The RFC or Rainforest Challenge has 25 editions across the world. Only 25 teams can take part in the Indian editions, so all of you out there interested in participating better hurry up and go register. Two out of the 25 slots have already been taken by the winning team from the North and South Indian chapters. Registration per team (driver = navigator) will cost you Rs 75,000.
Participants will be tested over four legs on stages with awesomely cool names like The Prologue, The Predator, The Terminator and The Twilight Zone. These stages are further split into another 20 gruelling special stages (SS) that will count for 100 points each.
Points are scored on successful completion of tasks. But they are hard to come by as there are penalties for various reasons like making mistakes, not starting or finishing a task, breaking rules as well as destruction of the environment! So get off that couch and go register here.
This year, RFC is slated to start along side the inaugural edition of the India 4x4 Week. Many manufacturers, including Land Rover and Isuzu have set up experience zones for all to experience their new line-up of vehicles. Here is the schedule for this mud madness, all set to kick off on Monday. If you happen to be in Goa during this time, make sure to come and see the action. And do carry a change of clothes.
Heres some footage from last year. Looking at it, I know why it is one of the toughest races in the world.
The video below is an introduction by one of the participants for RFC 2016
I have had the great opportunity of attending this event and man, these guys have have a special zeal in them which drives them to do these incredibly crazy maneuvers and navigate through the stages. Every Stage has 6 special stages and each of them is more challenging than the other. Some of the stages are so brutal that some cars don't even make it to the finish line. Here's what happened on the first day. Prologue Stage The first day of the main event was held at Quepem (pronounced QE-PE) in South Goa. Its a good 2-hour drive from the International Centre, Dona Paula. The venue has some great views and challenging terrain - rocks, river, some ruins of an old building, along with some steep inclines.
There was a HUGE crowd at the event venue, even though this is not an activity which does not have a clear vantage point. The 6 stages were all set up with a 2 km. sq. radius and it was quite a walk to go from one stage to the other. But that did not stop them from running across the whole place to witness the action.
A good view to the valley. The entire river visible here has been divided into two special stages
The most important aspect of RFC is the communication between the Driver and the Navigator. The latter is never in the car and his primary job is to clear the path ahead, winch the car out of tricky scenarios as well as guide the driver on the best line to take through the obstacles
Car no. 107 in action
You can see the navigator getting the tow hooks and strap to pull this Gypsy over the stone.
Slush Fest! This is after all the competitors had made their way through this 4 foot deep river and slush
Car no. 110 going through the muck
Such events can be brutal on the machine. Car no 124 had a gearbox malfunction due to which it had to be towed to a safe spot where the support mechanics jumped on (and under) the car to be able to fix it before the next stage.
Such is the skill and determination of the competitors that the entire gearbox was switched out in a matter of 20 minutes. Commendable!
The picture below is from SS 17. One of the toughest stages in the Predator run. Seen below is the JONGA prepared by Team MARS trying to climb the almost-vertical incline.
The Thar pictured below (Car no 126) has been my personal favorite. Under the hood of that Mahindra is a fire breathing 5.3 Liter V8. It is making close to 400 NM of torque and 300+ HP. Madness!! Complete build-thread coming soon.
Looks like a lot of fun CorsaVeloce. Some of those machines look really mean. From the photos, it seems the stages look easy but I'm sure they are super tough to cross without damaging the vehicles. Looking forward to the build thread on that insane looking Thar. Also, if you can spot any Jeep FCs around, please do share their pictures. I've been a big fan of the Jeep FC since I was kid. Always wanted to see one in action. The only FC I've seen so far is one rotting in a lane next to my house in Trivandrum. I don't think it is there anymore
Not many videos being pushed out yet on RFC 2016. I saw a few on 4x4 India Facebook page. Just putting in a couple more I found from RFC 2016. CorsaVeloce, if you have any, do upload them to your youtube a/c. Check out Competitor 124 in action (before gearbox fail?):
And here's No.125 having a go:
And a longish video of the run of Competitor 129 (Thar):
Some more photos of the action from July 25 at Goa. These RFC vehicles are built with a purpose. They would have started life as a humble Gypsy, Thar, CJ3B or Force Gurkha, but once they have been kitted out and souped up for the RainForest Challenge - there's very little of the original left in them, except for the body shell and some mechanicals. Suspension and engine is usually completely custom built and modified. And of course, you have to have a complete roll cage and safety equipment that can take a beating. Yet, it's all about skill. If you aren't careful, this can happen:
No worries though, as this duo was up and about in a jiffy. Just a slightly battered Gypsy. That should buff right out :-)
The Force Gurkha is a force to reckon with. Thoroughly purpose built for water wading.
For slushy climbs.
For the rocks
No wonder Force has challenged all the others to this RainForest Challenge.
