More than 125 motorists will test their nerves on the lofty mountains of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir when the 19th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya — the world’s toughest motor rally — gets underway on October 8.
Billed as one of the toughest off-road motor rallies in the world, the six-day event, which stretches across 2,400 km, will test both man and machine on some of the toughest and highest motorable roads in the world.
“The ‘Raid’ will be flagged off from Manali on October 8. It will pass through Manali, Kaza, Pang, Leh, Kargil via Pansi la, Drass and Sankhoo before culminating at Leh,” Himalayan Motorsport Association Vice-President Manjeev Bhalla told IANS here.
The rallyists will have to cover 300 to 350 kilometres in a day on an average.
The motorsport association, a member of the Federation of Motorsport Clubs of India, has been organising the ‘Raid’ since 1999.
The rally will zoom through the gruelling, harsh, inhospitable but picturesque terrains of Pang, Kargil and Leh in Ladakh region.
It will also pass through the toughest stretches leading to Tanglangla (17,480 feet) on the third day of the rally.
Known as the ‘King of Racers’, Suresh Rana, who has won the ‘Raid’ 10 times, including five times on the trot till 2008, is once again ready to test his nerves and his machine in this edition too. He won the title last year also.
“I will try to retain my title for the 11th time too,” Rana told IANS.
He believes “it’s his passion that is brings him here to conquer the Himalayas every year”.
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.
The ‘Raid’ is open to professionals as well as amateur motorsport lovers. It runs in two categories: X-treme and adventure trial.
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.
The Raid-de-Himalaya is the only Asian motor sport event listed in the off-road rallies calendar of the Switzerland-based Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme (FIM), which captures the attention of the international rallying circuit.