Sri Lankan duo braves world’s toughest
Sri Lanka’s best and most experienced off-road team Indika Sanjaya (Driver) and Navin Marapana (Co-Driver) took the off-road world by storm by becoming the champions in the 2000-3000 cc Diesel Category and the Electric Winch Category in the Malaysian Rainforest Challenge 2009 (RFC).
They also proved that they were a truly world class team by beating over 20 petrol vehicles and becoming second runner up in the Open category.
The RFC is considered one of the toughest off road challenges in the world and dubbed the Formula One in the off-road fraternity.
It is held annually in the rainforests of Malaysia over a period of ten gruelling days where man and machine are put to test in the harshest and challenging conditions.
This year’s RFC had over forty vehicles taking part with the best competitors from the Philippines, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, USA, Thailand, Russia, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, Austria, Denmark and Singapore vying for supremacy along with participants from France, UK, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, India, Vietnam and Germany.
Sri Lanka had two other teams taking part comprising Suresh Chathuranga (Driver), his Co-Driver Ravindra Sanjeewa and Ravindra Rathnasiri along with his co Driver Harsha Kumara.
"Indika and Navin were taking part in a 2500 cc Land Rover which was modified at Indika’s workshop LR Motors, with electric winches and competing against participants using 3000 cc Petrol Engines running mechanical winches which are much faster. In layman’s terms it is like a Maruti 800 competing in a field of Ferraris. The secret of their success is down to good teamwork and coordination. Indika is a fantastic driver, one of the best I have ever seen. His skill and control over the vehicle at high speed is fascinating to watch", said Luis Wee the organiser of RFC.
"But the RFC is not only about driving. The co-driver must be supremely fit and able to recover the vehicle and winch it out during competitive special stages. This involves a lot of physical effort and mental toughness. In this regard Navin is one of the best co-drivers I have ever seen. Even though they are using a slower electric winch, Navin’s speed and agility in setting up the winch make up for any loss of speed in the actual winching. I would rank Navin as one of the top Co-Drivers in the world and he has had several offers from other top drivers from around the world to become their Co-Driver", he added.
Last year's champion Wong Phin from Borneo had asked Navin to be his Co-Driver in next year’s Australian Outback Challenge.
"Our improvement over a short period of time is because the level of competition and the quality of the events in Sri Lanka are actually world class now. This is mainly due to the efforts of one man. He is Sean Hameed.
"He has single handedly raised the level of the sport in Sri Lanka and has done much for off roading here. We owe him a lot for all his efforts", Navin and Indika said in a statement while also thanking the sports ministry, well wishers and sponsors in Sri Lanka.