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By: Robert Janis

Rain Forest Challenge

An Off-Road Adventure of a Lifetime--The Rainforest Challenge

Those of you who are enthusiasts of the world of extreme off-road probably believe that the most rugged race for off-road vehicles are the desert events produced by SCORE INTERNATIONAL and Best In The Desert. You may think so, but you’d be wrong. Perhaps the most severe extreme off-road race there is, that not only challenges your skills as a racer but your ability to overcome the unexpected, the Rainforest Challenge.

Started about 10 years ago, the main event takes place at the end of every year during the Monsoon (or rainy) season and has been created to “test man and machine to the ultimate and beyond,” explained Luis J. A. Wee, founder of the event.

The Rainforest Challenge consists of a number of events that take place in rainforests around the world and teams can use these events to qualify for the 10 day “Mother Event” which takes place in Malaysia each year in December. A team need not have qualified in one of the smaller events to actually participate in the “Mother Event” as long as they can prove they have well prepared vehicles as well as the finances to attend. There is no age limit, but all racers must be medically fit and have a license to drive their machine in their country of residence. Potential racers can also petition the Rainforest Challenge to participate, and their request will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Teams are defined as two persons who ride one vehicle. Vehicles are predominantly 4 x 4, but quads, off-road motorbikes, and other off-road vehicles like 6 x 6s can also compete. Standard ATVs with off-road capabilities are also allowed, but they must be equipped with electric winches. Factory teams are allowed to participate. In 2007, Ssyangyong Motors was the first manufacturer to enter a team in the competition. About 30 to 60 teams compete in the “Mother Event.”

According to Wee, the event format is to test the driving and co-driving skills and ability to overcome various obstacles to the maximum along nearly 800 kms of logging tracks during the rainy season. Racers are required to overcome muddy stretches, slippery uphill and downhill descents, crossing rain swollen and fast flowing rivers, landslides and deep ruts.

The “Mother Event” is broken up into stages and the route chosen is different every year. The trails, however, follow existing or disused logging trails that are usually no wider than the vehicles that race through. The course is laid out by officials of the Rainforest Challenge and divided into special stages for competition sections and overall transport stages to get from one place to another. The Challenge producers work closely with the Malaysian government in choosing a site for the “Mother Event.” They also assist them in getting the necessary permits, documents, and air and ground support.

The first days of the “Mother Event” is taken up by Prologue Special Stages that are held on a site near to the closest flag off town and is often frequented by spectators. It is here that sponsors of the event have their booths (or tents) and spectators are allowed. After these stages are complete, the racers move on to a jungle campsite which serves as the jump off spot to more special stages and adventures in the jungle.

The Rainforest Challenge does not have a training program or special classes to prepare racers for what they will encounter in the rainforest during an event. Instead, said Wee, “racers must learn about the event using their own initiatives and get previous videos of the RFC (Rainforest Challenge) and they can write to us to inquire about conditions and talk to our representatives to get a first-hand grasp of the situation.”

Should a racer get hurt during the contest, the RFC has medical teams that follow the event. “They will stabilize the patient first, and then we shall bring him/her out of the jungle using various modes of transportation including helicopter,” said Wee. “We also have radio communications with the Malaysian Army, fire and rescue personnel, and jungle police who assist us.”

The races are not free-for-alls. There are rules that must be followed. These rules can be obtained from the Rainforest Challenge website (http://www.rainforest-challenge.com).  All teams have their own support crews and vehicles which follow them into the jungle. The crew members and vehicles must be registered with the event producers. Also, along the course there are areas designated for re-fueling.

The entry fee for each team is $2,000 (USD) which pays for the right to participate in the race as well as two pre-event and two post-event hotel nights. Airfare to and from the event as well as other expenses must be paid by the participant.

For now, the “Mother Event” in Malaysia is the grand finale of the Challenge. However, Wee said that the RFC “is always on the lookout for more sites and venues as well as sponsors who wish to be a part of the event. We are also looking for cooperative governments who can make use of the RFC as a tourism and publicity platform.”
The last “Mother Event” had teams from 32 countries represented including Australia, Sri Lanka, Poland, Italy, Denmark, Austria, Indonesia, China, Korea, Lebanon, Germany, and Malaysia.

There are 30 representatives of the RFC in 30 countries: China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, Russia, Holland/Belgium, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, France, Uruguay, United States, South Africa, and Portugal.

If you wish to participate, you can contact the representative in your country or visit the Rainforest Challenge website at: www.rainforest-challenge.com.


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