The great test of human willpower that is the Subaru Challenge 2012 – The Asian Face-Off has finally concluded after 78 hours and 30 minutes. The victor this year is Singaporean Tholmas Gan Yu Shen, who walks (or rather hobbles) away with a brand new Subaru XV. The 42-year old software engineer beat fellow countryman G Jaishanker, who will receive a consolation of S$5,000.

Gan, a third-time palm challenge veteran, suffered from the usual blisters and swollen legs. His cause was helped by a relatively good position drawn from the ballot – a second-row car that was less exposed to the sun, and a palm position on the car’s boot.

“I’m very happy and also tired, but I tried not to give up. I’ve not eaten any food for the past four days. I just drank, yes, and I just drank and all this liquid kept me going,” Gan told reporters after the victory.

This year’s contest was described by many as the toughest ever due to the heat factor, but the regional contestants put up a strong showing. Each of Motor Image’s nine Asian markets brought in 10 players, who went up against 310 locals. As we passed the 68-hour mark (last year’s winner clocked 75 hours and 36 minutes), there were five regional players up against six locals.

One of the five was the strongest Malaysian. Tan Hong Sheng managed an impressive 73:03 despite an unfavourable position – more sun on the front row, more slippery on the car window.

Placed on the same car as last year’s runner-up Tilani Haresh Lachmandas (a surprise drop out), who he bonded with, Hong Sheng outlasted Tan Chuan Kok a.k.a. Scott, who looked stronger in the earlier stages. Hong Sheng’s valiant effort netted him S$1,000 as the Country Winner.

We caught up with the man at Taka’s food court (he deserves a meal!) and he looked remarkably fresh for someone who has been standing in the same spot for 73 hours. The 32-year old service engineer’s personal mission was simply to break his last year’s time of 63 hours, and he managed to up the bar by a staggering 10 hours!

A few factors contributed to the huge improvement, he reasoned. This year, he did not touch the isotonic drinks on offer during break time, consuming only water. He also avoided the lauk during meals, only having rice for energy.

He reckoned that salt collected at the bottom of the body is a cause for foot swelling, which is the biggest problem for most players. Whatever it is, it worked. Wearing a long sleeve shirt also gave him extra protection from the sun.

How was he eliminated? The man himself can’t remember. “My mind was in another place, I didn’t know what I was doing,” he said, adding that his brain “shut off” for the final few hours.

We’ve observed that after a certain period, this is more of a mental challenge than a physical one, and Tan admitted that it was very tough to stay alert. Talking to one another helps a lot, he says. Describing the experience as “magical”, he will be back in 2013 to once again improve on his personal best. Pushing the limits, it’s like an addiction.

Gallery from the final day after the jump. Our previous posts on the Subaru Challenge 2012 can be viewed here and here.