Raid-de-Himalaya set to capture high mountain passes

Shimla: The 19th edition of Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya, one of the world’s toughest off-road motor rallies, will begin from the picturesque resort of Manali on October 8, rally organisers said on Tuesday.

The 2,000 km-long cross-country motor race, comprising transport and competitive sections, will pass through some of the most uninhabitable places in Himalayas like Kaza, Sarchu, Kargil, Leh and Pensi la. It will culminate in Leh in Jammu and Kashmir on October 13. A total of 118 motorists will compete in it.

In the four-wheeler X-treme category, ace riders like Suresh Rana, Sandeep Sharma, Harpreet Bawa and Samrat Yadav are set to take off along with 27 other riders with an equal number of navigators.

In the adventure four-wheeler category, there will be 40 rallyists, besides 48 in the two-wheeler X-treme category.

The Raid X-treme, which runs a marathon format with special stages sometimes longer than 100 kilometres, is all about speed, while the adventure category follows the TSD (time-speed-distance) format.

But both categories are severely tested by high altitude, forbidding terrain, sub-zero temperatures and mental fatigue.

A team of eight motorists of the Indian Army, led by Lt Col Shakti Bajaj, will also be participating.

Six women teams would be taking part with Shuchi Thakur and her navigator Samitha Prasad aiming to claim the tile in the four-wheeler X-treme category.

Manisha and Malu, driving a Mahindra Scorpio, will come up from Mumbai to fight for the top spot in the adventure category.

Aishwarya Rai is the lone woman rider in the two-wheeler X-treme category.

The Raid-de-Himalaya is the only Asian motor sport event listed in the off-road rallies calendar of the Switzerland-based FIM (Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme), which captures the attention of the international rallying circuit.

It’s the ultimate test of not only human and machine endurance but also tests a more symbiotic relation between a driver and his machine.

Known as the ‘King of Racers’, Suresh Rana of Himachal Pradesh’s Manali town is once again ready to test his nerves and his machine.

“Raid-de-Himalaya is all about the synchronicity between a driver and his vehicle. One has to know their vehicle to brave any unexpected twist and turn in the route,” an official statement quoting 10-time winner Rana said.

“At the end it is not only about physical endurance, but mental endurance as well. Most importantly, one must put all the efforts in vehicular safety, including all the safety harness and gears,” he said.

Last year, Rana, who was driving a Grand Vitara, and his co-driver Ashwin Naik clinched their 10th Raid de Himalaya title. They were together during the 2010, 2011 and 2013 editions as well. The former is from Manali and the latter from Mangalore.

In the adventure category, Jagmeet Gill and Chandan Sen took the lead driving a Maruti Suzuki Swift. That was the fourth consecutive win for the duo.

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