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When the going gets wet, Borneo Safari.. well read on..

Heavy rains with droplets the size of fifty sen coins met me while driving from Kuching, Sarawak to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. If this was any indication of the weather pattern for the coming week, then the participants of the Borneo Safari were going to get it bad, real bad.

.. have you ever seen the rain? (CCR)

The 17th Edition of the Heart of Borneo Safari 2007 had it traditional flag off in downtown Gaya Street in front of the Sabah Tourism office. Being fully Malaysian, nothing could happen without a song and dance and so the cultural troupe representing the main racial groups were present with their traditional dress and musical instruments. The tourism minister Masidi Manjun arrived as scheduled and he inspected cars and chatted with teams before dropping the flag and having club president’s immaculate Range Rover hybrid leading the convoy out of Kota Kinabalu to Penampang where the prologue for special stage (SS) 1 and 2 were held.

Gaya Street flag off with Masidi, Tourism Minister (tallest centre) and officials and team Japan with the Chang cousins.

At about 2 pm, the countdown for the first competition car started and the competition was fully ‘on’. The layout of the SS was a little unusual as the Borneo Safari usually prepares stages on hard surfaces where front axels get airborne and axels would be tested to the max. This time there was mud, deep black, loose and slimy mud. To make matters more interesting the anchor points for those bogged down were not rock solid.

Only Kudat Kuin and Kok Sin Yee drove through the mud bog on SS1. As the SS ran, the mud gave way to the rocks that seemed to be surfacing and defending champ Wong Chai saw him literally stuck between the rock and a hard place. SS1 also took many DNFs. But SS2 was gentler on all cars however, Kudat Kuin as the only DNF casualty- serious casualty. He opened up his engine to find a piston missing.. smashed to moto heaven. The mechanics were seen trying to overhaul the engine at the race site and but they finally towed the car to their workshop and changed the engine and gear box resulting in penalty.

The first night’s camp was supposed to be at Ovai Village in Papar. It was on the way here when the skies lashed down rains and made the going hard when they hit off road. The entire convoy made unscheduled camp with many sleeping in their cars. The following day, they continued on to Ovai and the going got harder. Shovels and hoes were in constant use as everyone had to clear landslides, make bridges and fill holes. Day 2 and 3 camps were made only a few kilometers apart.

The marshals had to run the competition based on teams who were present. They had to split the SS, running some a day earlier for the competitors who were at the site and then waiting for those who came later.

“The whole convoy route in Ovai area was one big SS for both competition cars and tag-ons and they were all recovering one another” said starter and marshal Lim. This was reliving the Deramacot experience the year before. “In all we would have only travelled 35-40 km off road this year” Lim continued.

The whole convoy had to backtrack out from Ovai on day 4 of the event and moved onto to more easily accessible areas in Keningau and Tenom. As the event saw some of the most extreme weather for two years continuously, the organisers are considering moving the event earlier to avoid this happening all over.

As the SS progressed, the competition drama unfolded with defending champion Wong Chai seeing his PTO winch going into disrepair and having to depend on his faithful Warn 8274 electric winch. Kudat Kuin on the other hand was the starting car in the last seven SS and that made him think that he was the leading car. He was shocked to find that he was not on the podium. Only upon scrutinising the scores at the awards dinner did he learn that he was placed fourth and was told that he was penalised for changing his engine. On SS 11, Japanese team of Harohiko Yoshida and Masato Miura were the fastest team.

However the day belonged to last year’s runner-up Chung Hong Ru and Minion Kotidis as they were by the far the most consistent team. Their super light bobtailed Suzuki hybrid taking the Champion of Borneo Safari 2007. It was also proven that the faithful BJ40, the car the started off the event was still in contention for top spots as proven by second place brothers Mak Chee Koh and Mak Chee Ming from Keningau.

The increased sponsorship from the 50th Anniversary of Malaysia also saw a new international category being added to this year’s event and all three positions were taken by the Japanese teams, fulfilling what team leader Toshi Urabe had predicted “this year, some Japanese team will win prizes”.

The convoy finally return to Kota Kinabalu on Sunday arriving the Pan Pacific Sutera Harbour for their photo shoots. After going for a clean up shower and shave, they headed back for the awards giving dinner and more pictures to finally conclude the Borneo Safari 2007.

International Category


Harohiko Yoshida & Masato Miura



Toshimi Moto & Toshituki Takashi



Tomohiro Oitate & Kenichi Onnishi


Open Category


Chung Hong Ru & Minion Kotidis



Mak Chee Koh & Mak Chee Ming



Kok Tsin Yee & Yap Swee Siong



Chang Ket Kuin & Chang Ket Vui



Md. Hamdan Abdullah & Januddin Warion



Liew Fui Kong & Lee Ghun Ping


Other awards

Team Spirit

Chief Scout Lee Yun Sung (KK)


Sylvester Sobili (Keningau)


Sarah Burges (Australia)

Foul up of the year

Milling Satu (Penampang)

Vehicle of the year

Chang Chiew Shen BJ60, 2JZ with Auto gear, recovery vehicle (Sandakan)

Oldest participant (66)

Kok Kui Leong


The 17th Edition of the Borneo Safari is set to be flagged off from Gaya Street in downtown Kota Kinabalu on 28 October and run 7D/ 6N until the 4th November, 2007. This event is run by the Kinabalu Four Wheel Drive Club with James Wong as its president. He is an avid off roader and owner of perhaps the best looking Range Rover hybrid.

