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Back To Roots: The 20th Edition Of The Mother Rainforest Challenge

Posted in Events on April 17, 2017
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Photographers: Pavel Mothejl

The 20th Edition of the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) took off with razzmatazz, pomp, publicity, and high-octane action befitting its status among the top ten toughest motor races in the world.

That is to be expected, after all. Those coming are among the bravest of the land daredevils, coming for a “special dose of high adrenalin” in willpower, engine power and their enduring passion to “get up and get going” against all odds in the unforgiving terrain of the RFC.

Setting Records

The hottest “battle” to the top among the leading contenders, the narrowest of victory for the champion team (only one point difference between First Place and Second Place), three major flagging-off venues were held in Kuala Lumpur & in Kuantan, the most number of champion teams at the starting line (seven teams), the most number of participants and media numbering 1,050 persons, and the biggest entry of foreign media of over 100 journalists coming from reality TV show, documentaries, print, social, motoring and lifestyle, of which the Chinese made up the majority brought in by Race Auto.

It was also a meaningful return to the jungle with the biggest gathering ever held by RFC for CSR (corporate social responsibility) with the indigenous people, featuring blowpipe challenges and tribal games and ending with donations for the wellbeing of the various tribes inhabiting the highlands bordering Pahang & Perak states.

Two contests were also held simultaneously for RFC 2016, one by Petron Malaysia with Hitz FM (the number one hits radio station in Malaysia), which also gave “live” daily cross-over reports from start to finish, while the other contest was held by Tan Chong Motor for Nissan Navara owners, both of which led their winners to join the first leg of RFC 2016. AENO, the official drink sponsor, also made a “big splash” debut of its oxygen/alkaline water with billboards for the first time.

The 20th Edition also set another record by introducing an entire new event for enduro and dual-purpose motorcycles rallye with RFC Enduro Trophy, attracting the adventurous motorcyclists from Singapore and Malaysia.

Back to our Roots in the heart of Kuala Lumpur

To begin the 20th Edition of RFC, a nostalgic “going back to our roots” was launched on November 26 back to the same venue at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square), same street (Jalan Raja) and facing the same majestic building (Sultan Abdul Samad built in 1897) held in collaboration with City Hall (tourism department). It was a Welcome to Kuala Lumpur razzmatazz “reliving the birth place of RFC” to remember by the participants and media assembled from over 30 nations from Asia, Europe, Oceania & North/South America.

Publika Day, The Presentation

At Kuala Lumpur’s trendy shopping mall on November 25 and press conference held by Petron Malaysia & AENO (official drink), all was sleek, smart, and shining clean for both man and machines, including the leading contenders of Team Maxxis 119 (reigning champion), Team Russia 104 (two-time champion), Team 108 (Indian Champion) and Team 105 (Russian champion). They came with a mindset to win the Top Three overall. For the rest of the 36 race teams, completing the event was uppermost importance and aiming for Top 10 finishers.

Ladies of Steel

Apart from the macho man and machines, this year’s entry of ladies teams comes from Brazil, Thailand and Malaysia in the likes of Brazilians Fabiana Martins, Julieth Zalenato in a Nissan NP300 Navara and upgraded Suzuki Jimny for the rest of the ladies: Nur Aina, Nurul Izzatie, Datin Maslin Ibrahim and Jirancha Khongsuk. These are the next generation of female 4x4 powers who are carrying on the tradition of Ladies of Steel in the Rainforest Challenge established since 1998.

The “Invasion” of Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan & Raub

The three D-Days of opening and flagging off in Kuala Lumpur (November 26) and Kuantan (27 Nov) witnessed hundreds of four-wheel-drives filled with supporters from all makes and models, including the motorbikes, thus creating massive traffic jams in the city centers. The same scenario took place in Raub town (November 29) rendezvous at Petron station for refueling, regrouping and resupplies before heading to the jungle of Batu Talam (campsite 2). However, with the elaborate traffic police control, this friendly “invasion” was a welcome sight by the town folks.

Royal Malaysian Police: Ground & Air Support

For the entire operation of RFC 2016, communications, security, and monitoring of the event from the ground to air was handled by the Royal Malaysian Police which comes complete with a Tactical Operations Base set up at Bukit Galing camp, Kuantan. The air support came from the Police Air Wing based at Sg Besi.

Face-Off @ “A Jungle Within A City.”

For the first time ever in the RFC, the Prologue SS was held inside a police camp at Bukit Galing of the General Operations Force of the Royal Malaysian Police (PGA) right in the middle of Kuantan city, thus another record for the 20th Edition RFC 2016. Kudos to the Commander of Brigade Tenggara HQ and his entire team for the enthusiastic welcome and support at the camp where we held six Special Stages (SS) for 4x4 and a rallye run for the motorbikes.

Top Guns Shine

As expected, the leading contenders did not disappoint at the Prologue SS with Team 117 (the three-time champion in the mother event and two-time champion in both RFC China and India, respectively), scoring a perfect 100 points in three of the six SS here, while defending champion Team Maxxis 119 and Team Russia 104 (two-time champion) also scored 100 points in two of the SS. However, Team 105 Russian champion and a “Dark Horse” entry from Johor Off Road Club Team 123 were also catching up from behind. The race to the Top had begun!

Night Transport to Predator (Berkelah)

Between light to heavy showers the main convoy headed out to Berkelah campsite for the next stage in the SS 7 to 12 at Predator. High action resumed on November 28, which taxed the men, women and machines to the breaking point across muddy, slippery and rocky surfaces. Here, Team 119 and Team 104 took over the dominance scoring 100 points apiece in two of the six SS with Team 117 trailing behind them at the Third position.

