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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.

Rainforest 2007: Large number of starters in Malaysia.

On the first of December 2007 the 10. edition of the Rainforest Challenge (RFC) - "the mother of all trophys" - will start in Malaysia. For this special edition the message will be "back to the root". The adjectives that the organizer Luis J.A. Wee has in mins for that are tougher, harder and more wet. Originally grown to live as a successor of the legendary Camel Trophy over the years the RFC became less extreme and today is a mixture of "manageable weekend trophy" and "extremely tough Camel Trophy". This year that special flavor is attracting more participants and nations that ever before.

The event traditionally starts with a prologue that is near to a well urbanized area and built to give a first impression to the participants what will be waiting for them during the next days. No jungle yet but stages constructed for spectacular press, city official and spectator action. Due to the high number of participants it can be assumed that the "filtering barrier" will be set on the prologue. A tough prologue normally means that only the most suitable cars and best drivers will make it into the jungle where the real challenge lies - also for the rally officials who try to reduce the risk of having badly prepared vehicles stuck deep in the jungle waiting to be rescued.

Not only the special stages in the jungle present a considerable challenge to the participants also the so called transport stages between the sections or not the weak ones. The transport stages will be not driven on time because the danger would be too high. Arriving at the next stage is the goal to be reached. From the outside you can only assume the dangers by accounting that this year at one point the participants will be given 3 days of time to pass just 15 km to the next stage.

Last year marathonrally.com reporters joined some of these stages. The only thing that can be taken for granted is that the next obstacle will always be somehow totally different from the last one most likely even more tough and dangerous. Steep hills on the left and deep descents on the right where 10 meters next to the muddy angled track you already have the treetops of 20m high trees on the same level as you are among the normal things. Suddenly appearing guts across the route often under present themselves as 50 cm wide and 2m deep rain washouts that have to be passed. The rivers that need to be crossed are fully untamed and often have water flows that alternate their level by more than a meter in a couple of hours depending upon the rainfall in some other part of the country.

Taking all this into account it can be understood that a big part of the rainforest means adjusting everything to the conditions of nature - the weather, rain and unforeseen events such as landslides or bridges that have been washed away just days or hours ago on tracks that have not been used for years. Adjusting everything in this case means a rally convoy with about 120 cars, camps, food, water and the event infrastructure and safety of several hundred people. So sometimes the official schedule is only a preliminary one which is a constraints understood and often even more anticipated by the participants in this event.

The determining factor for everything is the rain. Last year the RFC was held in the state of Kedah in the North West of Malaysia. In that year the rainfall had been modest to low, the rivers were shallow and the muddy areas were well defined. This year the situation looks different. The state of Terengganu is located in the middle of the zone where the North East monsoon hits the Malaysian mainland after charging itself up with tons of water over the sea. Several weeks of rain have flooded some parts of the state as we could already witness ourselves on the travel to the prologue camp. Some rivers on the track still have water levels of more that 1,5m on the track locations. Two years ago several teams and press cars vanished completely for three days after having tried to find workarounds on their own.

The word being whispered in almost every conversion at the evenings here is "1999" where the event took part in the same area of Malaysia under similar preconditions. In that year due to the conditions the whole convoy broke apart into several groups who just tried to get out of the jungle again. The last group managed to get out if the muddy green days after the price giving ceremony was held. About 7 cars ran out of fuel in the jungle and had to be rescued a month later when the rain got less. "In the last weeks the rain in this year was worse than 1999" one of the local guide states, "but you never know what is going to happen exactly. If the rains stops now everything might be OK - but also not."

Almost twice as many teams as last year are taking part in this year's anniversary edition of the RFC. "It would also have been very challenging for us to accept more teams" said Wee. The participants come from all over the world, three teams come from Denmark, from Poland and Italy there are two teams. Two further ones are from Australia, two from Lebanon, three from Sri Lanca, four from Indonesia, two from Argentina, two from China and four from Thailand. With one team each there is Austria, Germany, South-Korea and Hong Kong. The rest of the participants are locally from Malaysia.

Next to several "normal" trophy cars like Toyotas, Jeeps and Landrovers there are several extraordinary ones. Such as SsangYong Malaysia who is starting with a specially prepared "Aycton" SUV, from Australia there is a lovingly built Nissan Patrol.

Out of several new Landcruisers a team from Italy has constructed a "re-designed" Landcruiser BJ - combining the looks of the old one with latest technology. A new chassis was built and the entire hull is made out of GFK. The interior shines with hand made leather and a DVD system.

2007/12/01 | 05:47 CET | Editor: MR/HS/JS

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