CRAWLERS bring to mind creepy crawlies and creatures that scuttle around with a lot of legs. Not exactly my cup of tea. With a name like Siput Park and RC Crawlers being bandied about, I’m not too enthused about meeting up with what could potentially be some snail-rearing hobbyists or a community of bug lovers.
But Mohammad Shahrin Mandalam is quick to dispel my fears. The Siput Park Trophy president explains simply: “Radio-control crawlers or RC crawlers are actually scaled cars and trucks that race!”
Grinning he adds: “Not forgetting of course, our trusty remote controls that we use to navigate these little crawlers!”
Boys with their toys, I think aloud and he laughs, telling me that this hobby is slowly gaining traction here and that Siput Park Trophy had just hosted Malaysia’s first international RC Crawler competition on Aug 26 and 27.
Dubbed the “Asiatees Grand Defender Challenge”, the competition was a two-day event which gathered contestants from all over the globe including Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Guam, Taiwan, Indonesia and Hong Kong.
“We had around 100 competitors taking part,” adds Shahrin proudly.
He explains that Siput Park Trophy uses a park where they set up base to race their crawlers.
The man-made circuit is an amalgamation of nature and nurture. The specially-created RC off-road trail showcases scaled-sized vehicles that are manoeuvred with the use of remote controls.
These little beasts, all buzzing with speed, are raced around the track, navigating rocks and wood to emerge at the finishing line!
As the name implies, RC crawlers are designed to climb rocks and rough terrain that other remote-control cars can’t handle.
Crawling has expanded over the years to include more than just negotiating rock piles. These days, the term “crawler” encompasses technical rock crawlers, rock racers, and trail rigs.
Siput Park Trophy was formed in late 2014 and represents a group of hardcore trailers and crawlers.
Its odd name (Siput is snail in Malay) is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the time when one of its first members accidentally flipped his remote control 4x4 (crawler) into a small pond and fished it out — to find it filled with small snails!
While I’ve seen boys play with remote control cars, I’m surprised to find out that grown men can take it so seriously as a sport.
I wonder if there are many members and am surprised to learn that its members are originally from Kuala Lumpur and Selangor but with time, they have also garnered members from all over Malaysia including Sabah and Sarawak and even from across the globe!
The athletic 42-year-old heartily shares that he started out in late 2014 and is still crazy about the hobby.
“I was looking for a hobby that could connect me to nature,” he says, adding that he enjoyed seeing how the crawlers performed and went over obstacles on track.
“There was no looking back once I started!” he remarks with a chuckle.
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
It’s more than just a hobby, Shahrin tells me, pointing out that there are even competitions held around the world for racing these crawlers.
In fact, Shahrin himself has won many such competitions in Malaysia and internationally. He was placed second in the 2016 Hong Kong Recon G6 Defender Challenge and was recently crowned champion in the 2017 JCT Fesco Scale Competition.
The self-deprecating crawler enthusiast admits: “I’m still learning about this hobby and there’s still a lot of room to grow.”
Don’t let that humility fool you. His much-lauded talent has resulted in him being a sponsored driver for Asiatees (Hong Kong), Tekin Racing (US) and Ottsix Racing (US). He frequently races crawlers for these companies — proving he’s no ordinary RC Crawler driver!
Seeing the little cars and trucks whizz around the track with speed and agility, you can’t help but be drawn to the buzzing excitement and the adrenaline rush of racing.
“We have a weekly trailing session on Sundays from 9am to 2pm,” he discloses.
This is where they have a drive around the park with their 1:10 scale trucks while enjoying nature. He informs me that they usually organise a class after the trailing session where they would share their knowledge with newbies on the mechanical and technical aspects of the hobby.
“We are constantly promoting the club and the hobby,” he says earnestly. “As Malaysia’s leading crawler club, we’re always looking for ways to grow this interest. For example, we’ve organised quite a number of competitions,” he shares, adding that the club has its own Siput Park Crawler series thrice a year where contestants pit their driving skills against nature.
“We also have our rock racing or better known as U4 series. This is a competition where people will race in a circuit filled with obstacles such as rocks and wood. We’ve also organised shows where we built temporary indoor tracks and showcased the crawlers to spread the hobby further,” shares Shahrin.
The club is no slouch in producing champions — and making waves at competitions themselves.
As a group, it has won second place at the Hong Kong Scale Invasion (RECON G6) 2016 and was also champions twice in the Keladi Adventure Track Competition (Stage 1 and 2) (2016).
With his voice brimming with enthusiasm, he says: “Our goal has always been to enjoy this hobby together. It’s a healthy passion that promotes interaction with nature and something which people of all ages can enjoy.”
RACING THROUGH CHALLENGES
Siput Park Trophy’s goal is to make Malaysia the hub for all crawlers, scale and U4 competition for 1:10 scale trucks in Asia.
“We’re still trying to get help from the local councils/authorities to help us achieve this dream,” divulges Shahrin with a glint in his eye.
Like its RC crawlers, the club had to navigate through some challenges themselves. Building, maintaining and promoting the track can be formidable tasks.
More often than not, the members need a lot of help and heavy machinery to help move the tracks around. The club doesn’t collect fees so things can get financially challenging from time to time.
“Our sponsors have been helping us mainly with prizes during competitions. What we really need is monetary help in organising competitions and building the tracks,” admits Shahrin ruefully.
Of the recently-concluded international competition they hosted, he shares: “We hope to grow this event further. It’s a unique showcase of scale-sized racing and there is no other competition like it.”
He concludes with a smile: “It’s fun to drive the scale trucks and see it overcome obstacles in its path along the track. It’s something we can definitely relate to. After all, that’s what we’re doing — overcoming challenges to share the love of crawling.”
To learn more about Siput Park Trophy and the crawler hobby, visit their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/siputparktrophy/) and their instagram (siputpark_rc_scale).