THE Rainforest Challenge (RFC) in Malaysia once again served as the grand finale for the RFC Global Series, a worldwide off-road circuit spanning 22 nations with 45 events.
The 2018 edition was also the 23rd Rainforest Challenge (RFC) which took place for the first time in Kelantan, a state which faces the wrath of the monsoon annually.
For the first time, there were two overall champions: one in the Prototype category and the other in the Modified Production category.
The RFC Grand Final 2018 route took the participants in 150 vehicles from Kota Baru to Tumpat first, and then to Tanah Merah, Kuala Krai and into the deepest jungle of south Kelantan, ending the event in Gua Musang – for a total of 12 days (instead of the usual 10 days).
Due to the long off-road sections beyond reach of towns or villages, all race and support vehicles had the extra challenge of carrying enough fuel from day three to the end of the event.
The competition stages of the race were aptly named Predator, Terminator and Twilight Zone which reflected the progressive difficulty as the days progressed for the 300 participants from 30 nations, including Russia, Mongolia, China, South Korea, the United States, Poland, India, Ukraine and Ecuador.
For the race teams, the obstacles they had to overcome included navigating the endless steep downhills and uphills, crossing narrow log bridges, driving across swamps, maintaining control on treacherous slippery terrain and crossing the mighty rivers at Bering in the interior.
The transport stage this year was a long and arduous journey out of civilisation for eight out of the 12 days.
“The jungle terrain is unlike any that you have ever faced before,” said Rainforest Challenge and RFC Global Series founder and creator Luis J.A. Wee.
“Here, in only 2km of track, you will find numerous types of natural obstacles which would need hours to get through.
“Programmes and schedules are only guidelines once we start the ground operations. In the jungle, the tracks can change from easy to extreme hardcore within hours of heavy rain resulting in landslides, erosion and floods,” he said.
For all those who reached Pos Gob, it was an experience to touch base with the indigenous people from the deepest aborigines settlement in Kelantan.
The awards ceremony was held in the jungle for the first time in the history of RFC. That night was also a crowning glory for Team 104 (Russia) the three-time champion (Prototype) and for Team 117 (Malaysia) which was declared six-time champion (Modified Production).
Finally, the transport stage back into civilisation was made more difficult by the monsoon showers, lasting from 24 to 41 hours.
All in, it was another Rainforest Challenge to be remembered and powered by Petron, the fuel and engine oil partner of the event.