WHERE THE TOUGH GETS GOING…
(RFC Euro Selections 2013 in Italy)
Back in the days of the Romans, the bulky bridge on the Isonzo river was a strategic link to the eastern territories (present day Slovenia). It was on this vital bridge that the Goths, Ostrogoths, Lombards, Avari, Huns & Turks crossed over to invade the empire. Many great battles were fought between the centurions and the invaders in this Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region in the province of Gorizia in those bygone days.
Fast forward to present day, another battle of the 4×4 extreme kind was fought along the gullies, soggy/muddy inner banks of the same river at Farra d’Isonzo, Gorizia & Gradisca d’Isonzo. This time it was the invasion of 4×4 warriors & their fellow supporters from Belgium, Austria, Slovenia & home country Italy, bringing with them the economic spill-over effects of sports tourism from Rainforest Challenge (RFC) Euro Selections 2013, the first event in the calendar of
RFC Global Series.
Weeks before, the stage was already set for 4×4 extreme battles by Mother Nature; the cold wintry chill that blanketed most of Europe laid the foundations for the soggy/watery terrain as the snow melted; and as Spring approached, it brought in more than the usual showers which swelled the Isonzo above normal level. The 15 Special Stages (SS) set along the undulating soft river banks and water bogged marshes set amidst a surreal forest filled with gullies reminisced that of the Twilight Zone (TZ) of Malaysia, the home of the legendary mother event RFC.
D-Day commenced with a night Prologue Special Stage (SS), fast and furious as the 26 off-road teams zoomed off into the darkness from Tenuta Borgo Conventi in Farra d’Isonzo, a vineyard mansion. Adrenalin was pumping high for all the teams as this was also the first day of action, the Prologue SS. There was a touch human drama in the countryside on that cold night too; from the first time nervous teams to the seasoned campaigners, however, everyone finished the night stage in high spirits, in anticipation for the second day’s action.
As expected, the next day was a full blown non-stop action (Saturday) along the undulating terrain filled with gullies and the soggy/watery banks. Tough 7 SS which required winching from the left, right and centre as well as technical driving and recovery skills against the steep gradients, water bogged river banks and punishing water crossing for the two classes: Modified category (RFC specifications) and the Special category (proto-type buggies). The tight sections also required careful technical maneuvering at the steering wheel and driver/co-driver coordination to get out of tricky situations.
The weekend also brought logistics crew, supporters and hundreds of spectators to town savouring the hospitality and culinary delights of this region renowned for its fine wines and gastronomy apart from witnessing fast paced 4×4 action.
“We use the undulating terrain here with some soggy and muddy grounds which are similar in difficulties that we have experienced in Malaysia,” commented Ales Plesnicar, the Event Director with combat experience in the legendary TZ of mother event RFC. “Every team here must learn how to tackle the SS with off-road skills and a corresponding mindset to match and sporting spirit to withstand the punishment, otherwise, they are not prepared for the grand finale,” he added.
The winners here get a chance to be selected for the Rainforest Challenge 2013 to take place in Malaysia this Dec. So, this is a very serious warming up time, a test of skills and a test of nerves to finish all the 15 SS meticulously planned for the weekend.
The final day (Sunday) saw more thrills and spills as the teams twisted and turned the machines in the river, steep banks, V-gullies with more mud and water splashing. It was a test to their limits and beyond, even for the more experienced teams. For the proto-type buggies, they faced even harsher tests due to their machine specifications advantage. Anyway, whichever route the teams in the two categories went, there was really no escape from the extreme winching exercises, after all, this is following the format of the RFC, listed as one of the ten toughest motor races in the world.
Since the race for top positions was intense, tight and tough as each teams pushed themselves to the limits and beyond, errors can be very costly. The punishing water stages have many hidden “traps” which could sink any well crafted 4×4 which it did. The SS took its toll even among the top teams. However, for all the participating teams, they are all winners in their own rights for going through the tough paces with superb willpower, machine-power, winch power and a great sporting spirit to go through the SS.
This Italian spring event was a series of hard fought exhausting 4×4 battles, it has also brought out the best in passion, style and skills from the 4×4 teams in their well crafted machines from Belgium, Austria, Slovenia and host country Italy. For these modern-day warriors, it has been a tough weekend, and just like in the days of old, a place where the tough gets going.
Top Guns in Classifica Preparati (full body 4×4 modified):
1. Marco Zanuttini – Ivaldi Calligaris (Land Rover Defender 90).
2. Andrea Alfano – Roberto Munitello (Suzuki Vitara)
3. Alessandro Rossi – Filippo Bertolotti (Land Rover Defender 90).
4. Luca Valente – Stefano Marsiglia (Toyota Land Cruiser)
Top Guns in Clasifica Speciali (proto-type/modified buggy):
1. Francesco Nano – Sebastian Casagrande ( Jimmys Smith Buggy (USA).
2. Bernhard Feeberger – Heinz Feeberger (Wrangler Jeep).
3. Lorenzo Tadini – Tiago Ivan (Proto-type made in Italy).
4. Primoz Arcon – Crt Gorjan (Suzuki)
Special thanks (Grazie): Overgom, Off Quattro, Graffiti Style, Fiamma Fuotistrada, Bressan, Smart Turist, TLT arti grafiche, Prima Service, Provinca di Gorizia, Comuni di Gorizia, Farra, Gradisca,, Romans d’Isonzo, Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia & GFI Alpe Adria S.Andrea.
proto-type/modified buggy Francesco Nano
full body 4×4 modified : Marco Zanuttini e Ivaldi Calligaris