Dambuk, Arunachal Pradesh: The seventh edition of the JK Tyres Orange 4X4 Fury, a national off-roading motorsport event, came to a riveting close on Friday with Team Gulf First (open) winning their maiden title at the Dambuk ‘Orange Festival of Adventure & Music’ held in Arunachal Pradesh’s Lower Dibang district.

“We could manage to make it as a team, through sportsmanship, even though our vehicle broke down so many times. But we still towed it out together,” Mohammed Fahed from the winning team shared his team’s experience with EastMojo.

While Team Gulf from Kerala registered their first win, defending champion MOCA from Arunachal stood second, followed by NIOC from Delhi-NCR respectively.

The two-day event was flagged off on March 3 by Abu Tayeng, Director Tourism, along with Gum Tayeng, the MLA of Dambuk. It was also the first time in India that an off-roading motorsports event commenced with a mass start.

The festival does not only promote Arunachal Pradesh as a tourist destination, but also the famous oranges of Dambuk, as the name suggests, which are now being exported to Dubai and other countries through Spicejet’s recent agri-venture Spice fresh, benefitting numerous farmers in the region.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu attended the closing ceremony of the two-day festival. He also handed over trophies to the winning team and showed immense enthusiasm for the event organized in the state. 

Why off-roading can be an expensive affair

“To participate in an event like 4X4 Fury, one first needs an SUV which costs at least Rs 10 to 12 lakh. Additionally, they have to spend Rs 20 to 30 lakh on additional fittings to make it an off-roading vehicle like this, apart from travel, food, accommodation and not just that, they even break their own vehicles on our trails. It is because of all your investment and support that this event has gained popularity,” said Arunachal CM Pema Khandu, thanking participants who came forward to contest in the challenging event.

From Kalapani to motorsports hub of state

Dambuk was once considered Arunachal’s ‘Kalapani’ due to its disconnect from the rest of the state. But after recent efforts from the state and central government to develop road connectivity, the town has become a major attraction for adventure tourists from across the country.

“We can’t believe what Arunachal is today. In 2015 it took us 2 and a half days to reach here from Kerala by flight and road and ferry, but now I can travel from Kerala to Dambuk in just a few hours!” Shamim Mustafa, a co-driver of the winning team told EastMojo.

Arunachal CM Pema Khandu further invited the JK family, Motorsports Club of Arunachal (MCA), Ministry of Youth and Sports and Ministry of Tourism to explore the terrain in another swampy region in the state, before the wave of infrastructure development engulfs its wilderness.

“Paglam also lies in the Dambuk constituency but we, the state government along with the Central government, want to bring investment for roads and infrastructure there. We will begin work there very soon, so you have very little time left. I suggest you access that area too because the roads are fit for events like 4X4 fury there,” said CM Khandu.

Diversity in participation

To find out about participation of local teams in the event or teams from the northeast, EastMojo spoke with Lhakpa Tsering, founder of the Motorsports Club of Arunachal (MCA) who said that there is ‘raw talent’ in the Northeast boys but that they unfortunately lack technical knowledge and dedication. “There’s no dearth of talent anywhere, especially in our region. We have naturally great drivers but it takes more than just talent to excel,” Tsering said. 

The two-day competition saw 12 teams participating from various states of the country, like Kerala, Telangana, Karnataka, Chandigarh and Delhi in the Open category, comprising extreme specified vehicles. An impressive number of local teams from the North-East region also went through the paces for the coveted trophy. 

Woman takes the wheel

Billed as one of India’s toughest and most exciting off-road competitions, the event also saw its first woman participant, Aparna Umesh from Kerala, giving her male counterparts tough competition.

For this 29-year-old, off-roading was a late-found passion. She is not only competing with some of the pros in a male-dominated adventure sport, but also helping young girls and women learn about opportunities as an off-roading competitor. 

“You will face issues, you will face gender stereotypes and all that everywhere but you have to learn to rise out of it. I had an off-road vehicle and I loved to drive and then thought why not learn more about it as well, and now this is my first nationals event!” said Umesh who finds her passion for the road to be growing by the day.

Terror of a terrain

The 4×4 Fury had teams negotiate through natural and gruelling obstacles like swamps, steep riverbanks, boulder-filled riverbeds and tracks through rainforests. 

Such was the route that on Day 1 itself, almost 80 per cent of the cars broke down struggling to beat the boulders and rocks, making it even more challenging. Intermittent rains and tracks along dry river beds added to the excitement and only 6 of the 24 cars that started could reach the finish line.

“This kind of terrain is not available anywhere in India. Small patches are available, but over here we can keep going for hundreds of kilometres in this type of terrain,” Sunny Kumar, Operations Head, JK Tyres Motorsports. 

On his organisation’s collaboration with the state government, Sunny said, “We go all over India, but this government has things so well organised. We don’t have to push them, they push us; it is the other way round.”

When the government is an active participant in itself, nothing can go wrong, Kumar believes. “We just love to come here and will keep doing it,” he shared with EastMojo

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