We just got home from Singapore, where the MediaCorp Subaru Impreza WRX Challenge 2011 came to a close last evening. As the contest entered day four, three men were determined to be the last man standing, but it was Chong Kiat Chi who outlasted the rest to drive away a Subaru Impreza WRX MT Hatchback worth S$92800 (without COE).

Chong, a 42-year old sales manager, had his palm on the car for 75 hours and 36 minutes. Chong is an old hand at the game, having previously contested six times in this annual event.

Six-time repeat contestant Chong Kiat Chi finally strikes gold (wheels)

He beat 27-year old commercial executive Tilani Haresh Lachmandas in the final battle. Tilani, with his huge popping eyes, looked very determined, and appeared the fitter of the two. He also had a huge group of friends cheering him on, but at the 75 hour 35 minute mark, stewards disqualified him for lifting his hand off the designated palm placement.

He wasn’t pleased with the call, as anyone who had a 50:50 shot at a car would be. But with the stakes so high, mistakes can be costly. Tilani had to settle for a S$5,000 cheque.

Determined and with plenty of support, but Tilani Haresh had to settle for S$5,000

Earlier, hotly tipped 52-year old chauffeur Abdul Hamid Jonid, last year’s runner up, was eliminated at 75 hours, 8 minutes after his hand slipped off. It must be heartbreaking for “Kachang” having been so close yet so far for two years running.

Conditions weren’t easy after the final ever 5-minute break at 1pm yesterday. The weather continued to toy with them, oscillating between scorching heat and heavy downpour. Winner Chong perhaps had a slightly easier time as his position was shielded from direct sun by the Ngee Ann City shadow.

Another heartbreaking nearly there moment for last year’s runner up Kachang

“I’m incredibly happy to have won. I dropped out last year due to exhaustion, but this year, with the support of my family and friends, I was able to last for as long as I did. Without them I don’t think I would have been able to do it, so I am really grateful for everything they have done,” Chong said.

Away from the trio, the best regional contestant went to Neblasca Alex Jr from the Philippines. He went home with S$5,000. As the best regional collective effort (combined hours) the Thailand team won S$10,000. The last man standing from each country took home S$1,000 each, and Malaysia’s best effort came from 30-year old sales personnel Saw Sen Chiew.

Saw lasted over 63 hours before his palm slipped off, a commendable effort. Besides the smooth surface, Saw said that the “concentration was not there” when he was eliminated.

Saw Sen Chiew was Malaysia’s longest lasting. He took home S$1,000 as country winner

Being there live at the palm challenge left me amazed at the willpower and determination shown by the participants, who endured sun and rain every single day. But I tip my cap to Adam Kamis, the one handed contestant. Good natured and ever smiling, the 32-year old joined not to boost his bank balance, but to raise funds for a semi paralysed friend to go to Germany for treatment.

However, Kamis, who lost his arm in a bike accident in 2003, was “strongly advised” by medics to retire getting severe blisters on his hand.

Adam Kamis put his only palm down to help a friend. Blisters got in the way

“My skin was stuck on the car, I peeled it off and blood just gushed out,” he told this wincing writer. “I intend to safe this arm for next year’s contest,” the man who runs at least 30 km a day added with a smile. An eye opening few days indeed.

Think you can do better? Join next year!