(L-R) Mr Ashish Gupta (Founder & Director, Cougar Motorsport Pvt Ltd), Mr Luis J.A. Wee (Founder & Creator, The Rainforest Challenge), ISUZU RFC India 2018 Champions Jagat Nanjappa and co-driver Chetan Changappa, Mr Ken Takashima (Deputy Managing Director, ISUZU Motors India Pvt. Ltd.) and Capt. J. Shankar Srinivas (Vice President – Service, Customer Relations, EA & PR, ISUZU Motors India Pvt. Ltd.)
XtraTime Web Desk: After a week-long grueling offroading action, last moment surprises and unprecedented ups and downs on the leader board, veteran rallyist Jagat Nanjappa and co-driver Chetan Changappa of Coorg’s Team V5 Offroaders have emerged as the ultimate champions of ISUZU RFC India 2018. They have won the fifth season of India’s toughest international off-road motorsport competition with a total score of 2006 points out of 2600. With this win, Jagat and Chetan have become the second Indian, and the first offroader from South India, to win the coveted title ever since its launch in the country in 2014. As the ISUZU RFC India 2018 Champions, Jagat and Chetan will represent the country at RFC 2018 Global Series Grand Finale. The total benefits they have received amount to USD 10,000, including the entry fee, airfares as well as support towards car rental in Malaysia.
The overall second position was held by Malaysian driver Mervyn Lim (co-driver Alex Tan) of Team G.O.A. Fairmont with 1849 points. Defending RFC India Champion Gurmeet Virdi (co-driver Kirpal Singh Tung) of Gerrari Offroaders Chandigarh clinched the third spot on the podium with 1800 points. Sanbir Singh Dhaliwal (co-driver Gurpartap Singh Sandhu) of Gerrari Offroaders Chandigarh was at the fourth spot in the competition with 1742 points, while Dr Chaitanya Challa (co-driver Shabarish Jagarapu) from Hyderabad, also representing Team G.O.A. Fairmont, secured a spot in the top five with 1668 points.
After missing the title by just one rank last year, Jagat was elated upon completing the ‘unfinished task’ this year. He said, “This is an incredible feeling. I would like to thank my co-driver, my service team and my buddy – the Jeep – all of whom put up a fantastic performance. We enjoyed every moment of this competition, specially the challenging ones. We were prepared for a tougher and more competitive event this time and we knew that we had to maintain the lead from the very start. The conditions of the competition were highly unpredictable and kept varying from contender to contender. In the end, I think these conditions worked in our favor and piloted us to the victory.”
A nine-time Indian National Rally Riders Champion from 1986 to 1996 in the motorbike section, a Great Desert Rally Champion in 1988, Coimbatore Rally Champion of 1992, MASA Rally Mumbai Champion of 1993 and 1994, Jagat has had an illustrious motorsport career spanning four decades. Claiming the only remaining gem in his string of pearls, Jagat has finally added the RFC India title to the list of his achievements in the third attempt at the competition.
Jagat, alongside other podium finishers, category winners and special award winners, were felicitated at a glittering prize distribution ceremony held at the International Centre Goa in Dona Paula in the presence of Mr Luis J.A. Wee (Founder & Creator, The Rainforest Challenge International), Mr Ken Takashima (Deputy Managing Director, ISUZU Motors India Pvt. Ltd.), Capt. J. Shankar Srinivas (Vice President – Service, Customer Relations, EA & PR, ISUZU Motors India Pvt. Ltd.) and Mr Ashish Gupta (Founder & Director, Cougar Motorsport Pvt. Ltd.).
As per Mr. Ashish Gupta, the organizer of ISUZU RFC India 2018, “We witnessed an unprecedented intense level of competition this year. Given that we continuously upgrade the toughness quotient of the Special Stages every year, with a supplementary addition of night stages this time around, I had expected the competition to be highly challenging. I am extremely happy that our contenders have managed to sail through such tough challenges as well. This proves that Indian off-roading is now attaining maturity and our off-roaders are no less than their international counterparts. I would like to congratulate and applaud all the competitors of ISUZU RFC India 2018 for their exemplary display of offroading skills, valor, hard work and determination throughout the course of the competition.”
On this occasion, Mr Luis J.A. Wee was felicitated with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his unparallel contribution to the off-roading community. Mr Wee launched the Rainforest Challenge in Malaysia in 1997. Today, it is counted among the top ten toughest motor races in the World and has 51 editions being held across 21 countries. As per Mr Wee, “This award comes as a very pleasant surprise. I started the Rainforest Challenge over two decades ago with the objective of bringing the best off-roaders of a country on a single platform so that they could share knowledge and skills. It is gratifying to see the growth that RFC India has witnessed in merely five years since its launch and I am extremely happy to see the improvement in the competitors’ skills.” Mr Wee also announced the extension of RFC Internationals’ agreement with Cougar Motorsport for another three years. Since Cougar Motorsport already has the franchise rights for RFC India till 2019, with this extension the organization now has the rights to the event till 2022.
The other key awards that were announced include the Team Spirit Award to MOCA from Arunachal Pradesh, the Jungleman Award to Dushyant Khosla from Team G.O.A. Fairmont, the Most Unique 4X4 Award to Ranjith Babu and co-driver Gibin Vaidyan from Kerala Adventure Sports Club (KASC), the Environment Award to Eric Benny from Gerrari Offroaders Chandigarh, the Best Service Team Award to V5 Offroaders from Coorg, the Recovery Champion Award to Raju Paul from KASC and the Team Award to Gerrari Offroaders Chandigarh. The ‘Rookie of the Event’ award went to Chow Ujjal Namshum and his co-driver Ingpeng Mein for their brilliant performance at their debut in the competition this year.