After an intense week-long battle among some of India’s best off-roaders, Goan driver Cedrick Jordan DaSilva (42) and co-driver Mackwin Dias (38) have been declared the Rainforest Challenge India 2023 Champions. The duo has won the ninth edition of India’s biggest and toughest off-road motorsport competition with an overall score of 2101 points out of 2600. This is the team’s combined score based on their performance in the 26 Special Stages (SS) of RFC India 2023. As the top driver at RFC India 2023, Cedrick has won a free entry to the RFC Global Series 2023 Finale to be held in Malaysia at the end of the year.
RFC India was launched by Cougar Motorsport in 2014 as the India Chapter of the Rainforest Challenge of Malaysia, which is ranked No. 3 in the Five Toughest Off-Road Races in the World by Skoda Motorsport (2018) and which has regional chapters in over 30 countries worldwide. Over the years, RFC India has emerged as the most prestigious off-road motorsport competition in India.
Even though Goa has hosted all the nine editions of the mega motorsport event, this is the first time that a Goan team has emerged as the RFC India Champion. Expressing his happiness on finally winning the coveted trophy in his ninth attempt at RFC India, Cedrick Jordan DaSilva said, “A long awaited dream has come true. I have only one passion, which is off-roading, and I had won all major off-roading events in India except RFC India. So, this trophy was always on my wish list and it means the world to me to win RFC India 2023.”
“Every year, the competition is getting more and more difficult. This year also, it was a neck to neck fight till the penultimate day. The scoring at RFC India works in a very different way from other motorsport events. The team behind us could have overtaken us if we had even one DNF. Finally, it’s over and our hard work has paid off”, Cedrick added.
Anand V Manjooran (co-driver Chethan Chengappa) from Kerala is the first runner-up with 2019 points and Dr. Mohammed Fahed VP (Rajeev Lal), also from Kerala, has emerged as the second runner-up of RFC India 2023 with 1982 points. Aniruddha Nandakishor Shete (Akash Malbari) from Maharashtra as well as Bijender Singh (Gajender Singh) from Delhi have also made it to the Top 5 of the competition with 1902 and 1853 points respectively.
Congratulating the winners for their achievement, Mr. Shashank Srivastava, Senior Executive Officer, Marketing and Sales, Maruti Suzuki India Limited, which is the Co-Sponsor and 4X4 Partner of RFC India 2023, said, “RFC India has undoubtedly achieved an iconic status, solidifying its position as the most prestigious off-road motorsport competition in India. Congratulations to the deserving champions, Cedrick Jordan DaSilva and Mackwin Dias, for their commendable skills and well-deserved victory. The 9th edition was particularly impressive, showcasing the unwavering enthusiasm and fearless determination of the country's most skilled off-roaders as they tackled the toughest challenges over rugged terrain. It was also our pleasure to be a part of this extraordinary experience as the 4X4 Partner and Co-Sponsor. We are pleased that the meticulously curated tracks within the Jimny Experience Zone at RFC India 2023 made for an unforgettable experience for thrill seekers who witnessed the iconic Jimny in action.”
According to Mr Ashish Gupta, Founder & Director of Cougar Motorsport, “This has been the wettest RFC India in the last nine years with torrential rains every day. The event lived up to its reputation with officials and competitors braving challenging circumstances to complete all 26 Special Stages as per schedule, despite the Orange and Red alerts issued by the authorities. We are delighted that a team from Goa has finally emerged as Champions on their home ground. We thank the Government of Goa as well as all our partners and sponsors, especially Maruti Suzuki India for being our co-sponsor and 4x4 partner and providing us with truly capable off-road vehicles to conduct the event.”
Recalling his journey at RFC India over the last 9 years, Cedrick said, “We don’t have mechanics in Goa who can work on RFC spec vehicles. So, I always had to send my vehicle to Punjab and by the time I got the vehicle back, I never had enough time left to practice prior to the competition. Every year, something or the other went wrong with my vehicle within the first two days. In the last 8 years, I always started my journey around the 18th position on the scoreboard and then worked hard to make it to the Top 5. This year, I got my vehicle on time and I practiced hard for a month before the competition. It allowed me to know and understand my vehicle; I also took part in a local competition and then came for RFC India.”
Shedding light on his performance at RFC India 2023, he said, “I was on the top on Day 1 but the very next day, my winching rope snapped in one of the Stages and my vehicle got stuck in a difficult position. So, I couldn’t go any further in that Stage and we were immediately 100 points down. In a competition where you are fighting neck to neck for a lead of 10-20 points, losing so many points was a very big setback. It was a now or never kind of a situation for us over the next three days. So, we put our foot down, planned our stages wisely and tried various techniques to better our timings in the Stages. It was a very big struggle over the next three days to gradually come back to the top position.”
Interestingly, this is Mackwin Dias’ debut at RFC India. Thanking his co-driver for helping him realise his dream of becoming the RFC India 2023 Champion, Cedrick said, “Co-driver has the key role in RFC India. If you have the right co-driver, no one can stop you. Mac was supposed to be my co-driver last year but for some reason, he could not participate then. This year, he was determined to help me win the trophy. In fact, he left his job in Ireland when he did not get enough leaves to come to India for the competition. Mac has never participated as a co-driver in such a tough competition that requires the co-driver to constantly run out of the vehicle and do such strenuous work. So, a lot of people around me were sceptical of him being my co-driver for such an important competition, especially when we did not get a chance to practice together at all before the event. But I had full trust in him as he had the drive in him and enough love for me to want to win this trophy for me. His performance was outstanding and he surprised me at every Stage because we had hardly any penalties throughout the competition, which is largely due to the excellent navigation done by Mac.”
Apart from being the Overall Champions of RFC India 2023, Cedrick and Mackwin are also the winners of the ‘Up to 1610 cc’ category. Bijender Singh (Gajender Singh) is the winner of the ‘1611 to 3010 cc – Petrol’ category while Dr. Mohammed Fahed VP (Rajeev Lal) has won the ‘1611 to 3010 cc – Diesel’ category. Ibrahim Firaz Shaik (Dushyant Khosla) has been declared winner of the ‘Above 3010 cc’ category.