A casual conversation over dinner with my wife, led to me telling her “let’s buy a Thar, build it into a complete off-road monster and compete as a couple in an off-road competition.” To me, an avid off-roader, this seemed quite a romantic and plausible idea, but I was wrong. A slight frown and the first question thrown at me ‘how much will it cost?’ Ummm…a couple of lakhs! What! Are you serious? You want to buy a car, spend all that money to build it and then break it? Apart from we will get to spend time and build it together, I did not have any other answer to that. But later it got me thinking, for some of us off-roaders this is our passion, but what does the outside world actually think about this sport?
Off-roading is a form of motorsport and no, it does not involve getting around a corner sideways or hitting 300kmph in a straight line. It is all about the thrill of completing a challenge. Off-roaders usually tend to flock to places where no sane person will ever dream of driving to. For us, the Thrill Of Driving over boulders or driving through a lake without getting stuck, or exploring a path that no one has ever driven on, gives the same feeling that Champions feel when they are standing on the podium. Off-roading is addictive, once you manage to get past one challenge, the other one is always there for the taking and mind you, you will take it.
So what does it take to go off-roading? If you own an SUV, and you are a little adventurous, you could drive over a narrow dirt trail leading to the base of a mountain and enjoy a picnic in the open. But if you are one of those who stare at the top of the mountain and wonder ‘could I drive up to the top?’ Then you need to build a monster.
Transforming a stock vehicle into a badass off-road monster will take a few months at the least, a lot of energy and patience and money (you could buy a new luxury SUV instead). But having said that, off-roading is all about the passion that drives maniacs like us to compete.
So you have the passion, you got the money, the 4×4 beast is ready, where do you put your skills and the machine to the test? In India, the off-roading environment is still evolving and more enthusiasts are joining the bandwagon, but the number of off-road competitive events is restricted to regional events in a few pockets and one main event – Rainforest Challenge (RFC) India.
Started almost five years ago RFC India is affiliated to the parent event in Malaysia, which is regarded as one of the most grueling off-road competitions in the world. Each year the number of participants has increased but this year was something different. When the entries opened, within the first nine hours 28 teams paid Rs. 70,000 + taxes and registered themselves for the event. This just goes to show the level of enthusiasm and passion people have towards off-roading in India. There is a lot of scope for the sport to grow and it will.
This year I will head down to RFC in Goa as a spectator to witness and cheer as off-road maniacs put their monsters to the test. I may not be in the driver’s seat just yet, but someday I will be on the other side. Till then keep it off road.
Picture credits: Rambler Paul