Report & Photography: Rahul Kapoor
with, 23 heavily modified 4x4s, 46 drivers and co drivers commenced on a
journey that saw them through 27 daunting and intimidating Special Stages (SSs)
through harsh wet terrain in the Goan rainforest spread over 7 days. They were fighting
for glory available to no more than 1 team. Finally it was for #101 Team Force
Gurkha’s Tan Eng Joo/Tan Choon Hong to claim that glory for the 2nd time in a
row at the Rainforest Challenge India with a total of 2163 points.
Gurkha of Mervyn Wei Shiong /Hamizan Bin Abdul Hamid finished in 2nd with 2095
points. Kabir Waraich/Yuvraj Tiwana have become the Indian winners of the
Rainforest Challenge India with 1941 points in the #103 car, a Mahindra CJ3B
and have qualified for the Rainforest Challenge mother event in Malaysia
representing India at one of the toughest races in the world.
Force Motors’ Gurkha competitor no. 107, was led by Sanjiv Singh and his
navigator Jay Shridhar who due to some setbacks finished 13th position with 1313 points.
The first 2
days was the Prologue Stage close to populated areas of Dona Paula, Goa where
spectators could come and take a look at the monstrous machines take on the
first 12 SSs. The Prologue Stage was just a warm up as Ashish Gupta, Founder of
Cougar Motorsport described it. From the looks of it, it was no warm up. The
competitors were pushed to the limit from Day 1 with the first 6 set of SSs.
Some of the stages were so difficult; it left some cars with broken axles, some
with broken drive shafts, some lying on their roof upside down, and some
finding it so difficult they retired from the competition on day 1 itself. Day
2 of the Prologue Stage was at the same location with 6 new Special Stages.
After Prologue, the Indian teams of Gurmeet Virdi/ Kirpal Tung were in the lead
ahead of Kabir Waraich/Yuvraj Tiwana. The Force Gurkha teams driven by the
Malaysian drivers were following them closely in 3rd and 4th.
Day 3 was the
start of the Predator Stage where the cars were to be driven through terrains
which seemed as though no kind of vehicle could operate on. This however seemed
like the natural habitat for the giant Force Gurkhas. In stages where other
cars required ladders and winches, the Gurkha just used raw power and driver
skill to take the lead. On the 4th day, things got even tougher at the
Terminator Stage. At one point, 4 of the 6 stages were blocked and cars had to
be recovered. Some cars were limping with broken axles and some lying on their
sides waiting to be rescued by a crane which soon required recovering as well.
Terminator stage was over, the following day was a rest day for competitors. On
that day, the RFC organizers had designed 2 special stages at the Terminator
location for the inaugural “Media Challenge”. A total of 11 participants (me
included) representing their respective media houses were split into two groups
and were given a Polaris RZR S800 to take on each other. We took a reprieve
from covering the event and got into competing. The winner of the Media
Challenge was awarded a full expense paid trip to Malaysia to watch the mother
event in the Malaysian rainforest in the midst of poisonous snakes, slugs and
leeches and other very icky creatures that are found in that region. The organisers,
marshals and competitors were also rewarded in their own way from the Media
Challenge where they witnessed our incompetence and laughed and mocked us
profusely. Needless to say, everyone had a great time, every one of us
including the organisers were covered in mud and to in much awe of all, the
Polaris RZR S800 showed its true colours in such harsh and difficult conditions
and did it gracefully leaving everyone who was on board with giant smiles on
Day 7 marked
the very final day of the RFC India. On the last day, the drives that completed
the Twilight zone were put through 2 final special stages and that concluded
did not compete in the RFC India season 1 in 2014. This year however they came
with 2 company cars driven by Raj Singh Rathore/Ruhan Shetty in #121 and Umesh
Rane/Pranay Pednekar in #122. Both teams were driving near stock Polaris RZR
S800s with small tyres. Despite most competitors underestimating the machine,
both the cars made it through every obstacle that was put in front of the light
weight ATV including the rainforest in the Twilight Zone. Team Polaris wasn’t
competing for the overall trophy, despite that, #121 finished 14th overall
while #122 finished 16th overall. Rathore made it clear he will be back again
next year no matter what. Knowing Polaris, this was just a warm up and next
year will be the real challenge!
Managing Director Prasan Firodia said, “I am extremely delighted with the
results. The main aim for sponsoring the RFC India was to encourage and promote
off-roading in India. While the trend is still catching up, in the bargain we
have proven the off-roading capabilities of the Force Gurkha. I congratulate
the entire team for this success and appreciate their hard work and efforts. ”
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