Across The Unknown
in Record Time

Finding the way
in unfamiliar terrain

Apart from performance, adventure was the key word of the event. Stéphane Brogniart was on terrain he had never seen before. Finding the right route was a constant challenge on the tough trails of the Mercantour National Park in southern France.

The crossing was therefore not without occasional detours, especially during the two nights when Brogniart was underway with nothing more than a head torch to illuminate his path. In the end, he completed the 220 km route (with a difference in altitude of more than 12,000 metres) in 47 hours and 31 minutes. Hikers usually need 16 days!

The adventurer: Stéphane Brogniart is a trail runner, a long-distance runner specializing in trails far from the nearest paved streets.

Single light source: The extreme athlete treks through the night by the light of a headlamp.

Mobile film and photo studio: the Opel Combo Life.

By invite from Opel: Automotive journalists spent eight hours in the mountains with Brogniart.

Wild mountains, difficult to access

Stéphane’s personal transportation is an Opel Grandland X. His SUV accompanies him everywhere during his preparation for ultra-trail runs. For this especially arduous adventure, however, the Grandland X needed reinforcements:
• The all-new Combo Life was transformed into a film and photography studio on wheels and transported the whole image team on the roads of the Mercantour. Despite the demanding territory, with photographers and cameramen carrying a lot of material, the Combo Life perfectly fulfilled its important task.
• The Mokka X played a crucial role: as “refuelling vehicle” with food and drink for Stéphane. Its job required it to get as close as possible to the athlete, who was moving mostly at between 2000 and 2800 meters above sea level. „If the car is not there when I arrive, I have to continue”, said Stéphane. “But the Mokka X never let me down. It was my real German friend on wheels, reliable and on-time, which is just what I demand from a car.”
• The Zafira was a mobile HQ for the organisational team, with the Crossland X providing additional support. Grand Tour manager, Aurélien Colin said: „We spend a lot of time on the road. Without such versatile and reliable cars as the Opel Zafira and the Crossland X the success of the whole project would be compromised.”

»The Mokka X never let me down. It was my real German friend on wheels, reliable and on-time, which is just what I demand from a car.«

Companions on his record-breaking run: the team bringing up the rear behind the ultra-trailer.

The best support on four wheels: the Opel Grandland X, Combo Life, and Mokka X.

»I will never
forget this trail
and this challenge«

A challenging route: the Mercantour.

“It felt like an eternity”

After crossing the Vosges and Jura mountains, the Grande Traversée Mercantour represented an even higher level of difficulty. Stéphane Brogniart: “It was very beautiful but technically very demanding. The Vallée des Merveilles was the most difficult part. Rocks as far as the eye can see, it took eight and a half hours to cover just 28 km – it felt like an eternity! I will never forget this trail and this challenge!” “All my experience and my preparation enabled me to stay permanently on top of the pressure. If the stress gets the better of you, it can literally crush you!”

Another goal for Stéphane was to share the challenge as much as possible. Firstly with his support team, his family and his loyal partners, but also with other trailers who joined him on various sections from start to finish, via an invitation launched on social networks.

Additional company was provided by creatures on four – instead of two – legs. The few wolves that have crossed the border from Italy kept their distance – Stéphane Brogniart was confident that, wearing a head torch on steep trails, the likelihood of meeting one of them was extremely low. On the other hand, he had several encounters with the rare ibex in the beautiful and inaccessible landscape.

Provisions for the road: The ultra-trailer is provided with food, drinks, and clothing.

An XL challenge to prepare the next voyage into the unknown

With the Grande Traversée du Mercantour successfully behind him, Stéphane Brogniart’s attention is now turning to the next challenge – quite literally, a voyage into the unknown. In 2023 Stéphane intends to launch “Project ETARCOS”, which will see him paddle across the Pacific Ocean, alone, in a small boat.

Compared with this unique adventure, a traversée of the Vosges, the Jura or the Mercantour seems a mere “warm up”.

At the finish line: Stéphane Brogniart set a new record.

November 2018

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Text: Andrew Marshall, Photos: Opel