Mumbai to Goa, not by road, but by flight, sounds boring? For a man of who loves the open roads - it surely is. And from a rainy day in Mumbai, to a very baffling weather in Goa, it only added to the frown lines on my forehead. Baffling because, the rain gods were either opening the taps or letting the brightest strobes of sunlight in and with little respite in between.
My destination was Dona Paula, the more popular part of South Goa. I was here to witness in action the second edition of the Indian chapter of the Rainforest Challenge (RFC). The RFC was originally launched in Malaysia in 1997 and is still considered among the top 10 toughest off-road motor races in the world. Why so? I was about to find out why in the course of the following few days.
As the name entails, here the competitors test their driving skills and their vehicle's capability in the most extreme conditions while we, automobile journalists, trotted along the same route getting our boots dirty.
The Force Gurkha RFC is India’s only international off-road motorsport event yet and is based on the concept of the survival of the fittest. The event was held in different locations in Goa, mostly far away from civilisation and the typical "hustle-bustle" of "Goa". I was told the RFC India 2014 edition got a tremendous response and the participation only increased this year. A fact which was confirmed when I found it difficult to find a spot in the crowd to catch a glimpse of the ongoing events.
On the surface, judging by the pace I gathered it wasn't a tough challenge though. Initially, with 22 participants, the game play was being readied in South Goa by the RFC officials. But, before the competition could get tougher, two teams had withdrawn leaving 20 teams to rough it out for the winning title.
The meticulously laid tracks for the event were spread out in four major legs - Prologue, Predator, Terminator and Twilight Zone. The four comprised of 26 Special Stages (SS) of the competition, each stage getting tougher with terrain, drivability, proper usage of off-roading equipment, co-ordination with the team, intelligence and presence of mind. Each team put their heart and soul into the event and not to forget, even blood at times. Yes, there were a few injuries, but it was all a part and parcel of the game.
The long stiffened suspension systems, the locking differentials, the most complicated winches, shovels and traction aids and many other accessories, which the common man might just not have any clue about, all were being put to use here. As I juggled my travel between the various stages I noticed how in each stage what got the participants through were their driving skills and coordinators with navigators.
The rough terrain, be it the rocks or the path in the jungle or the river bed, travelling on this path with a vehicle does need a lot of preparation, for both – the vehicle and the competitors as well. Starting is easy but the variety of terrains is certainly challenging, Skill is required not just to conquer the obstacles but also getting out when stuck. The competitors had to enter areas like deep gullies, steep slopes or even traversing dense jungles. Here, one just cannot go through without the right equipment, right company and the right advice. I was glad to see the blend of all at one place, where it brought out the best from different parts of India and Asia.
Force Motors claimed the top two spots followed by Gerrari Off-roaders in the Force Gurkha RFC India 2015 challenge. The Indian chapter of the Malaysian off-roading event was exhilarating as the unpredictable weather and tougher challenges brought in a lot of excitement and adventure not just in me but also the other fanatics who came to witness the toughest of battles amongst competitors in this motorsport extravaganza. Many thanks to the event co-coordinators who put this event together, which by every means is a tougher task to organise in arduous conditions in the jungle and remote places. Motorsport events like these teach us by not only giving us an idea of how demanding the environment can get, but also how intelligently we can use the four wheels to get across these terrains.