|Rainforest Challenge: RFC´s Taprobana 4x4 Challenge Sri Lanka unleashed.|
The recently concluded Taprobana 4x4 Challenge 2011 (T4X4C) which comes under the global RFC series for the first time this year; saw an invasion of foreign competitors, including foreign media, spectators and marshals to the country. The event was held in Sri Lanka from 8th to 14th October attracting international 4x4 communities to witness the showdown of well prepared man and off-road machines.
Malaysian RFC Champion Team Loo Foo Siong & Edward Benggon, the only Malaysians who have won both The Rainforest Challenge (RFC) and the Borneo Safari was the team to watch from the very first day. Siong/Benggon had no problem finishing at the top. Their driving style was a treat to watch where they also bagged the special Camaraderie Award, dedicated towards their assistance extended to many local competitors in sorting out mechanical issues in the thick jungles of Monaragala.
The 8 other foreign entries from Australia, Austria and Malaysia came well equipped and prepared for 4x4 battle which saw them sweeping the top slots without any issues during the Prologue Special Stages (SS) on 8th Oct. However, as the competition progressed over the six days, it was evident that the Lankan spirit with less equipment on their 4x4’s could not be beaten so easily.
Siblings Jasilan and Kasilan Saleh from Sabah, East Malaysia finished second overall. The humble brothers took on the challenge with good pace, winching their way through in a Toyota Land Cruiser LJ 70 with minimum modifications compared to the rest of the foreign 4x4’s.
This machine was running a four Cylinder - 5L engine common to most Toyota "Dolphin" vans on our roads. Then one would expect the rest of the placing to go to the Supra Engine powered Toyota’s, but it was not the case where the dominant Sri Lankans, Team 106 Suresh Chathuranga & Raveendra Sanjeewa emerging third overall, Team 107, Raveendra Rathnasiri & Harsha Kumara fourth overall and our Sri Lankan 4x4 Champion Team 105 Indika Sanjaya & Naveen Marapana finishing sixth overall.
These local teams including Osanda Maligaspe Team 102 have had previous international exposure that proved to be formidable opponents in our local terrain. Team 150, Sihara Thilina & Thusitha Sri Kumar, a relatively new comer to the sport proved that local knowledge was good enough to go up against the giants finishing fifth overall. This year’s RFC T4X4C has sent a message internationally that the Lankan terrains are one of the most challenging and quite technical to overcome.
The Prologue SS, held at a rock quarry in Korothota, Kaduwela, was a surprising thriller for both local and foreign competitors. The venue was excellent for sponsors branding, the SS varied and technical and the spectator crowds simply overwhelming. So technical and hard were SS that out of 30 entries recorded, only 22 survived the Prologue and were able to make it to the Jungle Stage.
The first leg of the Jungle Stage at Radhana Wewa - Monagragala saw another four vehicles exiting due to technical failures which couldn’t be fixed without external assistance. The 4x4s that were not prepared well and more importantly, the teams who did not preserve the vehicles found themselves exiting the event at early stages.
The mentally and the physically strong teams moved on deeper in to the Jungle Stage. A unique feature of the T4x4C is that once the teams have committed to the Jungle Stages, they are not allowed any back up assistance. They could only assist or receive assistance from fellow competitors, encouraging the camaraderie spirit regardless of the team being represented. The event also brings about different teams with their own unique personalities.
Many came to compete while some joined the competitors to explore the adventure side of it and test their capabilities. Father and son combination, Captain Themiya Abeyawickrama with his son Pansilu put on a display of how to maneuver and survive a tough event of this sort with a 1.8 Lire Maruti Gypsy, having a great time getting through obstacles that was normally troubling the big guns.
This year’s event proved that it was the men behind the wheels and not so much the machines when it came to scoring as the Special Stages (SSs) were set up for technical driving skills and it was frustrating for the ones who are used to high horsepower and a heavy right foot.
The event had everything the organisers hoped for, everyone who drove in to the jungle to drive out and a long awaited rain that finally broke out on the last day of the Jungle stage at Moneragala. The foreign Teams were amazed with the Lankan jungles and the picturesque campsites and confirmed their participation for next year’s event too.
A colourful awards ceremony was organised by the Four Wheel Drive Club (FWDC) - Sri Lanka at The Mount Lavinia Hotel on14th of October which was attended by all the International & local competitors, foreign & local media, sponsors and invitees.
A final word from RFC Chief, Luis J.A.Wee: "When I was here in 2009, I said Sri Lanka has the potential to join the global 4x4 circuit. Today in 2011, this is now a reality. A special appreciation must be made to the FWDC Event Director Sean Hameed and his dedicated committee for organising such a spectacular event showcasing Sri Lanka’s hospitality, diversity, authenticity as well as the country’s great outdoors. Collectively, everyone, from participants to officials, media to sponsors - you have made it for Sri Lanka."
2011/10/21 | 00:06 CET | ARTICLE: MR/SY/WEE