Dragon Challenge: 99 turns, 999 steps to China’s Heaven’s Gate. Range Rover Sport PHEV became the first SUV to climb the towering, scary 45-degree 999-step staircase.Tianmen Mountain Road in the Hunan Province of China incorporates a dizzying 99 hairpin turns along the 7 miles of mountainside road. At the summit, this road leads toward 999 steps, all of which lead to Heaven’s Gate, a natural rock arch in the mountainside, mythically thought to be a link between the mortal world and the world of the gods.
Range Rover’s new hybrid SUV became the first vehicle to ever climb to the top of the stairs of the natural rock arch. The challenge began at the bottom of the legendary 7 miles Tianmen Mountain Road (known as the Dragon Road). Land Rover tapped Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung to make the run, and outfitted the Range Rover Sport with reinforced tires to deal with the punishment they would receive on their way up the steps.
The total run took 20 minutes and 47 seconds, making it a record, since no vehicle had ever climbed the steps before. That, of course means that someone else will have to come along and try to break it.After completing the challenge, Ho-Pin commented, “I’ve experienced Formula E, Formula 1 and won at the 24 Hours of Le Mans but this was without doubt one of the most demanding driving challenges I’ve ever faced. The Range Rover Sport PHEV performed brilliantly as it inspired real confidence on the mountain road and climbed the stairs up to Heaven’s Gate effortlessly.”
Land Rover Experience expert, Phil Jones, said of the latest achievement, “This was the hardest Range Rover Sport challenge I’ve ever been involved with because, until we reached the top, we couldn’t categorically say we would succeed. By making it to the summit, we’ve proven the phenomenal capability of the Range Rover Sport plug-in hybrid like never before – with a genuine world first.”