Even before their feet could reach the pedals, brothers Satren and Kevan de Silva were taught the basics of handling a 4WD vehicle by their father, learning about winching and technical driving along the way.
Their father, mechanic Rate de Silva, runs a Land Rover workshop in Kampung Subang, Selangor, which prepares vehicles for jungle expeditions, competitions and daily use.
The boys would help out whenever they can in the workshop.
“Since they were very young, I have taken them on off-road adventures and camping, ” said Rate, 48, who is also president of the Land Rover Owners Club, which has 150 members.
From Kuang, Selangor, the family of four – mum Alyna Tai is also a 4x4 enthusiast – would also go on month-long trips to Thailand, where they would visit national parks and camp along the way. Earlier this year, the siblings made their father proud by emerging as champions in the Rainforest Trophy (RFT) 2019, a 4x4 off-roading adventure tourism event.
They were among eight teams who took part in the annual event, which is in its third edition.
Competitors are judged based on elements like driving skill, team tasks and the spirit of camaraderie.
It was the brothers’ first foray into off-roading competitions and their first victory.
Mind over matter
The boys took turns driving a 1995 Land Rover from Kuala Chini in Pekan to Felda Selancar in Pahang in the 10-day gruelling event.
They braved through the rough terrain and at times, had to help others out when vehicles got stuck in the mud and build “bridges” for crossing.
“During rainy days, the tracks were muddy and it was rather challenging driving at night and trying to reach the campsite, ” related Kevan, 19.
Said 22-year-old Satren: “The off-roading event is about mindset as it is not about who reaches the finishing line first but about teamwork and the spirit of camaraderie.”
Rate also took part in the event as a co-driver. His team won the award for best equipped vehicle.
Happy about his sons’ victory, Rate cheerfully remarked, “We’re old and can’t fight with the young!”
He was pleasantly surprised by the boys’ win “because there were so many veteran and professional 4x4 drivers”.
Rate also thought the Land Rover was somewhat “a disadvantage” as it is a huge and long vehicle compared to other contenders’ better vehicles.
Rainforest Trophy expedition director Thomas Foo said the boys won on skills and commended their strong sense of team spirit as well.
“The boys’ victory was a wholesome one. Some 40% of the score comes from participants themselves, who vote for best team spirit, camaraderie and (effort in) helping others.
“The boys also reached the finish line first, ” said Foo, adding that participants came from Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, China and Hong Kong.
In the past, the brothers have each gone on long trips of up to three months with their father separately.
Satren, whose other hobbies include hiking, camping and fishing, even took a break from his studies to join Rate for the Trans Mongolia expedition held from Aug 21 to Oct 24.
A decade ago, he went with his father for the Trans Amazon trip and in 2016, took part in Road to India, spending two months travelling in 4x4 vehicles and camping along the way from North-East India to South India.
“It’s good for young people to be involved in off-roading events to expose them to outdoor adventures, ” said Satren, who is pursuing a degree in automotive technology at Infrastructure University Kuala Lumpur in Kajang.
Kevan, who enjoys hiking, has had his share of big adventures with Rate as well.
In 2011, he went with him on Trans Africa, a three-month off-roading trip.
Although he loves driving a 4x4, Kevan’s dream is to be a pilot someday, “probably flying commercial or private aircrafts”. He began his two-and-a-half year diploma in aircraft engineering course in Nilai University in October.
Whatever careers they pursue in the future, the siblings will always share their love for 4x4 adventures with their father.
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