We went to Force Motors’ off-road proving grounds in Pune to get a taste of just how capable the Rainforest Challenge winning Gurkha really is.
Frankenstein’s Monster - as the 19th century British novel that warned people against tampering with nature – is described as a grotesque humanoid creature made up of different body parts from various corpses that is almost superhuman in its physical abilities.
While the Rainforest Challenge India winning Force Motors Gurkha is not grotesque, it is quite monstrous in its appearance, albeit in a good way for those who saw it in action during the RFC India in Goa or even those who just got to see it standing still on a road.
After a week of chasing it and the twenty other two-man team of cars through mud and slush, in rain, over boulders and through forests, we were invited by Force Motors to not only get a closer look at their beast at their plant in Pune, but also drive it on their off-road test track.
En route to the track, which was sadly dry as the expected rain pulled a no-show, we saw the vehicles whose ‘body parts’ made it to the RFC Gurkha while making our way through the green, almost army barracks like area of the plant. The Traveller, Force Motors’ most widely sold product, gave up its 2.2-litre CRDI engine and gearbox while the Balwan tractor donated its hydraulic steering, which was adapted to fit into a Gurkha.
These three essential components remained the same in this year’s car as well as the one that won the 2014 edition of the event that has changed competitive off-roading in India. But in an effort to stay ahead of challengers like Chandigarh’s Gerrari Offroaders Club, very visible and drastic upgrades were made to the car. All of this has lead to the weight of the car ballooning to two tonnes, which even Force Motors’ managing director Prasan Firodia admits is something that the company needs to work on reducing while keeping the car as capable as it is.
GIVING IT A GO
For us, however, the car felt more than just capable regardless of whether we were in the passenger seat or behind the wheel and giving the test track a go. From the passenger seat, all I could think of was why the car was not tipping end over end or rolling over its side while heading down and up gradients so steep that you could not see anything but the ground or the sky.
One still couldn’t be cavalier while driving the vehicle and a member of Force’s technical team accompanied us, engaging differential lock when it was needed and even telling us how to approach a particular obstacle. The trick is to let the engine do a lot of the braking for you on steep descents while you brake in a manner that doesn’t shift the weight forward too suddenly. And on uphill slopes you lock the diffs to distribute power evenly on all four wheels and step on it.
Probably the obstacle that impressed the most was the one that tested the side roll-over angle of the car that looked all the more imposing as compared to its 2014 cousin due to gigantic 37-inch off-road tyres.
The car’s level of articulation is so high that you can literally see the ground next to your window as if it were a wall on the side of the car. At one point, when I got it wrong and the car rolled to the wrong side I could stick my hand out of the window and touch the ground. Fortunately the car was capable enough for me to stop, reverse and set it the right way to tackle the obstacle without giving the technicians a reason to despise me!
Both Divyanshu and I walked away suitably impressed, wondering what else the car could have done. Not to mention appreciating the thrill one can get while offroading even at a crawling speed.