This is the oldest 4x4 club in Malaysia with a good and long tradition. Club information can be found here on it web:

The event will cover a two stage prologue in Donggongan in Penampang, and move in to the Crocker Range areas between Papar and Kimannis, Beauford, Sipitang, Tenom, Keningau and back to Kota Kinabalu for the awards and closing ceremony. This year's route is like the years gone by - it will be hard going from day 3 onwards.

Here are some news (in chorological order) about the event.

27 October
Scrutineering and race far a total of 108 vehicles have passed scrutineering held at the Sutera Harbour resort hotel. There would be 17 competitors in two categories - Open and International (the international category will be made up of 2 Japanese and 1 west Malaysian team.)

This year's route will be as challenging as ever but Chief scout, Sun Tung Lee commented that this would not be a problem as they have more options for escape routes this year than before.

There has been a resurrection of BJ40 and 43 at this year's Borneo Safari. Also the level of vehicle preparation both for competition and also expedition (also known as tag-on) vehicles are at an all time high. See day minus 1 report here.

26 October
Meet imported co-driver Sinichi Yoshimoto aka Yoshi (pictured left) from Japan with Wong Chai. Yes, he will be teaming up with Wong Chai this year. This would be the 6th time the two will be competing together. They have entered the Rainforest Challenge twice, Borneo Safari twice, and a Thai event once.

Yoshi is a fitness buff who has a keen interest in adventure racing with its mix disciplines of mountain biking, kayaking, ropes work and trail running. He prepared for the coming Borneo Safari by entering a local Japanese event recently and also keeping a fitness regime of weight training and running. He is perhaps one of the fittest co-driver around.



25 October
Wong Kok Ping aka Wong Chai is defending his Borneo Safari champs crown by coming out with a 'newly' modified car. His car is based on a Toyota BJ40 equipped with a whopping 15BT 24v 4.2 liter truck engine, and all the goodies. Some of the items in there are: Rancho shock absorbers, RTC (return to centre) double steering damper, the must have Centipede SIMEX Extreme 35" tyres, and air lockers.

Picture shows Wong Chai's rig with chief mechanic Ah Lo talking with Eunice..

He sent his car in for further mods to drop its weight by 200+ kgs. Some of the items he gotten rid of are the doors, the back windshield and parts of the body. But he has also made new mods to beef up the performance. He has asked Borneo4x4 not to reveal these mods for the time being. Wong Chai will also be competing with a new navigator.. Yashimoto from Japan. He will also be competing in the Rainforest Challenge 2007. Many of the sweet parts for competition car can be found at Borneo's foremost 4x4 accessory shop : Borneo 4 Wheel Drive click here.

23 October
Wong Chee Ping aka Kau Loh (left) who came in second in the Central Sarawak 4X4 Challenge would not be competing in the coming Borneo Safari 07. Instead he would be driving a tag-on support car. This is perhaps the signs of things to come this year. Can conditions be such that even a top notch driver equipped with a good competition car would want to sit out this year's event? That's just an indication of the punishment of what the Borneo Safari throws out to everyone.


22 October
Man...have you ever seen the rain? This year's Borneo Safari would probably be the wettest ever. Sabah is known as the 'land below the wind' because it somehow escapes all the typhoons that blows on and over the Philippines and China but no one ever spoke about the 'tail' of the typhoon. There are no typhoons this time round but the winds and rains are certainly there. Driving the entire north face of Borneo from Kuching past Brunei and up to Kota Kinabalu, clearly indicated to Borneo4X4 that the weather is going to be bad if not worse.

20 October
Japan would provide the largest number of foreign competitors with 5 teams confirmed for the 17th Edition of the Borneo Safari.

They would be led by Toshi Urabe (pictured with headband), the veteran and special committee member for the Borneo Safari and also a leading Japanese off road and adventure journalist.

Toshi has been a regular fixture at the Borneo Safari since the late 80s and feel that this is a home event for him. He treasured the bond and friendship that the participants share at the event. He quipped "at the other leading 4x4 event in Malaysia, everyone is so competitive that they loose the friendship and bond of sharing an adventure."

Picture on the right shows Team Japan with Laurence Baraw (white arrow and fellow technical member of Borneo4x4). As Laurence is married to a Kimora (yes, his wife is Japanese descend) the team has adopted him as one of their own.

18 October
Borneo 4 WD contributes the largest pool of prizes to the Borneo Safari 07.
Lim Tai Yin, better known as Borneo Lim runs Borneo 4WD and this shop is noted to be the best 4X4 suspension specialist and supplier for off road accessories. Borneo 4WD is the distributor for a good number of premium off road products and these principal supplier have donated prizes toward the event.

Picture shows Kevin Yeung (Left) the sponsorship coordinator from KFWDC with Borneo Lim with goodies that awaits the winners of the event.

They are: King Springs, Superpro Bushes, Safari Snorkel, EGR Fenders, DBA (Disc Brake of Australia), Tuf Deck bed liners, Visi Fuel Carriers, Perma Cool oil, steering and transmission fluid coolers, Innotec car refrigerator, Frazer folding bed, and Rancho shocks.