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Givi Rimba Raid 2023 – Prologue and Race Day

Givi Rimba Raid 2023 – Prologue and Race Day

Raceweek arrived after much anticipation and preparation. Bikes were loaded from all over Malaysia, Most Singapore teams shipped their bikes out of Johor. Some racers rode 300 to 500 kilometres on their race bikes and chose to have race tyres fitted in Kuala Tahan. Overland shipping felt like a breeze hearing what racers from Indonesia had to do to get their bikes shipped to Malaysia. Several other racers from other countries chose to rent race bikes from Malaysian companies.

Kuala Tahan was dressed up, Givi and Rimba Raid flags decorated the small Kampung. The spacious parking grounds of Tekoma Resort and other Kuala Tahan Resorts were filled with bikes, team tents and support cars. Bikes prepared perfectly. Having trained and raced in lead up features like the KTM Wheelriders Rimba Raid Qualifiers racers had fine-tuned protective gear to balance slower and faster sections of the course. As light as possible for the slower sections where humidity and scorching heat sap every ounce of energy and as safe as possible for higher than usual speeds on dirt roads.

Prologue was abbreviated to 50-meter straights connected by a half dozen turns and one random jump set right spank in the middle of the course. The short prologue also meant the entire field of racers were separated by a handful of seconds. Blink and you miss 10 spots in the starting schedule.

If the prologue was underwhelming, the racecourse itself wasn’t much better. A narrow river right at the start slowed racers down. Which in a way helped regulate some traffic for what would come next. A high-energy start with turns and drop in speed for the river caused some race ending crashes too.

Then a steep, rocky hill (Tenga Derita – Steps of Hell) on the trail about 7 km from the start created a massive jam with racers blocking every line up the hill. You do expect difficult sections of the trail in an offroad race. However, having a slow bottleneck so early in a race meant most racers lost time, the opportunity to go further and have a chance at completing the race. If something were to go wrong in a bottleneck such as this, things could have turned out much worse.

Marshals play a crucial role in ensuring the safety of racers and their absence or shortage can lead to disastrous consequences. It was evident that there were not enough marshals to effectively manage a course of this scale and respond to incidents. Some riders had to abandon bikes with burnt clutches from the rocky hill and hiked for hours to get out of the jungle while organizers said Marshalls were out looking for someone who ignored trail closure after the designated timing and continued on the trail triggering a Search and Rescue effort that went on until midnight.

While some parts of the trail made it too difficult to sit back and enjoy, there is no denying the simply breathtaking beauty of the Taman Negara at Kuala Tahan. River crossings were a lot of fun. Some racers dropped their bikes and ended their races in the water, but most racers made it through the river and enjoyed the experience.

Racers were excited about the Sandbank situated about 70 kilometres from the start. With some making plans on how they would negotiate it with their heavy bikes, what speeds they would ride and which lines they would take. But most of the racers were either caught on the hills early on in the course and did not make it to the Sandbank.

Largely, features on the trail were not well thought out. Class A and Class B riders needed winches and tows to negotiate an obstacle with 3 logs placed to form a pyramid in the middle of a river. Faster riders stopped to help their teams. Some of the better riders were not too troubled but these difficult sections stopped most racers from making progress and experiencing the satisfaction of completing the course.

One feels the course could have been set with a little more thought, setting up the near impassable spots with longer B-Lines that took more time to negotiate. Immediately after the race, organisers chose to emphasise the small percentage of racers that managed to finish the course that somehow proved that the course was challenging.

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Course difficulty is one thing but dealing with a 100-bike traffic jam on a steep, rocky hill is demotivating to most racers. It is encouraging to see that this topic did come up later during the initial days of planning for RR2024 and the organisers have promised a easier but longer course for this year.

There is no other event like Rimba Raid that is run in a tropical rainforest that offers unique challenges, stunning scenery, among spectacular wildlife in the world. Racers in Asia and from around the world look forward to it. For it to end in disappointment for most of the racers not being able to go further than 6 or 7 kilometers on the trail makes it less appealing to most racers.

While being the favorite event among Malaysian, Indonesian, Thai and Singapore racers, the Givi Rimba Raid has also established a strong global following. Racers from places as far as Canada, the United States, Australia, several South American countries and Saudi Arabia marking the dates in their calendars. The organisers willingness to listen to racer feedback is encouraging, they are motivated to make this race better each year.

We need Rimba Raid, we want Rimba Raid to be successful. Here’s hoping the organizers will rethink their approach to course setting and give racers the opportunity to enjoy completing the race. Will racers come back? Will the event continue to be the showpiece of the Malaysian offroad racing scene? We’ll have to wait and see.

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