Sunday, May 11th, 2008

The grueling five day “4×4 Challenge 2008” came to a fantastic finish on the 14th October in Dambulla amidst a gathering of 4×4 enthusiasts, competitors & their supporters and of course the surprised villagers who witnessed such an adventurous event for the first time in their lives. This event which challenged the Driver & Co-driver skills as well as the reliability of their highly modifiied 4WD’s were undoubtedly the toughest event in its five years of existence.

As explained by the Event Director Sean Hameed, “This year’s trails were not just muddy due to the heavy rainfalls over the past few days; on the contrary it was more of a technical challenge to get through. Competitors experienced the best of obstacles and nature they could handle proving that reliability of their heavily modified 4WD’s with the application and demonstration of their skills were certainly the key to success in completing the event”.

Four Wheel Drive Club (FWDC) – Sri Lanka staged this year’s event in the jungles of Dambulla, near Alkin Nature Reserve, Kaludiyapokuna. 18 Competitors were present for the prolog out of the 20 who entered, where their capabilities were put to test prior to the more challenging off roading in the coming days.

Prolog winner, Suresh Chaturanga proved that nothing was impossible if one sets his mind to it as he ploughed his way through to lead the others. The other competitors were also equal to the task to secure their grid positions for the following days. This was an eye opener for most competitors as unlike the previous challenges, even the initial obstacles were more severe and demanded a lot of guts to get through. Veteran 4×4 competitor Navin Marapana during a presentation at the awards ceremony stated that “4×4 Challenge 2008 had truly been an international standard event. Infact some stages had been equal or better than the Rain Forest Challenge Special Stages (SS’s) that we have competed before”.

It was certainly encouraging to see our first international competitor, Russel from Australia showing some of the tricks in getting through such obstacles. New comers to the 4×4 Challenge had a lot to learn from the veterans in the local 4×4 adventure sport, like Indika Sanjaya & his Co driver Navin Marapana, Osanda Maligaspe & his Co driver Malintha with great international experience, Deepthi Perera, Suresh Chathuranga, Roshan Ratnayake, Saranga Gunawardena where most of them have been in competition almost since the inception of the 4×4 Challenge way back in 2004.

In total, 18 SS’s were worked off during the five days including night sections and camping. Mother Nature also played her part by contributing with heavy rain falls during the event where it made the obstacles even more challenging to drive on wet & muddy surfaces.

Even though most competitors managed to fix their 4×4’s when they were damaged whilst battling the tough terrain, Motor Racing Driver Nishan Wasalathanthri and the Motor Rally specialist, Pubudu Wickrama both representing Team SLARDAR had to pull out due to technical concerns that needed external assistance to repair them.

The final standings for the 4×4 Challenge 2008 was a total shocker when all expected the more experienced drivers Indika Sanjaya & Osanda Maligaspe to clinch the trophy. It was Suresh Chathuranga with his Co-driver Ravindra Sanjeewa who clinched the “4×4 Challenge 2008” championship driving a previously Rain Forest Challenge competed Land Rover, a fellow team member of the defending champion Indiaka Sanjaya. The First Runner up position was clinched by Sam Chandrasoma & Amal Wickramarachchi in their Dimo Sponsored Jeep Wrangler who very closely challenged the winners at almost all the SS’s. Determined Sam Chandrasoma who entered the 4×4 sport approximately a year ago in his Jeep Wrangler has made some remarkable victories in quite a few 4×4 events that they have participated in the recent past. The 2nd Runner-up position was won by Sri Lanka’s most experienced 4×4 duos; Indika Sanjaya & Navin Marapana in their Rain Forest Challenge prepared Land Rover.

The Team event was clinched by Team LR represented by Suresh Chathuranga & Ravindra Sanjeewa, Indika Sanjaya & Navin Marapana, Saty Watson & Rashitha Fernando in their Land Rovers. Team Jeep who had improved significantly in their competing skills missed the team championship marginally and was forced to settle for the first runner up position. Team was represented by Deepthi Perera & Shammika Wickramasinghe, Amal Wijeyeratne & Prashan Wijayanayake, Sam Chandrasoma & Amal Wickramarachchi all driving their Dimo backed Jeep Wranglers. The Second Runners up, Team 4×4’s Negombo included the International competitors Russel Brinsmead from Australia & Osanda Maligaspe, Ranjan Fernando with their Co-drivers.

A special appreciation goes to Russell Brinsmead for taking part in the most prestigious event in the Sri Lankan 4×4 calendar. FWDC strongly believes that his participation will open a new era in having international entries taking part in future 4×4 events.

The 4×4 Challenge would never have taken place if it wasn’t for the Event Director Sean Hameed’s efforts. He is certainly the heart & soul of most 4×4 events held and his enthusiasm for the sport along with his organising committee has made the 4×4 adventure sport, the most popular recreational sport in this country.

One of the driving forces of the FWDC is Diesel & Motor Engineering PLC (Dimo), the Authorised Distributors of Tough American 4×4’s ….. “Jeep” in Sri Lanka. It’s worth noting here that Dimo’s have been sponsoring all the 4×4 events organised by the FWDC ever since the “Jeep” brand was launched in Sri Lanka, thus offering the opportunity to their customers as well as all the 4×4 enthusiasts to enjoy the great outdoors. Dimo also offers their assistance in terms of sponsorships and technical assistance to their valued Jeep customers who opt to test their machines in extreme conditions and have contributed significantly towards FWDC’s role on elevating the level of sport in our motherland.

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