This year, the Force Gurkha Rain Forest Challenge came back to India with the promise that itÂ would be bigger, badder and tougher. However,Â this time, so did the competitors. They drove in with Mahindras and Gypsys, or what was left of them after they had cut out all the unnecessary bits. Most of them were raised by at least a foot or two and were fitted with coilover suspension kits. In the midst of these leviathans though, stood three miniscule twin cylinder Polaris RZRs (two RZR 800s and an RZR 1000).
The Prologue stages of the 2015 edition of the RFC, held in Goa, were flagged off at the Rajiv Gandhi IT Habitat in Dona Paula. This was a pretty large piece of barren land that had been turned into quite a perilous playground for these men to drive in. When the event started, the cars were split up into groups and each group was sent to one of six stages marked from SS-1 to SS-6. There were a total of 26 stages and the Twilight Zone this year and the Prologue LegÂ hosted 12 of them with each stage having a time limit of 10 minutes.
LikeÂ last year, the difficulty of the stages increased every day. SS-1 was a little tricky and Waraich and Tiwana of Gerrari Offroaders rolled their Mahindra half way through the stage. Other stages included building a makeshift bridge over a deep trench in SS-3, performing a tyre change on SS-4 and climbing a four foot vertical wall in SS-6. The Polaris ATVs faced many problems across most stages because of their small tyres and low ground clearance. Day one saw two teams from Gerrari Offroaders on top â€” Gurmeet Virdi and Kirpal Tung followed by the duo of Waraich and Tiwana.
Day 2 held the next six stages of the Prologue LegÂ and these were mostly variations of those held on the first day. There were deeper pits to drive into and steeper climbs to make it out the aforementioned pits. SS-10 was probably the most physically challenging. The team had to park their vehicle in a pit and then manually winch their heavy 4x4s out. SS-12 which was one of the tougher stages, saw many participants settling for a DNF to avoid the risk of damaging their vehicles. Day 2Â pushed Kabir down two places as the Malaysian teams of Force Motors settled into second and third place.
Day three saw a change in location. The Predator stages were held in a quiet mining town called Quepem in South Goa. These stages were longer, had tougher obstacles and had a time limit of twenty minutes. SS-13 to SS-15 were mostly dry stages with tight curves and steep slopes set in the quarries. The next three stages however involved the drivers powering through streams and slopes. SS-16 managed to break quite a few vehicles. Only a few teams managed this stage while most others ran out of time trying to do so. In these stages, the Malaysiansâ€™ experience started to set them apart from the rest of the participants. They were precise, methodical and quick on all stages and this pushed them right to the top by the end of the Predator round.
After camping out that night, we headed to the next location in Sanguem. These were the last six stages before the Twilight Zone. Five of these stages were very technical and required careful navigation through the course trenches and gorges. SS-20 though was a very quick one and the Polaris RZRs faced absolutely no problems on this stage. It was a two kilometre sprint on a dirt track that the teams had to finish in six minutes.
The drivers who finished their stages were left to rest on day five while the media members battled out it out in the media challenge. Each driver had to compete in a Polaris RZR 800, and had to complete two stages which were adopted from the stages that the competitors drove on. SS-1 of the media challenge was a fast one and was devised with the specific purpose of getting the media all muddy. SS-2 though, was more technical. It involved slaloming around a line of coconut trees with hardly any traction thanks to the deep slush that had formed around the trees. After a tight run OVERDRIVEÂ emerged victorious in the media challenge.
The next day was the Twilight Zone and after last yearâ€™s disappointing decision to turn around halfway through the stage, the teams were determined to finish it this time around. The convoy set out at 12 in the afternoon from Sattari in Morlem and made their way through the forest for five kilometres past various hurdles. In this stage, all the teams started working together and started helping each other out to make sure they got out safely. All of 16 vehicles that entered (including two Polaris RZRs), made it out safely by 8 pm, two hours ahead of the deadline.
The last two stages were an addition this year and were designed to be quick but technical and only the competitors that completed the Twilight Zone could participate in them. In the end though, Tan Eng Joo and his co-driver Tan Choon Hong emerged as the winners of the 2015 Force Gurkha Rainforest Challenge yet again.
- Tan Eng Joo/ Tan Choon Hong â€“ 2163 points, Force Motors
- Mervyn Lim/ Hamizan Bin Abdul Hamid â€“ 2095 points, Force Motors
- Kabir Waraich/ Yuvraj Tiwana â€“ 1941 points, Gerrari Offroaders