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THE RUSSIAN BEAR DEFEATED THE MALAYAN TIGER

| 01/01/2013 | 1 Comment

This year`s RFC proved again that nothing is impossible, everything is just a matter of determination and decisiveness. This anniversary event in Malacca was worthy of the reputation of previous RFCs and will further strengthen its legend!

Photos by Paolo Baraldi

RFC2012_1sWith a history dating back 750 years, Malacca is one of the earliest Malay sultanates, today the third smallest Malaysian state. The former fishing village is now the center of the region, with its historical city centre listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. Due to its strategic location, Malacca was an important trading port for the Chinese commercial fleet during the Ming Dynasty, so much, that one of the Chinese ruler`s daughters was married to the Sultan of Malacca, to enhance relations.

RFC2012_2sAfter the Chinese the Portuguese came it in 1511 who were expelled by the Dutch in 1641. Malacca was ceded to the British in 1824 in exchange for Bencoolen on Sumatra. Between 1941 and 1945 the Japanese army occupied Malacca. After WWII the British briefly re-established their control. In 1948 the Malayan Union was restructured as the Federation of Malaya and achieved its independence in 1957 and became the member of the Commonwealth of Nations. In 2012 Malacca was invaded by international troops, surrogates of 21 nations arrived with strange battle machines to conquer the surrounding forests and mountains.

RFC2012_3sVeterans with several decades of experience were among the teams, such as the Polish couple Janaszkiewicz, as well as newcomers who registered for the event for the first time. From neighbouring Brunei a father-and- two sons family team were among the first-timers. The team coming from the furthest, from Venezuela belonged also to the rookies. The Team Azimut crew was inexperienced in jungle fighting only because they have several podium finishes under their belt: at the Australian Outback Challenge or Cliffhanger event and finished in the top position in the T1.2 category at Dakar 2012.

RFC2012_16sThis versatile team boasted with the best-built car and received a special award for this feat. As usual, there was also an all-ladies team, the modified Vitara was piloted by Narimah Samat `Nurin`, one of the winners of the Malaysian TV3`s Explorace adventure-reality show, her co-driver was Norhayati Jamaluddin `Yati` who was winching already at the 2010 RFC. The most outstanding rookie team, Roman Kulbak and Alexander Leonov came from the Russian Far-East. They demonstrated already at the Prologue that they are a force to be reckoned with.

RFC2012_10sThus last year`s champion Mervyn Lim won two out of the six prologue SS, once he finished second, but was unable to complete SS6, whereas the newcomer Russian team finshed among the top 5 in all 6 SS just as Valery Lyubarenko and Alexey Konstantinovich, the other team from Vladivostok. So it came as quite a surprise that at the end of the day the two Russian Suzukis took the lead with 507 resp. 506 points. The Venezuelan participants showed great promise by finishing once in the first and twice in the second position at the Prologue stages on the beach, however their big Toyota later proved to be unsuitable for the incredibly tight jungle tracks.

RFC2012_4sThe location certainly had a few big surprises in store for the 24 teams, very few of whom expected that the country`s third smallest state with no really high mountains or vast jungles would pose a serious challenge for them. As a matter of fact, at the 15th anniversary edition of the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge dubbed as one of the world`s best known legendary offroad competition the contenders were challenged with one of the toughtest Twilight Zone sections in the history of the series.

RFC2012_5sThe best teams managed to get through the scarcely 12km long section in 36 hours, the last of the teams emerged only after a staggering 48 hours from the jungle. From a total of 19 vehicles (12 competitors, and rest were scouts, support teams, medics and officials) 2 cars had to be left in the jungle due to technical reasons, a well-equipped and skilled team returned two days later to the jungle for their rescue. And all this occured during a rain-free days! Just imagine how this adventure would have ended if the usual monsoon downpours would have made the competitors job more difficult.

RFC2012_9sThe truth is that most teams took this section quite light-heartedly, as it did not seem very demanding at the first glance. They hoped to reach the designated campsite 3 by evening, so supplies of food, water and spare parts ran out quickly. After 24 hours volunteers had to carry in supplies afoot to teams who got stuck in the jungle. Narrow trails and steep climbs meant the main difficulties in this year`s TZ.

RFC2012_15sThe newcomer Bruneian team competing with a Range Rover and accompanied by a Toyota Hilux support car were forced to exit from the rainforest after few hours, just as team Venezuela competing with the largest car had to turn back after completing just one third of the TZ. The sky above was blocked out by tree canopies and after working for hours in the humid and sweltering heat the contenders became so tired that they did not know whether it was day or night.

RFC2012_12sA total of twelve precipitous and countless less steep ascends and descends had to be conquered, some nearly 70 degrees, winching the cars hundreds of times, it was expedient to strap the cars as deep ravines at both sides of the trail were waiting for the unwary offroaders. Fortunately the weather was kind to the adventurers and rain did not make their task more difficult, neither did the usual mosquito and leech squads bother the teams.

RFC2012_14sThe unexpected difficulties did not bear upon the final results of the TZ, the 200 points awarded for getting through this section was annulled which led to some controversy and unsportmanlike conduct. The main reason was that the 200 points could have been awarded only if every vehicle belonging to the group of 4 cars completed the stage. However Team Venezuela turned back voluntarily and this meant also for Team Russia – the final winners – that they lost their chance to earn points, thus they fought their way through 12km hell.

RFC2012_7sAfter examining all circumstances, the race committee decided that none of the teams would be awarded points for completing the TZ, as no one complied fully with the rules. Some teams tried to shorten the stage, some left their members behind, broke the convoy order, or support crew members drove the team`s car through the most difficult parts of the stage.

RFC2012_6sAfter 10 days and 30 special stages tackling different natural terrain obstacles a difference of mere 53 points decided the overall winner. With 3000 points available by completing all 30 SS, the rookie team from Vladivostok Roman Kulbak and Alexey Konstantinovich chalked up 2673 points, while last year`s winner Mervyn Lim from Malacca having home-field advantage, attained 2620 points. The defending champion won 11 SS, gathering the maximum 100 points, while the Russians proved to be the fastest at 5 SS.

RFC2012_11sBut the local star, whose photo appeared on all billboards and posters promoting the event, was unable to finish 2 SS and attained only 20 points each, while Kulbak completed every SS and was constantly in the Top 5, with the exception of SS23 where he and his Suzuki performed a regular backflip when he tried to bounce straight over a steep ascend without using his winch. Despite spending some time until the wheels regained normal ground contact, he managed to achieve the 8th fastest time. In addition, the Russian pilot profited from Lim`s stumbles. The Russian won one of those 2 SS where Lim had DNFs, and on the other he gained 5th position, attaining 144 points advantage on these two stages, from which he managed to secure 53 points advantage until the end of the race.

RFC2012_13sIt happened for the first time in the history of RFC that a newcomer won and it was the first foreign team to win since the victory of Simon Buck in 2002. The fearless team from Vladivostok achieved this historic feat driving a car equipped with a small 1.3L engine and using electric winch! This year`s RFC proved again that nothing is impossible, everything is just a matter of determination and decisiveness. This anniversary event in Malacca was worthy of the reputation of previous RFCs and will further strengthen its legend!

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  1. Ata szerint:

    Szia Laci!
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    Üdv: Ata

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