[INTERVIEW] Tips from last year’s Subaru Challenge winner Chong Kait Chi

Written by Cheryl Tay on . Posted in Cheryl Tay Blog | Blog Post of Cheryl Tay

I have lots of respect for those who have attempted the Subaru Challenge or are intending to sign up for it. I think it takes a lot of willpower and mental endurance to stand for more than three days with your right palm fixed on a spot on the car. Regardless of rain or shine, you have to remain standing. There are breaks every six hours, but still! I probably won’t even last an hour!

imprecha9Photo credit: business.inquirer.net

The Mediacorp Subaru Challenge is returning at the end of this month for its 11th year, with 400 hopefuls vying for the grand prize of a Subaru XV 1.6 worth S$80,800 (without COE) and additional titles and cash prizes. Touted as the Asia region’s toughest and largest endurance challenge, it will be held at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza on Saturday, 27 October 2012.

The Subaru Challenge is about who can leave their right palms on the Subaru Impreza cars for the longest period of time, having to tolerate harsh weather conditions, sleep deprivation, exhaustion, hunger, dehydration and thirst. There are designated five-minute breaks every six hours – 1pm, 7pm, 1am and 7am - where contestants can choose to eat, drink or use the toilet. As this year is the 11th anniversary, there will be an extended break of 11 seconds during the 7pm evening break. For the first time, the remaining 11 contestants will also be given a ‘Wild Card’ to choose from a list of items such as a drink or an extra break.

The current record stands at 81 hours and 32 minutes held by the 2008 winner, George Lee of Singapore.

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 Jointly organised by Motor Image Enterprises and MediaCorp, the Subaru Challenge started in 2002 and will be bringing participants from 10 countries this year. After completing a series of endurance tests and games organised by Motor Image offices in the region, 90 regional contestants (10 from each country) will be flown in to Singapore to take part in this Asian face-off.

In addition to the grand prize, there will be titles for the regional contestants such as Country Winner for the last standing representative of each participating regional country and a cash prize of S$1,000, Asian Winner title for the last standing regional contestant and S$5,000 in cash, and Country Team Winner with a cash prize of S$10,000 to the country with the longest standing time (combined from all 10 representatives of the same country).

Singaporeans and Permanent Residents keen on entering the challenge can call in to MediaCorp’s Gold 90.5FM, Class 95FM or 987FM from 17 September to 19 October 2012 to enter the first qualifying round. Thereafter, there will be a draw at 7am on 27 October 2012 at Ngee Ann City’s Civic Plaza to determine the finalists. 10 lucky hopefuls qualified directly via a Facebook contest by Motor Image ran from 27 September to 7 October 2012.

Last year’s winner Chong Kait Chi won with a total standing time of 75 hours and 36 minutes of standing time, winning a Subaru Impreza WRX MT hatchback worth S$92,800 (without COE) at that time. Chong stood through scorching heat and heavy rain, finally going up against 27-year old commercial executive Tilani Haresh Lachmandas in the final two, but the latter was disqualified at the 75 hour 35 minute mark for lifting his hand off the designated palm placement.


Photo credit: Paultan.org

 In an interview with Chong, the 42-year-old Singaporean shared his experience and has some tips for this year’s participants.

Q: How many times did you take part in the Subaru Challenge?
A: I took part seven times altogether and I never gave up. I first tried in 2003 and only lasted 45 hours, then I improved in 2006 with 55 hours, then I lasted 69 hours in 2007, 73 hours in 2008, 74 hours in 2009 and then dropped out in 2010 after 69 hours due to exhaustion and swelling of the legs, before finally winning last year.

Q: What was in your mind during the Challenge?
A: Many things went through my mind during those long hours of standing – my life, my family, my career, my future, my love, my parents etc.

Q: Did you have a strategy?
A: I went for the Challenge with nothing planned. But last year, two of my friends Desmond Ho Ho Huat (who tried the Challenge 5 times) and Abdul Hamid Jonid aka ‘Kacang’ (who came in third last year) gave me advice unselfishly. I put their advice to good use and it helped me last longer. I’m also very grateful to the 2007 winner Kevin Lee who stood there the whole night just to support me and keep me going.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced during the Challenge?
A: Hallucination is a major cause of many who failed. It happened to me before too, especially when the weather is very hot.

Also, I do get thirsty and I tend to drink a lot of water during the breaks. It is important to drink water when the sun is scorching hot but that caused me to get the urge to pee and I had to hold it in. I remember my friend peed in his pants during the Challenge last year and was subsequently disqualified, haha!

396042_10151077933607287_1872099608_nPhoto credit: Chong Kait Chi

Q: How did you spend your breaks?
A: Once the break starts, everything is total chaos and everyone is rushing everywhere trying to do everything. The first thing I did for every break was to go to the Medics first because my hands, body and legs were all aching and in need of a good massage. After that I would go for food. I didn’t finish all the food but I ate so I could have strength. After that I will go to the toilet, to avoid extra trouble from trying to control the bladder. All of that took about three minutes. That left me with about two more minutes before I return to the car so I went for a second massage before running back to my spot at the car to do some stretching before placing my palm back for the next six hours.

Q: How did you feel when you won the Subaru Challenge?
A: I couldn’t believe I won. I was confused and my mind was just totally blank.

Q: What did you do with the car you won?
A: I sold it to a friend’s friend.

418645_10150603814517287_1968746444_nPhoto credit: Chong Kait Chi

Q: What is your advice to those taking part this year?
A: This is the same advice that my friends gave me which helped me to win. Mental strength is very crucial, way more than physical strength. I used to depend on my physical strength but when that ends you end too. Never give up in your mind!

Q: Any other tips?
A: Have your loved ones supporting you. The most important person in my success of overcoming the Challenge is the love of my life Jennifer. I got some advice from Desmond and Kachang but it was Jennifer who was there throughout the entire event. She took leave from work and accompanied me from the stands.

The first three days were physically challenging and then it was all down to mental strength on the fourth day. I was breaking down but Jennifer was there, and so was Kevin. They kept encouraging me not to give up.

My parents also came down to support me in the last few hours. My mind was totally blank and I was almost going to give up, but they kept calling out my name and cheering me on. Their support gave me that last boost of strength I needed to hold on.

Good luck to all those taking part this year!

Cheryl Tay

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Singapore’s only female full-time motoring and motorsports photojournalist. Independent automotive consultant and prominent local motorsports personality Cheryl Tay is uniquely passionate about all things cars and motorsports. She also has a strong passion to share her interest and knowledge, hence having a dream to become the ‘Oprah Winfrey of cars and motorsports’ and create a multimedia platform for her sharing. - A female in a male-dominated world, Cheryl Tay is Singapore’s only female full-time motoring journalist and motorsports blogger and she regularly writes for prominent titles in Singapore, Asia and internationally. (See full list of titles that Cheryl Tay writes for here.)

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