-road bias, the Grabber X3 employs bold styling, matched to exceptional performance and durability for conquering the most challenging 4×4 terrains.

“The launch of the all-new Grabber AT3 and X3 represents an exciting new chapter for General Tire in South Africa,” says Ryan Visagie, Product Communications Manager at CTSA.

“Offering the latest designs and technologies in their respective segments, both tyres further raise the benchmark in terms of capability and durability, building on General Tire’s proven performance, reliability and American heritage that spans more than 100 years.”

“As one of the leading contenders in the all-terrain replacement tyre category, the Grabber AT3 continues our proud legacy with superb all-round performance and dependability,” Visagie adds. “The Grabber X3, is an extreme-terrain tyre with several innovative features that ensure it excels in the harshest conditions such as mud, dirt and rocks.”

The impressive new AT3 and X3 join the existing Grabber GT, which is specifically designed for high-performance suvs. The GT delivers outstanding handling and braking performance on dry and wet roads, allied to high comfort and low noise levels.

The local General Tire line-up is further bolstered by the Altimax passenger car tyre range, comprising the Altimax Sport for precise handling and braking, along with the Altimax Comfort, which focuses on superb comfort, refinement and durability.

 The new AT3 features three innovative technologies developed to enhance all-round performance and durability: tracgen, duragen and comfort balance.

The standard Grabber AT3 tyre range is available in 13 sizes catering for 15 to 20-inch rim diameters. Later this year, the Grabber AT3 range will be bolstered with a further nine reinforced light truck (LT) offerings in 15-inch to 18-inch sizes, which are designed for heavy duty applications.

Compared to its highly-rated predecessor, the new Grabber AT3’s on and off-road performance has improved in several key areas, including noise levels and irregular wear. Traction in snow, muddy conditions and on wet grass has been improved, along with cut-and-chip resistance.

Designed to conquer the most demanding off-road terrains, the new Grabber X3 takes General Tire’s ‘Anywhere is Possible’ brand promise to new heights. Positioned as an extreme terrain offering, it is ideally suited to three of the most challenging off-road driving conditions, comprising mud, dirt and rock – hence the name, X3.

The Grabber X3 relies on an enhanced version of General Tire’s Duragen Technology, using a three-ply construction across the range. This guarantees exceptional durability and puncture resistance.

As with the Grabber AT3, the new Grabber X3 raises the bar in virtually every sphere of off-road performance, while on-road capability has been similarly improved.

The Grabber X3 is available in a total of five sizes encompassing 15-inch to 17-inch rim sizes.

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Sound sense

What do you do when you are a successful business person and have a passion for music? You get a B Hons in music and build a recording studio.

At least, that is the route taken by Port Shepstone, KZN engineer Thulani Bhengu (40) who is currently building a cutting edge studio facility on the site of an old house in Southport – a small village just north of Port Shepstone and in the heart of the Hibiscus Coast.

An integral part of the studio complex is a five-bedroom Bed & Breakfast accommodation setup for musicians recording at the facility.

The studio – as yet unnamed – will feature state of the art recording equipment plus separate sound booths for the various instruments and will be totally soundproof and inaudible to the nearby residents.

“I will probably involve a couple of local schools in a competition to design the logo and name the studio,” says Bhengu. “The winning school will get a cash prize for its art department.”

The affable young entrepreneur was born and bred in the Gamalakhe township near Margate on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal and, post school, went on to study engineering and then to form the civil engineering company Ngcolosi Consulting Engineers.

“With the business up and running nicely, about six years ago I decided I could indulge my passion for music,” he says. “I took piano lessons and this went well. I am now in the midst of exams for my Music BA Hons through a university in England.

“During the earlier years I helped a number of young local musicians by sponsoring studio time for them and this grew to the point I installed a small recording studio at my home. However, a combination of musician hours and time in the studio started interfering with family life.

“This cemented my decision to create a stand alone studio.”

Bhengu explains the decision to incorporate the accommodation suites was based on experience with musicians.

“Travel for many of these people is a major problem and so much valuable time is wasted if they have come from far afield each day. Also, between leaving the studio on one day, going home and maybe going out for a few beers with friends, there is a detectable change in voice tone by the following day.

“It will be much better to contain them on site to maximise studio time and to try and eliminate the kind of changes I mentioned.”

The recording studio is 150 square metres in size and has individual sound booths plus the engineer’s control room, which will be kitted with the latest generation recording facilities sourced from England.

The studio itself has been designed by Johannesburg-based sound specialist, Harry Timmerman from 4th Dimension and, besides the soundproof cladding one would expect, features double width air-gapped walls to prevent any sound creep inside the facility or any leakage to the neighbourhood.

Even in its current state of ‘undress’ a handclap anywhere in the studio precinct produces no echo!

“The specification for the studio and the equipment being installed can be compared to that used by the giant studios overseas such as Sony BMG and Lucas Films,” says Timmerman, who is a THX certified audio engineer.

“The backbone of the recording desk will be Pro Tools, while the Playback Suite will conform to full Auro standard with 32 speakers, so the artists can hear every minor nuance of their work and become wholly immersed in the sound. There are only a handful of studios worldwide that have this specification and this a first for South Africa.

“The smallest sound booth is 7,8 square metres and we are using Miller and Kreiselle speakers throughout – the same speakers used in the creation of the soundtracks for movies such as Pearl Harbour, Gladiator, Jurassic Park and Star Wars.”

A resident full-time sound engineer will be employed to operate the equipment but Bhengu says artists are more than welcome to bring with their own producers to work with the engineer during the recordings.

