KOTA KINABALU:The International Borneo Safari 4x4 Off-Road Challenge is set to go into higher gear as one of Sabah’s tourism products.
Aggressive marketing is being planned by the state’s tourism players to bring more international off-road en-thusiasts to join the safari in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.
This seems to be in the minds of the tourism promoters following the successful end to the 16th edition of the Borneo Safari on Nov 5.
Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Seri Tengku Zainal Adlin said that the popular Borneo Safari had lured many foreign participants in previous editions and hopes to bring in more international off-road enthusiasts during next year’s Visit Malaysia Year campaign
“Off-road challenges are fast gaining popularity and enthusiasts whether foreign or locals are taking up motor sport as their hobby,” he said, adding that Sabah offers one the world’s best off-road venues.
The Borneo Safari, long included in the calendar of events, is well known among foreign enthusiasts, he said in urging the organisers Kinabalu Four Wheel Drive Club (KFWDC) to take next year’s campaign seriously.
He also urged KFWDC to send invitations to foreign participants soon.
The STB has offered to air the recorded event on CDs worldwide as part of their marketing effort.
If Sabah can be the venue for Climb-athon in which world champions are crowned, Zainal said he saw no reason why the Borneo Safari could not be turned into a major international off-road event.
This year’s event between Oct 30 and Nov 5 attracted 180 off-road enthusiasts in 70 vehicles from Sabah, Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia.
The participants traversed the 55,000ha challenge in the Deramakot Forest Reserve in central Sabah.
The competitors used their skills to manoeuvre old undergrowth-covered logging tracks between giant trees and were forced to build bridges in several sectors where they spent three nights tackling the obstacles.
Overall champions were Wong Kok Phin and Ho Vui Khiong in their Toyota Land Cruiser BJ 43 with 366 points, proving that wins in the Rain Forest Challenge and Australian Outback Challenge were no fluke.
Second place went to Chung Horng Ru and Minion Kotidis (Ah Lun) from Papar with 364 points in their totally souped up Suzuki followed by Keningau’s Lee Chuin Ping and Jasmin Udin in their Nissan.
Special awards were given to five individuals and teams who contributed immensely through their good team spirit and qualities - the Best Team Spirit Award was given to Penampang Team. The other awards were the Jungle Man Award which went to co-driver Khoo Chai Koh from Keningau, the Environmental Award to hardcore and Chief Scout Voo Ken Yin, Foul up of the Year Award to Leong Chee Min (Kopi Leong) and Stephen Wong with the Vehicle of The Year Award (V-8, Land Rover 110).
Off-road driving skills and good teamwork gave champions Loo Fui Siong and Jabinus Suani the edge to emerge winners in the 15th edition of the International Borneo Safari 4X4 Chal-lenge.
Loo, from Perak and local boy Jabinus, teamed up to prove their mettle in the rough and tough tumble of Sabah’s off-road terrain to garner a total of 1,132 points to outshine 37 other local and foreign opponents in the eight-day safari across Sabah’s off-roads which took them through the foothills of Crocker Range, river crossings and the northern tip of Borneo before ending in Kota Kinabalu on Oct 30.
Driving a Toyota BJ 43, they proved their skills in good anticipation handling, navigation, teamwork, coordination and winching despite facing breakdowns and defeats at various Special Stages (SS).
The Perak-Sabah team picked up cash prizes totalling RM5,800 and RM26,000 worth of equipment including a full set of West Coast Suspension and Silverstone tyres for their effort.
Local competitors Yap Swee Siong, also known as Singa Lau, together with his partner Kok Tsin Yee came in a close second after accumulating 1,120 points in their Daihatsu Rocky petrol-powered vehicle.
Coming third with 1,054 points were defending champions Yong See Long and Pang Ket Vui in their souped up Daithatsu. The duo lost valuable points when they were unable to complete the tough SS stage.
In fourth place were James Catherinus and Khoo Chai Kho (1,005points) while in fifth place was Liew Fui Kong and Lee Chin Peng (997 points).
One of the four Japanese teams of Kenichi Onishi and Toshiyuki Takahasi were given the Best Team Spirit Award that was based on overall temperament, good team work, cooperation, patience, slow to anger and understanding each other.
The Jungle Man award went to local Le Yun Sung who worked well as the sweeper in the recovery team to ensure that everyone came out in “one piece” in any situation they were stuck in.
Liew Siak Kiong and David Tham of Kevlar Coporate Dynamic was awarded the 2005 Borneo Safari Foul of the Year Award while the fully-equipped Suzuki driven by Chung Horng Ru was judged the best car and Kuala Lumpur based writer Bob Teoh got himself the environmental award.
Prizes were given away by assistant Tourism, Culture and Environment Development Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Bujang who said the Borneo Safari has been successful in promoting Sabah as an adventure tourism destination.