As the world's largest 4x4 mag, we are required to travel around the globe and wheel our tails off, then come home and write about it. It's a rough job, but we do it for you. And many of our readers are located south of the equator in South America, with Chile being a prime 4x4 center. From the famed Patagonia in the south to the awesome Atacama Desert in the north, Chile has something for every type of 4x4 driver. Chile even has its own version of our Moab Jeep Safari, an extravagant desert event named Raid Atacama. It's called a raid because roughly 500 vehicles all start at the same time and somewhat followthe leader through sand dunes and desert for four days of fun wheeling, racing, and getting stuck.
The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on earth, but the people who participate are some of the friendliest we've met. The party atmosphere permeates the event, as it isn't so much a competition as a gathering once a year of many of Chile's 4x4s. The city of Copiapo swells with the influx of all the wheelers and, just like Moab, not a hotel room is empty the week of the raid. Our host for the event was Jim Jackson of ARB, along with the ARB distributor in Chile, Juan Carlos Cruz of ARB Chile in Santiago. Patricio Rios is the director of the event and showed us the ins and outs of Raid Atacama. For more info, visit www.raid-atacama.cl. Get an English version by Googling "raid atacama," clicking on the site, and then clicking "Translate this page." Or try www.twistedandes.com.
The big dogs line up and rev their engines, from twin-turboed WRX Subaru rally motors in Samurais to small-block Chevys blown and injected under a Nissan Patrol. With a drop of a hat the group shoots out, each watching the other in this land-rush-style start. A few hook early while others purposefully wait for the track to clear. The idea isn't to see who is first, but to see who can go the farthest. This ranking is for the big event next fall called 48 Hours of Atacama, a no-holds-barred event of modified 4x4s battling it out to be "king of the hill."