500 set off on grueling Borneo Safari

SOME of the participants showing their skills at the Borneo Safari Special Stage 1 course yesterday.

KOTA KINABALU: The 22nd edition of Sabah’s very own extreme off road motoring event, Borneo Safari 2012, has kicked off to an exciting start.

Heavy rain poured over Kota Kinabalu yesterday, but it did not stop the crowd from thronging the specially built mud tracks next to the Borneo 4WD Outdoor Show at Alamesra here.

They came to witness drivers and machines being pushed to their limits trying to conquer the short but very slippery and challenging courses of stages one, two and three, set up by the organizer.

The initial plan was to have State Tourism Board (STB) Datuk Seri Tengku Adlin lead a team of paragliders to land at the show ground before launching the special stage challenge.

Uncooperative weather forced the organizer to cancel the plan for safety reason, but the downpour that pummeled hours before the special stage runs started was nothing less than a blessing.

Mud holes of at least 1.5 meters deep were filled with sludge that would engulf the smaller 4×4 vehicles almost to the roof, the kind of challenges extreme off-road drivers would dive in head first.

Winches were put into overdrive and the crowd cheered, perhaps more in relief than excitement, as steel cables endured under the weight of a roaring beast slowly climbing out of its watery graves.

The special stage challenge marked the unofficial start of the highly anticipated event and gave the newcomers a taste of what lies ahead as the Safari progresses in the next grueling eight days.

The event this year attracted over 500 participants which included experienced and new drivers, co-drivers, support crew and thrill seekers who are simply tagging along for the adventure.

Some 220 off-road ready 4×4 of all sizes will embark on their journey this morning, with a mission to conquer varied off-road terrains in a return trip of about 1,000 km.

The convoy will also include media representatives, courtesy of the event’s official “Diamond” sponsor Isuzu, who provided them with several Isuzu D-Max vehicles.

The event will be officially flagged off by Minister of Youth and Sports Datuk Peter Pang at 9am today.

The convoy will make their way to Kudat via Tuaran, before returning to Kota Kinabalu through Ranau, driving on some of the most challenging as well charming picturesque routes in this part of Sabah.

Along the way, drivers will test their skills and nerves in 13 more special stages, each with their different and unique challenges.

The organizer, Sabah Four Wheel Drive Association, has also arranged for the convoy to stop at Kampung Tongob Darat and Monggis at the foot of Mount Kinabalu, where they will carry out some charity and conservation works.

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