The fourth edition of the Force Gurkha Rainforest Challenge (RFC) India, to be held in Goa from 22nd July to 30th July 2017, has witnessed a record 40 entries. This includes 8 entries from Hyderabad, 7 from Kerala, 4 teams from Mumbai, 7 from Karnataka including 4 entries from Bangalore, 3 teams each from Goa, Delhi and Chandigarh, 2 from Pune, 2 from Tamil Nadu and 1 entry from Yamunanagar.
As per Ashish Gupta, Director, Cougar Motorsport Pvt. Ltd., the company that has the India franchise rights for RFC, “We opened registrations on 1st February through an announcement on our Social Media pages and received two third of the entries within 9 hours. This overwhelming response is quite heartening as it means that our hard work over the last three years has paid off and Force Gurkha RFC India is now a well-respected and coveted competition in the Indian off-roading community. Since it is an extremely tough competition and has to be completed in the stipulated time period, there is only a certain number of entries that we can accept. Hence, when we had reached the 40 mark in a couple of days, we decided to close registrations and requested others to wait till the next edition.”
Pune-based Force Motors Ltd, which was the title sponsor of the event for its first three editions, has retained the title sponsorship for the 2017 edition as well.
In a surprise move, Mumbai-based Fairmont Group has signed veteran Malaysian driver Mervyn Lim, who was the first runner-up in all the previous editions of Force Gurkha RFC India, to drive for them in RFC India 2017. In the earlier editions, Lim represented Force Motors Ltd. Team Fairmont, which has 4 entries in the competition this year, will also feature a US driver who will be driving an Iron Scorpion HMV, a vehicle that has replaced the Hummer in the US Army. The third vehicle for this team will be manned by the Group’s Director Sameer Chunawala, who will be competing in Force Gurkha RFC India for the third consecutive year. According to 35-year old Sameer, “RFC India is the most awaited offroading event in our country and every hardcore off-roader wants to compete in it. However, I have realised over the years that our vehicle potential and driving skills are nowhere near international offroaders. Now that Mervyn is a part of our team, I intend to learn the finer details of offroading from him. This year, my aim is to successfully complete all the Special Stages and come in the top 5.”
While the entries for this year include several Force Gurkha RFC India veterans, there are also quite a few newcomers. 36-year old R Sumanth Shenoy from Chikmagalur town of Karnataka, who has been offroading since he was in 8th standard, says that this entry is a dream-come-true for him. “RFC is the crown of motorsport in India and I have wanted to participate in it right from the first edition. While business commitments prevented me from participating in the first two editions, I couldn’t compete last year as my vehicle was not ready. Now, my Mahindra Jeep is completely modified and I am looking forward to my maiden attempt at RFC India. I have even given the name ‘Mud Bull’ to my vehicle as it looks like a monster beast!”
Another new entrant to the competition, Dattaraj Desai from Goa has been religiously following Force Gurkha RFC India since the first edition. He says, “I used to travel to all the locations and watch the competitors performing in the Special Stages. Then, after the event got over, I would go to the same locations and practice on those tracks. It has taken me over two years to prepare my vehicle but now I am fully ready. I recently competed in my first off-road competition in Pune and came fourth in the diesel category. In fact, I was better in some stages than some seasoned off-roaders. Hence, I am quite confident about my capabilities and will be entering RFC India 2017 with an intention to win.”
While the competitors are gearing up to challenge each other, the event organisers are also planning to surprise them with some changes in order to make the competition tougher. “This year, the event will have a changed format for the Special Stages, with a variation in the running order and sequence of the SS. We also plan to have some part of the competition at new sites and will shortly start the recce process for the same.” Ashish Gupta said.
He added, “We are also increasing the stakes this year as the total benefits that the top Indian driver of the competition will get will amount to $8,000. This includes the automatic fully paid for entry in the RFC 2017 Grand Final in Malaysia that is worth $3,900 and the travel expenses amounting to around $1,100. Additionally, this year Cougar Motorsport will contribute up to $3,000 towards the cost of arranging the competition vehicle for the Mother Event in Malaysia.”