“Again! Again! Again!”
A Sunday in autumn. The wind makes colourful leaves dance across the asphalt. Fast-moving grey clouds are reflected in the puddles. We are on the off-road course at the BILSTER BERG. Today, five daredevils are being trained by instructor Michael Retzmann in off-road driving.
Michael Retzmann is an all-rounder at the BILSTER BERG. One of his “babies” is the off-road course, which he has helped to design since the construction phase in 2011. At that time, the premise was to create as many different passages as possible on the existing area while maintaining the original character of the terrain. Since then, the course has been extended in some places and made less difficult in others, and now comprises 26 passages in four different difficulty levels.
“The SUV passages work very well for all vehicles with 4×4 drive. From the blue stage onwards, the vehicles should have a reduction gearbox and a limited slip differential is required for the black slopes,” explains Michael Retzmann.
The course demands a lot from the participants. At the beginning of the training, they go through the easier SUV passages, over stones and through sand. But soon the participants face the canyon. The slopes are steep and close together. Sören Clamors and his co-driver whoop in their Mercedes G-Class. Despite the closed windows, you can hear them laughing loudly outside. The G-Class is at such an angle that from the outside you have the feeling it is about to tip over. Only two metres further on, the rear left wheel takes off and hovers a good metre in the air, while the nose at the front comes very close to the ground. “Very cool!” one hears Sören Clamors exclaim enthusiastically.
Udo Schlüter, on the other hand, has got slightly stuck in the canyon with his Land Rover Discovery. The front wheels are crooked and begin to slide on the wet leaves. Udo seems tense, but finally manages to master the situation. His facial expression: a work of art! A broad grin and sticking out his tongue! You can see the relief and pure joy on his face.
During the breaks, the participants gather at the SUV hall right next to the course. Sören Clamors jumps out of the G-Class and shouts: “Again! Again! Again!” The group laughs and enthusiastically jumps back into the vehicles to try the challenge of the next more difficult section.
Michael Retzmann explains: “In the end, it doesn’t matter how many locks or horsepower the car has. The tyres have to fit. With bad tyres, even the best technical refinements are no use.”
Benjamin Aschmann experiences this first-hand in his Volkswagen Amarok. His car – no – his tyres stubbornly refuse to go up the black part of the cliff descent. Again and again he has to break off and roll back while the other participants watch. Instructor Michael Retzmann stands by his side and gives instructions over the radio: “You have to keep going over to the right, right into the embankment. There you have grip.” Thanks to the support, Benjamin Aschmann also managed this section and admits with a smile: “That annoys me a bit now. In front of all the others…” Inga Schweitzer, who conquered the SUV version of the cliff descent with ease in her Suzuki Grand Vitara, replies sympathetically: “You have to have the courage to do it – at that moment”.
That’s true, because “anyone can drive straight and fast”, as Michael Retzmann remarks with a twinkle in his eye. “But being on the road in rough terrain is something very special. Because although many people own SUVs, their species-appropriate use in public spaces is mostly forbidden.”
Norbert Wagner had the same experience. “I have owned my Range Rover for two years now, but today is the first time I have taken it off-road. Although I used to drive off-road trails regularly, I find it difficult now because I can’t really assess my car and its off-road capabilities in this environment.”
And Udo Schlüter adds with a laugh: “There are buttons in the cockpit that I’ve never used out on the road!”
With Sören Clamor’s battle cry “Again! Again! Again! And now without any mistakes!” they start the last lap through water holes, over scree, along the wooden mogul track and down steep slopes. At the end, everyone is thrilled with what their vehicles have achieved. As different as they are, they all found suitable challenges for themselves and mastered them, got to know their vehicles better and had a lot of fun. This calls for “another one” at the next training session in the off-road course at the BILSTER BERG.