Man and machine in the Borneo Safari Special Stages
Borneo Safari Off-road Challenge was no doubt one of the toughest 4WD competitions which pushes man and machine in nature to their limits.
Besides the need to successfully complete an eight-day journey throughout Sabah roughly covering a distance of 1000km, competitors also need to participate in Special Stages (SS).
SS were held along the journey to test the abilities of drivers, co-drivers and the vehicles capabilities and endurance.
This year, 17 teams competed, giving their best in all 18 SS.
Competitors collected points when finishing their SS in the time given, based on their driving skill, innovation in vehicle recovery, obstacle clearing, cooperation and team spirit.
There were no categories for competitors in Borneo Safari, hence each vehicle was modified according to the drivers’ own creativity, mechanical knowledge and financial abilities.
Overall, all competitors’ rides were regulated equally like other participating vehicles for the convoy; to be prepared for all weather, all terrain conditions with enhanced towing capabilities, mud and river crossings and both gradient climb and descent capabilities.
Even if the rides were modified into unusual or extraordinary 4X4 vehicles, they could still be considered for entry.
As a matter of fact, before Borneo Safari, the competition committee would be involved in inspecting the competitors’ cars.
The committee would permit the vehicle to enter in the competition once they were satisfied that the vehicle had no unfair advantage over other competing vehicles and no safety aspects had been ignored.
In ensuring fair play, all competitors were not allowed to observe and watch during SS.
Penalty points were then appointed when safety rules were breached in the form of dangerous driving, over speeding, vehicle and equipment abuse, as well as unruly behaviour.
The hardships of the SS caused some competitors to be listed as DNF (Did Not Finish) especially when their vehicles were not able to pull through.
That’s when somebody yelled, “Recovery!” meaning the recovery team needs to haul the competitors’ car out of the obstacles.
Another crucial part of SS is none other the medic team, made up of staff from Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Universiti Malaysia Sabah Medical Emergency Respond Team (UMS-MERTS).
Apart from giving assistance during the journey, the medic team was also on standby whenever SS was held.
Track marshals and officials were in charge of preparing the trail, setting up SS without destroying any ecologically and environmentally sensitive areas and ensuring the safety of the trails.
All of the SS during this year’s Borneo Safari were varying and different with each has its own difficulties.
When the convoy finally gathered at Kampung Kolorok, Kemambong, organisers challenged their competitors to glide through bamboo jungle, going up and down a steep hill and rolling through muddy trails.
After leaving Kampung Kolorok and moving to the towns of Tenom and Keningau, SS were set up for competitors to drive up and down dry and sandy hills and bracing through stony streams.
Some obstacles during SS required the teams to utilise elements in their surrounding environment such as trees and huge rocks to winch their ways out.
Knowledge of their surroundings, quick hands and teamwork between drivers and co-drivers determined how fast the teams completed their SS.
After eight days of rough journey and competitive SS, Chong Chiew Shen and Lo Fui Min grabbed their second consecutive Borneo Safari title.
During the closing and prize presentation dinner at Hakka Hall on Nov 1 which saw Sabah Tourism Board (STB) Chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai as the guest of honour, Chong and Lo were awarded RM10,000.
Tham Vun Pin and Liew Su Chieung won first runner up, bringing home prize money of RM5,000. Meanwhile, Tham Vun Pin and Liew Su Chieung brought home the third place title along with RM3000 prize money.
All winners were given truckloads of sponsorship goodies.
There were also awards given to teams and individuals for different achievements.
For Borneo Safari’s Best Team Spirit Award, the recognition was given to Group D who showed their team spirit throughout the duration of the safari up to the point they received their prizes on stage with great shouts of joy.
The committee team also awarded men and women who excelled and demonstrated the best quality of survival in the jungle.
Subsequently, the Jungleman Award was won by Ero Gustanto of Indonesia and Junglewoman went to Brunei’s Juwana Alik.
Event director and president of Sabah Four Wheel Drive Association (SFWD) Faez Nordin expects a different challenge route but the same thrills and adventures for next year’s Borneo Safari.
“Borneo Safari will be like what it is every year thanks to all the veterans, founders, past presidents and initiators.”
Additionally, he believed that with the participation of more foreign journalists this year from Australia, Japan, France, Brunei, Indonesia, Thailand would engage more participants for next year’s installment.
Enthusiastically, Faez said to the all the participants, sponsors, committee members presented during the final night “See you in the 26th Borneo Safari!”