But the others were more than up to the task, like Jagat Nanjappa (V5 Offroaders, Coorg) in his good old CJ3B.
This CJ3B from Gerrari Offroaders.
This Gypsy from Hyderabad.
And these Gerrari boys just bulldozing their way through the jungle.
As well as Bijender and Gajender from Team NIOC, who have been doing pretty well.
One of the biggest risks at the RFC is not to the participants themselves, but to the spectators. Crowd control looks very poor. Just check out the imminent danger in the photograph below. That winch cable is under full load. If it snaps, it will ricochet with such force that it will take out one or two of those spectators - they may even wind up dead. This sort of thing has happened in the past, and it is very, very important to stay clear of the cable's radius when towing or winching. I hope nothing serious happens at RFC 2016.
26th June The venue for the Terminator stage was the same as the one for Predator - An old quarry. Each leg has six special stages and as the days went by, stages became tougher and tougher.
The Terminator special stages were a mix of water crossings, uphill climbs, rock crawling and straight up wrenching challenges.
As the day started, Gurmeet Virdi was leading over the two Malaysian teams driving for the Force factory team, followed by Kabir Waraich and Gagan in fourth. That's Gurmeet:
That's Merwyn of the Force Team:
The way these Gurkhas have been prepared, they are able to tackle any obstacle and challenge thrown at them with ease.
Machines built for this event were varied - between a near stock Gypsy running a 1.3 liter stock engine to a Mahindra Thar (actually MM540) sporting a big block HEMI V8. The Monster V8 powered Thar / MM540:
The Gypsy built by NIOC (Northern India OffRoad Club) was doing really well until the SS 22. It was a gruesome stage and involved 3 winch points along with crossing a lake which was almost 3 feet in depth! It managed to go in very well, but unfortunately stalled while exiting the stage. A good run nonetheless.
Some interesting videos from the challenging stages : Here are two short clips of everyone's favorite vehicle from the RFC - It's a Mahindra body, fitted with a Big Block 5.4 liter HEMI V8 engine. The owner, Mr. Vivek and his brother Mr. Ashok, have spent the last 5 years building this monster. Some say that it may not be the perfect vehicle for RFC, it surely was the most special. It is a testament of the passion and will that some people have to build these machines.
Another great performing team at the RFC 2016 was Team Fairmount from Mumbai. They had a full service team and were running three cars through the grueling 7 days. Harkeerat Sahi drove quite well in the Predator and Terminator zones.
Last year's top driver, Kabir Waraich, drove for Team Force this time and took some time to get used to the car. The first 2 days he was building a bond with the car and the rest of the 5 days he nailed it. Here is a glimpse of him cruising through one of the toughest special stages
The Malaysian teams were the most competitive of all. They have been doing this for the last 15 years!! These are the guys who through the last two years have helped bring up in the Indian drivers to the global competitive level. Here is Merwyn and his co-driver navigating through the Twilight zone, which essentially was a Teak Forest Conservatory. What a location!!
27th June This was an off day for all of the competitors and was slots were reserved for the Media Challenge. This challenge was for all the media personnel covering the event. Polaris was kind enough to provide for 2 Polaris RZR S 800s to be used.
The man himself, Mr. David Metcalfe, had designed the 2 small stages. They were less extreme versions of what the main competitor cars were being put through. They had river crossings coupled with some uphill climbs and down-stream driving.
In the SS1, the wipers of the Polaris were not working. This was a major disadvantage to all competing the category as driving through the stream resulted in lots of water flying everywhere and you had to slow down as the view ahead would get completely blocked.
This also happened to be the stage where I managed to get some air and realised that "Flat Out" is not a good option at all times
In the Special Stage 2, the car performed really well and I managed to put in a great time as well! (Unfortunately, the GoPro I had mounted became a bit too loose and ended up capturing some bad footage. Will put it up soon regardless).
After a week of fun in the muck, it was time for the results. Every day, there was a great contest being put up by the top four competitors. It was the battle of the Gerrari boys with the Malaysians. Merwyn and co-driver Hamizan were giving a tough fight to Virdi and Tung for the top honors, while Kabir and Gagan were in a battle with Tan & Tan. Here is the final overall result sheet
And then there were category wise winner as well :
A big congratulations to Mr. Virdi and Mr. Tung for grabbing top honors. Well done guys!
Just FYI - the duo from Gerrari Off Roaders, Chandigarh became the first Indians ever to gain top honors at this mega event!! Once again, well deserved. This is a testament of the sheer driving skills these guys have. Remarkable.
The celebrations were loud! (Volume warning!)
The 1st runners up were Merwyn and Hamizan. They have been displaying brilliant technique and determination right from the beginning of the first season of RFC. Cheers to these guys and their spirit!
Tan and Tan have also been coming to RFC India for three years now. They have also grabbed top honors in the past and have a combined off roading experience of over 20 years.