Significantly, studio time in Southport will be around a quarter of the cost of time in a Johannesburg studio, making it that much more accessible to young and upcoming artists.

“We intend to be as flexible as possible,” said Bhengu. “Many young musicians just want to get one or two tracks recorded professionally they can use for promotional purposes and possible radio play while they build a following that would justify going into studio to record an entire album.

“We need to make it as easy as possible for them to do that. At the same time, the lower cost we hope will attract top line and well-known artists to the venue and we would also love to see some foreign artists taking advantage of our lovely sunshine, the beautiful South Coast and the value of the Rand to record here.”

So, why Southport?

Bhengu chuckles and explains: “I bought the house eight years ago and wanted to have the zoning changed so I could move my office there. However, my staff was so against the idea I ended up renting it out as house for a few years.

“When the idea for a recording studio took hold, it was the ideal venue. I approached all the neighbours and we submitted the plans and proposals to the Council. Nobody was opposed to the idea as long as we could guarantee the studio would be soundproof.

“All the nearby residents have been very supportive of the project – which I hope will be complete by December of this year.”

Local resident and drummer for The Sound Dogs, Mike Linten says many local musicians are likely to benefit from the facility and that it will be a long-term gain for tourism in the area.

 

When worlds do not collide

Taking a petrolhead and putting him on Durban’s North Pier to watch surfing is putting him about as far outside of his comfort zone as it gets.

However, there I was at the weekend, watching intently as the contestants in the Volkswagen sponsored SA Open Nationals strutted their stuff – and thoroughly enjoying the spectacle.

Having spent more than 40 years wandering the country covering motor races, rallies and off-road races, I am somewhat familiar with passion, commitment and dedication – all the elements required to be successful in motor sport.

Equally, watching the expressions on the faces of the surfers it was not hard to see the same levels of passion, commitment and dedication as they worked their magic out on the water. It is a tough sport and these surfers are all athletes, body and mind tuned to be able pursue the perfect score.

It was a full weekend of surfing and a full – and probably very profitable – weekend for Durban with the baby Boks taking on (and beating) the French Barbarians at rugby on the Friday, the Springboks thrashing the French on the Saturday and an Iron Man marathon sharing the beachfront with the surfing on the Sunday.

In that latter event, both the cycle and run phases took competitors past the surfing on a couple of occasions and, from my vantage point on the pier, I watched the runners/cyclists – and not one of them ever glanced seaward at the surfing.

It was not as if they could not be aware something significant was happening out on the water – the surfing public address system was blaring out score updates and commentary all the time. It was simply they were not remotely interested.

Then, I started looking more closely and began to spot the rugby fans at restaurant tables at the many beachfront eateries – also not remotely interested in the surfing or the runners/cyclists and just sitting in their supporter jerseys rehashing the game over coffee, beers or whatever.

In one small orbit, three worlds that simply did not collide.

Perhaps a sad commentary on the world today!

St Lucia restored

estuary-hippo-and-friend estuary-hippo estuary-sunset st-lucia-pub-and-grubThe rumble of tour buses and the somewhat raspier rattle of open game viewing vehicles are a constant through the small town of St Lucia, perched on a narrow strip of land between the Indian Ocean and the Lake St Lucia estuary. Just three streets wide, the town’s main thoroughfare is packed to the gills with accommodations, restaurants and curio shops to feed and house the seemingly endless flow of (mainly) foreign tourists all eager to snap a photo memory of the ‘real’ Africa.

And, real it is!

Only recently a Cape town doctor and his wife were walking back to their lodgings after dinner and were attacked by a hippo. Fortunately, a passing motorist gave the beast a nudge with his vehicle, the hippo releasing the doctor with a nasty but not life-threatening bite.

Having hippo and other wildlife wandering around the streets at night is not uncommon and we got the feeling something the locals rather enjoy – and so they should, as the story could have worked out quite differently.

Lake St Lucia is an eco-wonderland, home to more than 80% of all the bird species in South Africa and the playground of hundreds of hippo and crocodile – along with about 60 Bull sharks that became trapped in the lake.

The last time the lake was full was in 2000 – also the last time it was open to the sea and the sharks – and the savage drought that raged since then reduced the surface area of the lake to just 10%.

With no fresh water coming in the hippo and crocodile that could, moved back into the uMfolozi River, while thousands of fish died in the chronically increasing saline waters. By November 2016, with good inflows from the uMfolozi River, 90% of the Lake’s surface area was covered and levels are maintaining.

Salinity is low and the hippos and crocodiles have returned in numbers – but the eco system is not yet out of the woods.

The restoration of the Lake St Lucia system is now making a visible difference to the landscape and nature. From the vantage point of the St Lucia Ski Boat Club and Estuary Boardwalk, the view across to Maphelane is dramatically different to that of several months ago, as the dredge spoil and other deposited material is steadily removed.

Lake St Lucia forms part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and its CEO, Andrew Zaloumis, says: “The removal of the first 96 842 cubic metres of material obstructing the natural course of the uMfolozi River has begun to reverse its negative impact on the hydrological and ecological functioning of the 350 km2 Lake St Lucia estuarine system.

“This is South Africa’s largest and ecologically most significant wetland rehabilitation project. Water levels in the Lake St Lucia system have increased dramatically on the back of the recent rains, which resulted in strong flows from the uMfolozi River into Lake St Lucia.

“Ninety percent of the Lake’s surface area is now covered and the Lake is once again a single body of water no longer compartmentalised and joined via the Narrows to the mouth.”

For now the crisis has been averted and the right things are being dome to restore the natural workings of the system – and, thankfully the tour buses rumble on.

Source: St Lucia restored