A 2,600km round trip to Thailand is not for the faint-hearted, but those who braved the distance are rewarded with the experience of a lifetime. Evo Enduro 2018 was more than an epic road trip, it was the convergence of many journeys.

There are car enthusiasts, and there are driving enthusiasts, and they are not necessarily the same thing. Whilst we all profess love of cars to varying degrees, a driving enthusiast expresses that love to a higher level, elevating it beyond the academic and onto the road.

Flawless museum examples may be easy on the admiring eye, but cars are built to be driven, and it is only by driving that we allow a car to fulfil the singular purpose of its existence.

After managing to cover 1,000km from KL to Phuket in 2017, the consensus was that Evo Enduro 2018 should have its bar raised further, and Hua Hin was picked as our destination after an online poll conducted with participants.

A small but growing tourist city less than 200km from Bangkok, Hua Hin is a mere 300km further north from Phuket. From the numbers, it seemed like a logical and entirely reasonable ‘progress’ from our previous year’s programme.

‍‍‍ Still, 1,300km is no short distance and taking into account factors of safety and driver stamina, the programme is paced to allow participants to spend a night along the way before ultimately reaching Hua Hin in Day 2. Some were gung-ho enough to cover the entire distance in one day, others opted for a night in Hat Yai or Surat Thani.

To some, the car is just a mode of transport, a means to bring us from point A to point B, but it is, in fact, so much more. Ov‍‍‍er the last 100 years, the car has been the engine of our progress. The car has enabled rapid mobilization of the masses, and journeys that used to take days or weeks can now be completed in mere hours.

Our foot-trotting ancestors would have taken a month to cover the distance between Kuala Lumpur and Hua Hin of Thailand, but thanks to energy extracted from what’s left of the dinosaurs, it is now possible to complete that journey in just one day.

LASTING THE‍‍‍ DISTANCE

It’s Flagoff!

We were still sometime from dawn when the ‍‍‍first participants began arriving at our clubhouse for the flagoff event. One by one, the cars trickled in and before long, the compound of Wearnes Autohaus was packed with our participants and their vehicles. Stickers were handed out and everybody dutifully decorated their cars with the full Enduro livery.

Preparations received a welcomed interruption in the form of a fierce V8 roar. It was our guests from Bufori. The MD himself, Mr Gerry Khouri, brought a small contingent of two Genevas and a La Joya to give us a grand send-off. The bellowing growl of the Geneva’s 6.4-litre Hemi V8 snapped whatever’s left of anybody’s slumber into full attention. Evo Enduro 2018 has truly begun.

“There are no marshals, no committees. Everybody drive safe and take care of yourself. If you crash, and you survive, call your insurance company; if you die, we’ll call your wife,” goes the concise (but not at all ominous) driver’s briefing from Bobby.‍‍‍

800km of Adventure, Determination, and Endurance

For Beng and the select few heroes who opted to push all the way to Hua Hin on Day 1, the real test of Evo Enduro 2018 began after the border.

Because it was already evening by the time most participants had cleared the checkpoint, these dri‍‍‍vers faced the ultimate test of their driving lives, having to cover nearly 800km of unfamiliar roads in the dark battling their own fatigue whilst also watching out for the locals.

As the Hua Hin-bound group ploughed on the distance, pulling further and further away from the Hat Yai one-night dwellers, the entire Enduro group was effectively being spread across a 750km strip separating the two towns. WhatsApp became our only tool of communication, those holed up and Hua Hin rapidly checking their phones whilst the ones on the road periodically sent updates on their whereabouts.

There was no official flagoff from Hat Yai. Only a message on the Whatsapp chat group advising everyone to drive safe. Everybody got up at their own time, had breakfast at their leisure, and hit the road whenever they were ready.

Having the benefit of daylight plus a full night’s sleep meant the journey was not as hazardous as those who braved it the night before, but it was no less taxing an adventure. The pitch darkness experienced by the earlier group was replaced with scorching sunlight, and those who made the mistake of leaving home without their sunglasses were faced with 750km’s worth of squinting.

