Conditions could hardly have been worse (or should that be better?) for the Grand Final of the latest Rain Forest Challenge in Malaysia late last year.
Simply put, the story of the Grand Final was that of a brutal struggle for 24 hours, with non-stop winching from day into night, twists and turns in extreme soggy terrain, sucking man and machine like quicksand only to be followed by punishing uphill upon uphill with 70 degrees gradient. Be prepared for “anything goes” is how RFC founder Luis J. A. Wee said at the briefing both in Da: Men mall in Kuala Lumpur ( 23 Nov) and at Swiss Garden hotel ( 24 Nov) and he was not kidding. Even before the event started, scrutineering at the Da: Men mall was interrupted by heavy showers and thunderstorms, the harbinger of the annual monsoon season.
Kuala Lumpur start
There was a brief ‘ lull before the storm’ for the official start at Lake Titiwanga in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. But the rains soon came to test the multinational field made up of nationals from Russia, Colombia, Ecuador, China, the Philippines, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Poland, India, Vietnam, Georgia, Belarus, Italy, Bulgaria, Czech Rep, Thailand, Indonesia and host nation Malaysia. In fact, from Kuala Lumpur to Swiss Garden hotel, Kuantan, continuous thunderstorms and heavy to light intermittent showers were a constant for the next few days...
Dramatic Start to Prologue
The eight Special Stages ( SS) at the Prologue blasted off, the wet conditions adding to the level of difficulty and resulting in some dramatic flips and overturns. However, neither the rains nor ground conditions hampered the fighting spirit of the 40 race teams entered. In the 10- day event like the RFC with many SS along the way, anything can happen to upset the overall standings. Thus, for everyone, it was fast, furious and taking as many points as possible as early as possible.
From 40 to 30
The relentless rain and tough conditions took their toll with 10 of the original teams out early on, some due to wear and tear, others with mechanical failure. However, for the top five, they still maintained their lead over the rest. Team 119 and 104 were neck to neck in the race to claim the crown.
Entry to the Twilight Zone
By the night of 30 Nov, the remaining teams were regrouped at Selancar Dua, in the district of Rompin and the entry to the famed Twilight Zone ( TZ) was delayed so everyone could catch up and also due to the heavy downpours. Well- named and definitely not for the faint- hearted, the TZ was the ultimate sector of RFC 2017 where teamwork meant everything if you wanted to score 200 points.
Each group had its own stories of high adventure to tell as they got out of the TZ. In fact the last group of sweeper crew and event HQ officials did not reach the closing ceremony of 4 Dec night at all. That was one third of the convoy!
Top Five Rules
Top Five comprising of teams 119, 104, 117, 107 and 105 maintained their grip for top guns of RFC 2017 in the 26 SS and the TZ. For the rest of the 19 teams which completed the race, it was an extraordinary feat to finish this toughest ever RFC with the toughest Twilight Zone ever!
Accolades to RFC Crew
The roll of honours also goes to the unsung heroes of RFC crew from various divisions running the Nov/ Dec 2017 event. “They gave their hearts and souls for the making of this year’s RFC, come rain or high water, mud including a very tough TZ,” said Thomas Foo, the Event Director.