The Four Wheel drive Club Championship kicked off in the cool climes of Nuwara Eliya on the 15th of April 2015. The event was organized in association with the Nuwara Eliya Motor Racing Club (NEMRC) at the picturesque NEM track which is the club’s own unique track that can host Motor Cross events as well as 4×4 events. This year’s championship is geared towards the grand finale in September at the Sappers 4×4 Track in Embilipitiya at the School of Army Engineering at Tunkama, where the corps of engineers is the infrastructure partner for the four scheduled championship events.
The Nuwara Eliya 4×4 Lake Cross was the original event that brought this sport to Nuwara Eliya season calendar by the Four Wheel Drive Club (FWDC) in 2005. With local government policies, putting a constraint on the proceedings since 2010, the event was not held till last year. After a four year lapse this year with the intervention of the new dynamic sports minister Hon. Naveen Dissanayake, the politics was pushed aside and priority was given for the sport thus allowing this first leg of FWDC 4×4 Championship to be held at the original NEM Track, unquestionably the fitting venue in Nuwara Eliya that encompasses the infrastructure needed to host such an event.
The FWDC Championship with an overwhelming entry base is restricted to Extreme Class 4×4 Vehicles only. Especially with only one day allocated for this event in an already crowded Nuwara Eliya season calendar, the Championship Event was cut short to four Special Stages (SS), foreseeing the weather pattern as well as ensuring that all participants finish their stages in daylight, setting a fair competing condition for all participants. Thus the event started early giving priority to the business at hand, and avoided wasting time on political agenda’s such as Vehicle Parades and VVIP opening ceremonies.
There were four stages set up which would test the skills of the extreme class 4×4 teams both local and international, where each stage would test their technical & strategic proficiencies. SS 1 was the toughest where only a few teams came to terms with the distinct Nuwara Eliya Mud. Team 105 Indika Sanjaya and Isuru Suranga, were the first to figure a way out to the finish line, followed by a handful of teams, such as Team 106, Team 147, Team 140 and Team 162, the Malaysian Sri Lankan combination of Francis Khoo and Amal wickramarachchi with the best timing with PTO driven winch which made it seem that they were driving through. SS2 Tested the Driving Skill and the Coordination of Teams where a long loop had to be negotiated with a hill to be winched from a mud pool. SS3 was a hill that was used and unchanged since the original event in 2005 where the lesser modified vehicles cleared the same. While Team 150 Sihara Thilina and Thusitha Sri Kumara were unbeatable and took the top spots both SS2 & SS3, it was also witnessed some of the extreme machine found it difficult to clear the same.
SS4 was a surprise package for most participants including some of the veterans, where Team 105 Indika Sanjaya had to settle for a DNF (did not finish) despite all the experience under his belt. Some top teams just simply underestimated the wombat holes and relied on their diff locks to get through, without packing a ground anchor in the recovery arsenal and paid the penalty by not completing the stage. However draw of the running order played a vital role, as the V-Gully on this stage was getting deeper by number of vehicles which attempted it. Team 140 Dammith de Silva and Sachika Jayaweera entertained the crowd by trying an innovative approach by throwing their spare wheel into the V-Gully and using a pair of Sand Ladders, a trick that is used is standard 4×4’s in situation of non -availability of a winch and a ground anchor. Further, some extra work involved in recovering the tire out of the gully being rescued by the JCB which on recovery duty.
With four stages completed in the Championship, and many more stages to come, the game is still open as some of the top runners having to make up for their DNF’s that they never expected in Nuwara Eliya, plus the points table difference among them being so close. Further some of the participants who just completed their Extreme Machines came to the start line with the welding work still hot yet to anneal , will have to go back to fix the short comings of their vehicles after getting the taste of things to come. Next round on June 21st at Meerigama Kanway Autodrome will be the battle ground.
The Championship Events will be covered in detail on MTV Sports starting in May, and the Official Print version will be on Motor magazine. The Championship is energized by RED BULL, and co-sponsored by Wurth Lanka (Pvt) Ltd., and Silverstone Tires who have put up a set of 35″ Extreme Tires for the winner. The prominent brand new 4×4 agents, Toyota Lanka (Pvt) Ltd, Chrysler Jeep division of Dimo’s, Ford division of Future Automobiles, Mitsubishi division of United Motors PLC and Land Rover agents SML Frontier Automotive are on board supporting the Championship Series. Catch their latest machines on display at the event venues and meet the team for an up close look at your favorite 4×4.