But as the Hat Yai-dwelling cars scurried their way to Hua Hin, news began filtering in through Whatsapp that a trio of cars, consisting of Mike Yap’s Volkswagen Corrado, Captain John T’s Porsche 996 911 Turbo, and Suresh’s first-gen Lotus Elise were each facing mechanical issues. Another participant, Melvin, found himself ill, and was relieved of driving duty for the rest of the journey.

These little hiccups did little to stem the spirit of Enduro, however, and before nightfall, everybody had reached Hua Hin safe and sound. Those who arrived the day before did their bid of sightseeing and then there was Suresh, who having driven all the way to Hua Hin on the first day, still had enough reserves of energy to go looking for more driving on the go-kart track.

Ratchapak Park was the scene everyone gathered the next day for the customary video and photoshoot, followed by a celebratory dinner hosted in the evening by the Thai tourism board. Amidst the sumptuous buffet being served, everybody present bonded in camaraderie, swapping stories of their lives, cars, and the adventure of an unforgettable driving journey.

In planning our time for this roadtrip, we’ve come to realize that, spoiled by our fast-moving highways, Malaysians have learned to mentally average one hour as the expected amount of time to complete 100km on the road. Such estimates cannot be applied on Thai roads, where the slow can infuriatingly pedestrian and the fastest cars are modded unladen D-Maxes with enough power to emphatically outrun a Volvo T8 PHEV or a Mercedes-AMG C 43.

Those on the road faced a few close calls along the way. Beng had to call upon the full might of her MX-5’s brakes to haul themselves to a standstill just a whisker away from an errant truck exiting an unlit junction. In another incident, one participant recounts exchanging glances with a passing train driver as they barely managed to stop at a railway crossing with neither a boomgate nor a red light in sight.

The clock had just struck midnight as the first cars began rolling into Hua Hin, and it wasn’t till 4am that Beng had swept the last group into town. Nearly 24 hours without sleep, these heroes made it, and as they retired to their hotel rooms with a full day’s well-earned rest to look forward to, those who slept the night at Hat Yai rose to see their journey to completion.

‍‍‍Further delays ensued in processing of our insurance. Even though we had pre-booked and submitted our vehicle details to the agent at the checkpoint, the sheer number of forms that required filling up a‍‍‍dded another couple of hours to our waiting time at the border.

⁠⁠More drama was to come at the Thai side of the gate, where we realized that our American guests, the legendary Jack Baruth of Road & Track and his missus Charley, was waved through from the Malaysian side without having their passports stamped. This technically meant that they haven’t actually left Malaysia and Thailand, therefore, are unable to admit them to their borders.

Nothing a bit of ingenuity won’t solve. A couple of runners stepped forward to offer their services for RM10 each to shuttle Jack & Charley back to the Malaysia gate to have their passports stamped and we were soon on our merry way.

It was 5pm by the time Bobby and Kon cleared the border checkpoint with the last group of people. Beng had left earlier to cover the remaining 800km of her journey to Hua Hin, whilst the rest of us plodded along to Hat Yai to recharge for the next day.

The first rays of sunlight began to creep up the sky, and it was time for flagoff. The Buforis were the first to hit the road and, one by one, the participants exited the Wearnes compound, though not before a customary flagoff photo with Beng proudly holding up the Jalur Gemilang.

After a quick regroup at Sg Buloh to re-organize the convoy for some photos, everybody ploughed their way up north at their own pace. Some drove in relaxed fashion, others hurried to chase time and it wasn’t till we reached Alor Setar for breakfast at Nasi Kandar Nasmir that everybody was back together again.

Almost everybody, the Buforis had turned back at Tanjung Malim and so did a few others at various points along the way. Those unable to join us all the way to Hua Hin returned to their daily grind after cheering us as far as their schedules permitted.

