We’re in Singapore for the MediaCorp Subaru Impreza WRX Challenge 2011, more commonly known as the ‘Subaru Palm Challenge’. This is the grand finals of the annual event, where the longest lasting palm on the car drives home a Subaru. As usual, the event is being held at Ngee Ann City or Takashimaya along Orchard Road.

Last month, Motor Image had a Malaysian leg of the palm challenge at Pavilion KL, where 57 contestants vied for 10 places in the Singapore finals. They’re here now, competing with 310 Singaporeans and 80 others from Cambodia, China, Macau, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Our contingent of Richard Law, Mohd Fadhlly, Yoon Kok Leong, Tan Chuan Kok, Amier Amzar, Jonathan David William, Chan Hon Ki, Hubert Koh, Saw Sen Chiew, and Tan Hong Sheng started the challenge 1pm yesterday, but unfortunately, five have dropped out after nearly one and a half days in the sun and rain.

As of now, there are 124 contestants still in the running. Of the regional contingents, the Thais are showing true grit – 9 are still in the game. The Philippines are close behind with 8 and Vietnam has 7 still standing. Besides the car, on offer are cash prizes for a “Country Winner” and an “Asian Winner” – the latter for the longest lasting non Singaporean. Will the Malaysians defy the odds to outlast the rest?

Unlike the heats in KL, there are no challenges here, one simply needs to outlast the others to win. It’s not just physical strength, but mental power counts a lot too, if not more. The weather hasn’t been too kind as well, I was told by the crew that it alternated between heat and rain yesterday.

Contestants are entitled to a 5-minute break once every six hours, at 1pm, 7pm, 1am and 7am each day. They will need to do all their business in these short breaks – pee in your pants and you’re out, for instance. Only in the 7pm break that one family member is allowed to enter the arena to offer some moral support. Otherwise, it’s a long, smelly and lonely journey out there.

Last year, 45-year-old Singaporean Aloysius Lim lasted 75 hours and 17 minutes, but the ultimate record belongs to George Lee from 2008. He palmed the car for an astonishing 81 hours and 32 minutes to win the duel. How far will this year’s ‘palmers’ go? Stay tuned!