On the motorsport front, India needs a lot of catching up to do. In the recent past, motorsports has gained attention and off-roading events have attracted a good fan base. Major credits for off-road competition goes to the Rainforest Challenge (RFC), which has seen three years of success in India.
In the latest edition of RFC, 25 Indian teams took part, and the winner was Gurmeet Vidri and co-driver (navigator) Kirpal Singh from Gerrari Offroaders, Chandigarh. Gurmeet has been off-roading since 2000, and has been competing in off-road events since the year 2012.
DriveSpark had a chance to off-road one-on-one with the winner, and here is what we found out.
Why did you chose a Gypsy for the event when there are other options available in the Indian market like the Mahindra Thar, or the Force Gurkha?
It's simple, I am a big fan of the Gypsy. The vehicle is very capable, owing to its light weight design. I've never really been a Mahindra person from the beginning, so the Thar was ruled out.
What are some of the special equipments that was needed to compete in such an event (RFC), and how different are they from regular road legal equipment?
I'll start with the engine -- it is a 1.6-litre petrol engine from the old Maruti Baleno. Apart from that, the vehicle is perfectly stock. All the equipments used, from the suspension setup (coil over suspension for all four wheels) to the winch are all what you find on regular road-going vehicles. The only catch is the 35-inch tyre setup, which makes the Gypsy not road legal. In other words, if not for the big tyres, it is like any other road legal Gypsy.
Were all the equipment available in India or did you have to import any?
Equipment were available in India, thanks to RFC. The past two seasons of RFC prompted dealers to start selling off-road equipment in India. Getting a good winch would have been difficult task too, but again, that too was made available in India after the previous two editions of the RFC. The only part that was difficult to source were the tyres, which had to be imported.
What are some of the challenges you faced during the RFC?
The main challenge we (myself and Kirpal Singh) faced was fitness. A sport such as this needs a lot of fitness and cordinationation between the driver and co-driver, which we had. Also, vehicle fitness is something very important because it has to last throughout the event and we can't afford to damage it. We get limited time to fix the vehicles and major damage means the risk of not only winning, but exiting the race.
Another crucial aspect we learnt about off-roading is winching -- how to do it and how not to do it. This was a challenge, but when we approached it with an open mind, we were able to learn a lot.
What is something that you faced during RFC that was different compared to regular off-roading events?
As mentioned before, being fit is very important, since the RFC carries on over a span of few days compared to other activities that last a day or two. The other important lesson was to know where to be aggressive and where to be patient along the course, because the vehicle has to perform at its 100 percent, throughout the race.
Would you use your experience gained from RFC to teach youngsters or to promote off-road activities in India?
I have gained a lot of experience from RFC, and so have many Indian participants. There is a lot to learn from the Malaysian drivers though, who won the previous two edition of RFC. When it comes to teaching youngsters, I still believe that I have a lot to learn myself. I, along with my club -- Gerrari Offroaders, will surely promote the sport in India.
So when did Gerrari Offroaders start and what kind of activities does the club do?
Gerrari Offroaders was started off by 5 friends who had the passion for off-roading. The club was started back in 1999, and Kabir Waraich, who was part of Team Force Gurkha for the 2016 edition is also part of Gerrari Offroaders.
As far as activities are concerned, we organise events every Sunday to catch up with team members and have fun. We also organise outstation trips every month.