Crossing the Border

It was past mid-day as we rolled into the Padang Besar check point. All cars had earlier refilled their tanks to the brim – an absolute necessity before crossing into Thailand, not only is fuel expensive, many stations offer nothing but gasohol. In small quantities, gasohol is relatively harmless to our engines, but over pro-longed usage, the alcohol mixed into the fuel corrodes your fuel line. Those driving older cars need to be extremely cautious. Top tip: look for the yellow pump.

It is a constant of the universe that progress inevitably gets slowed down by bureaucracy. Our arrival at Padang Besar coincided, quite unfortunately, with renovation works on the Malaysia side and high traffic of trucks plying the trade route with our northerly neighbours.

The Journey Home

All good things come to an end. One by one, the cars of Evo Enduro 2018 departed Hua Hin each of them with occupants carrying heavy hearts in them. Not all were headed home immediately, however, as some decided to extend their Enduro experience with even more adventures.

In particular, there was Suresh, who continued driving well after we had left and had practically covered the entire Thailand in his trusty Lotus, journeying as far as the Thai-Cambodia border and also conquering the famous Mae Hong Son Loop in the process.

There was still time for one small episode of drama, halfway between Hua Hin and Hat Yai, when Beng’s phone rang with a call from the hotel. Yi-Shen of Autobuzz had left his passport in his room. In true Evo Enduro spirit, however, the matter was quickly resolved. The noEqual crew had made a detour for extra sight-seeing in Bangkok, and was just passing through Hua Hin on their southbound journey to rendezvous with us at Hat Yai later that night.

Most of us re-charged a night at Hat Yai before the final push home the next day. Border crossing was thankfully smooth and largely uneventful, but being a Sunday, traffic on the North South Highway was extremely heavy.

Those with the wisdom (and willpower to wake up) to leave Hat Yai early managed to escape the worst of it, but it thankfully never got as bad as it did during the journey home from Enduro 2017 where some actually reached home the next morning being caught up in the Hari Raya Haji traffic madness. This year, most made it home well before midnight.

“After a few days in Thailand, I learned that you don’t mess with the D-Maxes. They’ll bully even an AMG Benz out of the fastlane and they have no compunction about driving the point home. The sky-jacked F-350s of Texas might as well be Hello Kitty cars compared to these bad boys.”

– Jack Baruth, Road & Track

This year, Evo Enduro gets a bit of a global spotlight as we hosted representatives from Road & Track of USA and Carsguide.com.au of Australia. Here’s what they have to say about our little adventure:

Beyond the triumph of reaching the destination and experiencing the joys of the journey, there is no more satisfying part of an roadtrip than homecoming, for it represents the adventure’s definitive conclusion and sets us up for our next outing.

Thanks to the invention of the car and plane a century ago, we enjoy geographical mobility at a level that our ancestors would not have ever imagined. Through the car, we have the means to broaden our horizons and admire the wonders of the world. Every journey is an adventure, an opportunity not just to explore the beauty of creation, but also to enrich our own experiences.

Our generation is indeed privileged to enjoy the mobility that the car provides, and Evo Enduro celebrates that privilege by pushing ourselves and our cars to see how far we can go together. Meanwhile, out there, somewhere in the back roads of Thailand, Suresh and his Lotus are hitting the road again.

For the rest of us, perhaps no longer bound by anticipation of arrival, the southbound journey home felt less hectic than the opposite ‍‍‍direction. Everybody drove along at a relaxed pace, with sparkles of drizzle and shower providing us with cool relaxing weather most of the way.

Read more about Suresh’s extended Enduro adventure here

From Across The World

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“The Mercedes-AMG C43 ahead of me in squats and blast a cloud of direct-injection particulate from its dual exhaust. I floor the Geneva's drive-by-wire pedal and the Chrysler 392 offers a distant roar, as if the engine note were on a radio playing in the background. There is a brief moment while the five-speed grabs second gear, then the nose lifts in rapid but controlled fashion and we are on the move in earnest.”

“The dozens of top blokes I met proved you don't need exotics to have a great car culture.”

– James Lisle, Carsguide.com.au

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Words by K‍‍‍on