Boys actually never grow up. Their toys just get bigger and more expensive. One look at the machines and the “boys” at the RFC and you know that’s true. For the uninitiated, welcome to the fifth edition of India’s toughest off-road challenge – the Rain Forest Challenge. Here is a glimpse of this year’s Isuzu Rain Forest Challenge India through the pictures.
The RFC India is the toughest off-road event in the country and is one of the top 10 toughest motor races in the world. The competition saw 39 participants, including an all-women team.
The event was held in remote locations in Quepem, south Goa. The competition consisted of 26 special stages (SS), expanding over a week. The teams were allocated a maximum of 15 minutes for completing each SS.
Completing each SS earned the team 100 points. However, penalties ate up the score so the teams had to avoid them as much as they could to stay on top. The penalties included breaking a peg or a bunting or for touching a live winch cable and more.
Each penalty had a specific value and was deducted from the maximum score. The competitors who were unable to finish a task within the allowed time (or if the SS proved too good for them) they were given a DNF (Did Not Finish).
All the SS for each day run simultaneously, so the participants had to be on their toe the entire time to manage all the SS on time. A breakdown at any SS made their life even more miserable.
Now that the rules are clear, let’s focus on the challenges. Each SS was specifically designed for hardened, off road vehicles only. A regular car running this course would break into two. The difficulty level wa excerbated by the torrential downpours and the ever altering weather.
The stages included a varying degree of difficulties. Some had steep slopes with a height of almost two storeys; and some had a ninety-degree wall climb. There were some stages with river wading with a water height of an average sedan.
Meanwhile, other stages had deep forests to deal with. The forces of nature make the competition all the more difficult. Even then, the locals turned up in huge numbers to witness the bond of ‘men and machine’ at its purest.
The stages were named - Prologue, Predator, Terminator and Twilight – in the increasing order of difficulties. And the machines were purpose-built with a powerful winch upfront, ladders at the back and two intrepid souls inside the bare-bones cabin.
And it was commendable and mind-boggling how these machines went through such arduous obstacles as if it was their daily routine. There were a variety of 4x4s taking part including Gypsys, Thars, even the old-school Mahindra MM550.
Some were running stock engines, while others had overhauled the machine from the ground up with jacked up suspension and drivetrain. One competitor turned up with a custom-made Suzuki Grand Vitara chopped into half; he won the ‘Most Unique 4X4 Award’.
Talking about the competition, the ‘boys’ were so committed and the challenges were equally ferocious, that the points table saw more ups and downs than a roller coaster. The competition had five categories depending on the type of engine used.
Day 1 proved to be the most difficult one to conquer since the torrential rainfall made the tracks slippery and full of slush, making it extremely difficult for the contestants to tackle the stages.
Chandigarh’ Sanbir Singh Dhaliwal and Gurpartap Singh Sandhu dominated the start of the competition. But RFC debutants from Arunachal Pradesh – Chow Ujjal Namshum and Ingpeng Mein became instant favourites amongst the crowd.
At the top of the scoreboard, there was a fierce competition between experienced contestants like defending champions Gurmeet Virdi/Kirpal Singh Tung, rally veteran Coorg’s Jagat Nanjappa and his co-driver Chetan Changappa.
Sixty nine-year-old Jagat in the car no. 102 grabbed the first spot on day 4 and maintained his undisputed lead for the rest of the competition. In second place was Malaysian driver Mervyn Lim and Alex Tan with defending champions coming in third.
The winners will move to Malaysia at RFC 2018 Global Series Grand Finale which will take place later this year. They received a total benefit of USD 10,000 (approx. Rs 6.84 lakhs) including the entry fee, airfares as well as support towards car rental in Malaysia.
Truly, the RFC is the most ardent motorsport event in the country and a tough one to conquer. It remains the most challenging off-road competition one that can participate in the country.
Picture Courtesy - Cougar Motorsport.