RFC India strides ahead in second season
Panaji, August 3 The latest addition to the country's motorsport scene, the Force Gurkha Rainforest Challenge (RFC) India completed a triumphant second season after a successful inaugural edition in 2014.
The second season of the international off-roading event was held in different parts of Goa from July 25 to 31. Twenty three teams from across the country, including two from Goa, competed for the title.
Participating teams, each with a driver and co-driver, had to fight rain, mud, steep slippery slopes, deep ruts, gullies, flooded rivers, landslides and also drive through dense forests amidst heavy monsoon rains on their modified 4X4 All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) to reach their goal of grabbing maximum points for the title.
The teams had to compete in 26 Special Stages (SS) which were divided into four sections -- Prologue, Predator, Terminator and Twilight. The competition tested the driving and vehicle recovery skills of competitors under extreme off-road conditions.
Founded by Luis J.A. Wee in Malaysia in 1997, the RFC has previously been held in Italy, Russia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Tunisia, China and Australia. Malaysia is considered to be the mother event which is held every November-December.
The seven-day event was brought to India by Ashish Gupta, director of Cougar Motorsport, the organiser of the event, to make enthusiasts experience the toughness of off-road racing.
"RFC is tough compared to other sports because of it's mental and physical strength. The drivers do that in water, rain, mud. So you are wet all the time plus you need to drive. Then you are camping at night and in the morning you race again," Wee told IANS.
The competitors had to compete within a given time frame. Points were awarded to teams for successful completion of SS. The team with the maximum points at the end of 26 SS was announced as the winner. Also, points were deducted for not starting or finishing an SS and for not adhering to the rules.
Malaysian driver Tan Eng Joo (co-driver Tan Choon Hong) won the 2015 title while Kabir Waraich (Yuvraj Tiwana) finished as the highest ranked Indian in third position. With the win, Joo has bagged both the RFC India crowns, having also won the inaugural title in 2014.
The organisers had to face certain challenges. As the competition was held mostly in forests and natural habitat, trees and greenness were damaged on the course. It was impossible to do the SS without hurting nature.
The most challenging part for the competitors was to keep their mental and physical strength hand-in-hand with the event.
To participate, the competitors need to own four-wheel drive vehicles specially designed to compete in the extreme conditions. Main thing is, they don't come cheap. Each team also had support staff for rescue and breakdowns as vehicles, which often got stuck, had to be rescued.
The action significantly attracted huge crowds in the first two days at Dona Paula as locals poured in to have a glimpse of the 4X4 vehicles making their way through some tough barriers. They also made their presence felt in forests for the Predator, Terminator and Twilight stages.
Some off-road enthusiasts were also seen climbing up small hills amidst dense forests just to have a glimpse of some live action.
After two back-to-back successful seasons, it can be said that if Cougar Motorsport can find ways to promote it, then RFC can have a bright future in India.
(Aritra Chowdhury was in Goa at the invitation of Force Gurkha Rainforest Challenge organisers. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)