The fifth edition of India’s toughest international off-road motorsport event will be held in Goa from 21st July to 28th July 2018. Three teams from Arunachal Pradesh are prepping to make their debut in the mega competition. In a first-ever team participation from Northeast India, Aditya Mein (co-driver Sujeewan Chowtang), Chow Ujjal Namshum (co-driver Ingpeng Mein) and Chow Tseng Tsing Mein (co-driver Purbajyoti Choudhury) will represent the Manubhum Off-Roaders Club of Arunachal (MOCA) at RFC India 2018.
The Rainforest Challenge (RFC) of Malaysia is counted among the top ten toughest motor races in the world. The India edition of RFC was launched by Delhi-based Cougar Motorsport Pvt Ltd in 2014. Today, RFC India is counted amongst the top three RFC Global events out of the 51 editions being held across 21 countries, and enjoys a cult following in the Indian and international offroading community. 41 teams, each comprising a driver and a co-driver, from various parts of the country will participate in RFC India 2018 where they will undertake 26 Special Stages (SS) or challenges. The event follows a point system, wherein the team with maximum points at the end of all the SS claims the title of RFC India. The total benefits to the top Indian driver of RFC India 2018 will amount to USD 10,000, including an automatic free entry worth USD 3,900 to the RFC Mother Event, to be held in Malaysia at the end of the year.
32-year old Aditya Mein is a contractor-cum-planter by profession. ‘I’ve always had an immense interest in jeeps and 4X4 machines. Being a planter, I have to regularly drive through unchartered terrains, similar to the terrain that you see in extreme competitions like RFC India. I started serious offroading around seven years back and took part in my first-ever offroading competition three years ago. That time, I just jumped into the fray in a stock vehicle that didn’t fare very well, but the experience was so exhilarating that it motivated me to pursue the sport further. One year later, I was the second runner-up in the very same event.’
Speaking about his preparations for RFC India 2018, Aditya explained, ‘We started our preparations last year itself. We did a lot of research; we even sent all three of our co-drivers to participate in RFC India 2017 as officiating marshals. That helped us in understanding the penalty system, what to look out for, the kinds of obstacles and stages that we should expect, amongst other factors. Thereafter, we’ve been practicing in settings similar to those of RFC India stages. Our main strength is our technical know-how of steering through obstacles in the wild.’
Although they are debutants in RFC India, Team MOCA has made it onto the podium in popular motorsport events on several occasions in the past. Speaking about the foundation of MOCA, Aditya shared, ‘The story behind the formal establishment of MOCA from being a group of cousins to a serious offroading club goes back to October 2015, when some of us decided to go for a small drive in a convoy of 5 cars. There we took an accidental detour and were stuck in the middle of nowhere. The supposedly short drive ended up being a 16-hour long non-stop toiling with 2 of our cars breaking down in the process. We somehow found this incident incredibly adventurous and established MOCA the very next day! Named after the Manubhum forest range that is home to most of us, MOCA today has over 6 competition-ready cars at the club, which are aided by some support cars. We also have over a dozen official members and a lot of enthusiasts from places like Guwahati, Siliguri and even Gurugram and Singapore, who occasionally join us on our drives.’
Chow Tseng Tsing Mein is a 46-year old planter, a construction businessman and a motorsport enthusiast. ‘I was born and brought up in Arunachal. Back in those days, the moment you started driving you’d spend less time on tarmac and more time off the road, as there were very few mettled-roads. I would drive off-road in a Gypsy or some other 4X4 everyday to reach my tea garden. Now it feels like I’ve been doing it since forever!’
The third entry from MOCA is Chow Ujjal Namshum, along with his co-driver Ingpeng Mein. Speaking about the event, Ujjal said, ‘All of us at MOCA have been following RFC Malaysia for a number of years. So when its India Chapter was launched, we immediately wanted to participate in it. But given that it was happening in Goa, which is about 4,000 kms from here, we never thought we’d go so far away just to participate in a competition. But the unthinkable is actually happening and it’s like a dream come true. My car is ready, my co-driver is ready, my spares have arrived – I’m all prepared to hit the tracks.’
Aditya, who has seen the motorsport culture in Arunachal Pradesh evolve to where it stands today, explains why the sport is gaining massive popularity in the State, ‘In Arunachal, offroading is more than a hobby; it’s a part of day-to-day life for most of us. Lack of entertainment options and the difficult terrains we traverse every day means that most people have been offroading in some way or the other all their life. The only difference is that earlier people went for fun drives in their 4X4s. Now with increased awareness, people are fast stepping towards competitive motorsport.’
All the three MOCA teams will be driving Maruti Gypsy in the competition.