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This is the single-news section of the marathonrally.com special of the Rainforest Challenge 2007, the hardest off-road trophy worldwide. To see all news please use the link under the article or navigate with the left main-navigation.

China Premiere: Jing Gu International Offroad Challenge 2007.

Some came from more than three thousand kms, but all the 45 teams from South, Central and North China converged in Jing Gu County, southern Yunnan with one aim in mind, to test themselves in the first ever Rainforest Challenge (RFC) format of 4x4 competition. The short notice (less than 2 months since the event was publicly announced) was no deterrent to the off-road teams they came to be counted as among the pioneers in this inaugural event.

"Most Chinese 4x4 teams are used to the rally type of competitions, but this type of articulation exercises across a variety of terrain and using of the winch are something new to them. The majority of them do not have the chance to go overseas to experience this, and so, by bringing an international class event here is an attraction," said Rhino (Zhou Ruihong) - RFC 2005 participant. Incidentally, Rhino also made a name for himself as the first Chinese team to drive all the way from Kunming to Malaysia, an overland drive round trip of over 10,000 kms with stopovers in Laos and Thailand.

"Actually, we do not want to miss this opportunity, we prepared the best we can within the time frame and then we hit the road to Yunnan," remarked Lee Chow, from Chidao 4x4, an ardent fan of RFC from Guangzhou City, Guandong. He, together with the other off-roaders represented half of the contenders. Others who are used to cross country driving also turned out to see how a RFC style event can be different from what they have been used to. The rest of the entries were a curious mix of stock standard BJs from minor to major modifications. Thus, on opening day on 1 Oct, Jing Gu town was invaded by 4x4 machines of all shapes and sizes; all were eager for a piece of action "a la RFC."

Due to the different grades of 4x4s, the competitive Special Stages (SS) had to be altered to enable everyone an opportunity to participate. This is after all, an inaugural event, a warming up for greater things to come. From the first day Prologue SS, a total of 8 driving obstacles were created by the RFC team. This was "show time," a chance for everyone to show off their skills in front of the general public and the media (print and electronic media which included CCTV 10, Phoenix TV, Yunnan TV & Hunnan TV).

To add further Malaysian flavour, two RFC seasoned teams flying Malaysian flags also turned up to show support. These comprised of Chong Yoke Sang (Malaysian) and Tan Kok Wai (Hong Kong) in Toyota Land Cruiser II SWB (Team 101) and Team 080 of Li Pak Sau (Hong Kong) and Gerhard Betrand (German) in a modified BJ 2020, both vehicles supped up as per RFC standard. Both teams were eye catchers and closely watched by both supporters and rivals.

The other eye-catcher team came from Lijiang. Now this is certainly no ordinary team indeed. Hor Yoke Lim @"Hawk without Wings," is palm-less on both hands. Being handicapped is no barrier to him to participate in an off-road event. He is partnered by his driver, Shu Shiyou, a RFC 2005 campaigner. Even though they did not reach the top 10th spot, but they did give the rest a run for their money with a hawk-like fighting spirit.

After the first day, the scores were quite evenly matched between the cross-country 4x4s and the off-road 4x4s; there were no winching exercises yet. The Malaysian teams came in at 3rd and 12th spots respectively. Second day saw dramatic winching battles at the lake (SS 10), which saw the Malaysian teams forging ahead with their superb winching with their PTOs. There were gasps of awe from the public at the speed in which Team 080 of Li Pak Sau and Gerhard shot up the riverbank with its PTO. It was clear to see that winching exercises were not "a cup of tea" to the Chinese off-roaders yet. But they learnt the lesson well. However, alas for the Malaysians, the SS had to be cancelled due to track worsening conditions with inexperienced teams and time constraint to get to campsite by the lake aka The Water Margin @ the Farm. SS 9 and 10 were carried out without much difficulty.

The third day of competition proved to be the best of them all with 3 SS being fought out in style. The most interesting was SS 14, a short winching down a slope and then winching across a fallen tree trunk to finishing box. The locals have never done a winching down exercise before. This SS took all day and into the night to complete as the off-roaders loved this one and did not mind working into the night. Even though it was a short SS, the DNF time was 25 mins, which means plenty of action to see. As it turned out, it was the best SS of the event.

The final day for competition for all teams saw 3 SS fought out in the day (SS 15, 16 & 17) and one at night (SS 18). The "Rock & Rock" SS just outside the town of Yong Ping was an unusual one across boulders and rocks. It looked impossible for most of the teams, but Team 101, by then, the leading contender, tackled it first and well within the DNF time of 25 mins. This gave the confidence to the rest to attempt it. Some of them suffered damages to the undercarriage as a result; however, their spirit for the event remained intact. The night SS was again something new to the locals, with some twists and turns around a rocky and undulating terrain with markers along the way. Some missed them along the way and paid the penalties (10 points each). The night navigation ended by 2am of 5 Oct. It was "game over" for all teams except the top ten.

These top ten contenders have one finale SS to do, that is to drive approximately 1.5 km along the river to finish at a bridge in Jing Gu town. This was a show SS but still counted into their scores for the overall champion awards. All of them did with gusto, some with too much power at the finishing box, but it ended well to give the town folks something to remember this inaugural event. Team 101 won the overall, with Yunnan Chen Long Motor Co (cross country teams) in close second while off-road teams from Xi Zhuan Ma Nak Motor Co (Yunnan) took third and fourth places. Team 080 finished at a credible 9th place even though they flipped sideway at the finale SS.

This event is a historic one indeed. It’s the first of its kind in China which further entrenched the RFC format as well as branding Malaysia as a top venue for a world class event. The Chinese teams too learnt the lessons well and are eager for more action the next time around. Putting the event together with Zhu Shaoyun of Kunming Xing Jiecan Culture Exchange Co has been a worthwhile effort with wide national media coverage. And, finally selected teams from this event will be making their way to Malaysia this end November. Leading the way is none other than "Hawk without Wings" himself. This will be an interesting year for the Chinese in RFC’s 10th anniversary (1 to 10 Dec) in Terengganu.

2007/11/13 | 11:07 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Luis J.A.Wee

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