Rolling into Raub, the “Golden Town”

Transport day on November 29 was from Berkelah to Raub, a town steeped in history since the 18th Century and gold mining since the 1900s. It has probably the oldest police station in Malaysia built in 1905. Thus, another nostalgic rolling into town escorted by the present day Royal Malaysian police. It was another jamming session in town welcoming the RFC contingent before heading for campsite at Pos Buntu, an indigenous settlement.

Team SS @ Pos Buntu

November 30 was a spectacular fun-filled day by the river with team SS watched by the tribal inhabitants of the settlement. These points are not included in the individual scores of the competing teams but they had great teamwork splashing and recovering through the river.

The Tribal Games

December 1 was “Getting Down to Earth” with the people of the jungle with blowpipe challenges, CSR (corporate social responsibility) charitable contributions to the wellbeing of the indigenous people (Orang Asli or the original people) at Regang village, which forms part of the bigger settlement at Pos Sendirut. The night was filled with the rhythmic beating of bamboo drums for the traditional welcome by the Orang Asli. It was another Record in RFC history as the biggest CSR gathering, getting to know the inhabitants, and welcoming by the indigenous people of the highlands!

Battle of Pos Sendirut

However, for the race teams, this was not a rest day as they had to battle another six SS based on riverbanks, rocks, and steep ascents and descents. The watery obstacles here are equally tough to handle. But still they fought on in this “Battle of Pos Sendirut” from the top teams to the rest of the contenders, because everyone wanted to gain as many points as possible from SS 13 to 18 before they enter the Twilight Zone.

The Twilight Zone, Not For The Faint Hearted

December 2 was D-Day for the 27 remaining teams with machines and winches in good working order to enter this dreaded zone at Kabang with medic, communications crew and sweeper teams. In groups of two cars, they went to complete this route where the ordinary becomes extraordinary, where teamwork is everything to get out. It’s the place where the adage: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” and it’s a place to be prepared for “anything goes.”

It’s only less than 15 kilometers long, but it took the last groups to check out by evening of December 3, more than 24 hours of winching, struggling, pulling, snatching, driving, and recovery from steep ascents and descents, ruts, and mud. Nothing comes easy in the Twilight Zone (TZ). Every team must “get up and get going” to complete it and earn their 100 points. Such is the reputation of the TZ that whoever completes it will earn them the bragging rights.

Day of Reckoning & Race to the Top

By December 4, with everyone out of the TZ, it’s time to complete the final SS 19-24 of the event. The Day of Reckoning was full of twists, turns, flip overs, technical errors for the top contenders as well as for the rest of the remaining teams. Everyone wanted to earn those points to improve their overall standing. For Teams 119, 104, 1-5, 117 and 123, it was now or never to close the gap or to surge ahead with more points to gain further leads. As things turned out, it was the closest race to the top ever in the history of the RFC with defending Team Maxxis 119 clinching the Overall Champion title again, this beating Russian Team 104 by only one point! For the Top Five it was “guts and glory” for giving their best in driving and recovery skills, while the rest of the teams that finished the event, a satisfaction beyond words.

Standard Production Nissan Navara

While all the racecars come in all shapes and modified, the Nissan NP300 Navara shines through as the only Standard Production Class to have finished the event in one piece, which they deservingly won in their category, driven by the Brazilian Ladies of Steel.

With this conclusion, its back to the drawing board in preparation for the 21st edition of the mother event RFC, a special 1997-2017 event, be prepared for “Anything Goes” in the 2017 Grand Final RFC in Malaysia!

Top 5 Overall of RFC 2016:

(1) Champion Team: Team Maxxis 119 (Sabah): Chang Chew Shen/Edward Benggon (2,203 pts).
(2) First Runner Up: Team 104 (Russia): Kulbak Roman/Pavel Kovalenko (2,202 pts).
(3) Second Runner Up: Team 105 (Russia): Lyubarenko Valeriy/Katkov Andrei (2,168 pts).
(4) Third Runner Up: Team 117 (Johor): Tan Eng Joo/Nakarak a/l Periasamy (2,076 pts).
(5) Fourth Runner Up: Team 123 (Johor Off Road Club): Wong Chen Chuong/Chong Kuk Lea (1,658 pts).

Special Thanks & Appreciation to:

City Hall of Kuala Lumpur (Dewan Bandaraya tourism unit: Visit KL), Ministry of Tourism, Ministry of Youth & Sports, Tourism Pahang, Visit Pahang 2017 Secretariat, State Gov of Pahang & all Federal & State agencies, PETRON, Race Auto, AENO (official health drink), Tan Chong Motor (Nissan Navara), Publika, Gambang Motorsports, Tri-Mus Motorsports (RFC Enduro Trophy), EarthCruiser, Comeup Winch, ARB, 4WD Equipment, Explorer, Beaume, Magam, GPI Channel, Outdoor Channel, Pro-X, Ussuriysk Club, Leapple KLCC and Hotel Istana.

A Press Release by RFC International Secretariat.

Tel: 603 92008908. Cell phone: 012 211 7080 (whatsapp)
Website: www.rainforest-challenge.com
Facebook: rainforest challenge international group, Luis Wee, RFC, Luis Wee II & RFC Global Series. Email: rfc@rainforest-challenge.com, luis@rainforest-challenge.com, fida@rainforest-challenge.com, luiswee@yahoo.com.

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