Range Rover Sport SUV Climbs the 999 Steps of Heaven’s Gate

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Land Rover calls it the Dragon Challenge, the first, and last, of its kind.

Driven by with Panasonic Jaguar Racing’s Ho-Pin Tung, the Range Rover Sport became the first vehicle to climb the 999 steps and 99 turns to the natural rock arch of Heaven’s Gate in China. It’s all part of the legendary 7-mile Tianmen Mountain Road, one of the world’s most challenging driving roads.

The challenge began at the bottom of the legendary 7-mile Tianmen Mountain Road (known as the Dragon Road).  Fitted with reinforced tires, the Range Rover Sport took on the demanding course with the Formula E driver behind the wheel.

At the summit of the road, Ho-Pin Tung optimized Land Rover’s Terrain Response for the second part of the challenge, conquering the towering 45-degree staircase of the 999 steps leading to China’s legendary Heaven’s Gate.

“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.” – Ho-Pin Tung

Of course, a full team of Land Rover Experience experts were on-hand to coordinate the stunt. One of those experts, Phil Jones, was floored at the depths of the challenge. Being the first vehicle to ever climb Heaven’s Gate, the team, himself included, weren’t even sure that it was possible. Reaching the summit is a milestone achievement for any vehicle – it truly is a genuine world first.

However, this isn’t the first wild challenge Land Rover has taken on with the Range Rover Sport. After debuting the partial-hybrid electrical vehicle (PHEV) variant, the brand has been on a proving streak. It began with said debut, a race against two-time open-water swimming world champion Keri-anne Payne and endurance athlete Ross Edgley in Devon, UK.

From there, a record-setting hill climb run was made at the infamous Pikes Peak, in the United States. Then, a record crossing of the ‘Empty Quarter’ desert in the Arabian Peninsula. Oh, and a 7,119ft descent of the legendary Inferno downhill course in Mürren, Switzerland.

Has Land Rover done enough yet to prove the capabilities of the latest Range Rover Sport? We certainly think so. If it’s good enough for a 7,000 foot descent, a blast through the Arabian desert, a charge up Pikes Peak, and, now, an ascent through Heaven’s Gate, it’ll probably take whatever excursions you want to challenge it with.

Jake Stumph is the Content Editor who runs Jaguar Forums, and several other Internet Brands Automotive websites. He enjoys track days, drifting, and autocross, at least, when his cars are running right.

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