Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya
19 years of making the Himalayas a rally playground for the motorsport enthusiasts
Towards the end of every year, as Himachal Pradesh gets colder and the weather gets harder, there is always still a smile on the face of the local people. They welcome it with delight and never a frown, such is their spirit. Well, what about us city folk? What do we see this as? Every year since the past 19 years, we’ve been welcoming the cold winds and rough terrain of the Himalayas in our very own way.
Welcome to the 19th Edition of Raid de Himalayas, one of the toughest terrains and most dangerous high altitude roads filled with ruts, gravel and potholes in every direction. Combine that with ice and the fact that every corner could be your last, over 150 participants from 110 teams were part of this year’s Raid. It’s sad to say that the high altitude and rough terrain did get to some with only half of the participants actually completing the Raid, needless to say, it really does test you and your metal.
My flight landed on a bright sunny morning at Delhi, from where I was assigned a cab that would take me all the way to Manali. The route was set to go through Chandigarh and it was a 13-hour drive in total. Keeping me occupied were 2 other passengers each with wonderful stories to share along with their enthusiasm for automobiles. As the journey progressed, the sight changed from plain straight roads to gradual hill climbs as the sunset added to the ambience in the background. As you may have guessed it, I dozed off on my way to Manali and woke to a freezing touch of the cold wind. We were to stay in Manali for about 2 days and leave along with the rest of the rally.
The next day after the scrutiny of all the participating vehicles, the participants were flagged off at Manali beyond which altitudes rose to about 17,000 feet and temperatures dropped to as low as -15°C. To help keep pace with the rally, Maruti provided me with a petrol Maruti Suzuki Swift that was rally modified so I could manage to keep up with the rest of the rally convoy and even then it wasn’t as easy as you’d think it would be. While I was busy acclimating to the altitude inside the comfort of my car, while it was -7°C and the participants were covering some serious miles during the transport stage between each stage, especially the bikers who didn’t budge against all odds and no matter how cold it got.
It was quite unfortunate that a lot of the teams faced issues and some had to pull out of the rally due to the harsh weather and road conditions that managed to break not the participants or their spirit but instead their machines. Even though my rally spec Swift didn’t face as many hardships as the rest of the rally, it still did extremely well. The handling was predictable and the car seemed to understeer if pushed too hard but if kept in control and you manage not to push it hard, the hatchback was nothing short of rewarding. The engine begging you to rev it all the way to the top and each time I did so, it rewarded me with a smooth engine hum that got louder as the revs climbed. The ride quality was flat and maintained the composure even through hard cornering. Driving this vehicle was a breeze and a real joyful experience especially given the extremely beautiful roads built by the BRO.
After seeing some of the most beautiful sights that I have in a long time and enjoying the experience of a driver’s wet dream for roads, we finally returned back to Leh to witness the final results and prize distribution of the laptop. Out of the few participants that made it across. From team Maruti Suzuki, Suresh Rana along with his Navigator PVS Murthy managed to score yet another victory in the X-treme cars category, for the 11th time finishing the Raid in a fast time of just 09:22:17 hours with his Grand Vitara. Coming in at second place were Sanjay Razdan and his navigator Karan Aukta in their Maruti Gypsy finishing the Raid in 10:13:14 hours, followed by Sanjay Agarwal and Smitha N in their Grand Vitara completing the Raid in 10:35:33 hours, followed closely by Dharam Pal Jangra and Abhishek Sultan in their Vitara Brezza covering the distance in 10:45:41 hours. All of this while covering a distance of 1850 kms through some really rough places like Sarchu, Pang, Kargil and Kaza. The Raid went on for about 7 days and was divided into three categories X-treme cars, X-treme bikes and Adventure.
In my eyes, the riders are the toughest of the bunch in the Raid De Himalaya rally
In the X-treme bikes section, TVS racing team took the victory with rider Abul Wahid winning with a phenomenal time of 07:44:03 on his TVS RTR 450 FX, followed closely by R. Natraj who finished it in 07:47:03. Finishing an hour later was R E Rajendra on his TVS RTR 200FX with a time of 08:57:29. Aishwarya Pissay being the only female rider who finished the raid with a commendable time of 11:43:30.
In the Adventure SUV category, Subir Roy and Nirav Mehta finished in first place with their Maruti Gypsy. Finishing in second place were Shashwat Gupta and Chirag Thakur in their Isuzu V-Cross and in the third position we had Shailendra Singh and Dinky Varghese in their Skoda Yeti. In the Adventure Car category, Rajesh Chalana and Satish Gopalkrishnan took the first position with their Maruti Swift, followed by Rakesh Choudhary and Raja Hisham with their Maruti SX4 in second place and Shubham Middha and Anshul Asati with their Maruti SX4 in the third position.
This concludes the 19th Edition of Raid de Himalayas and we hope to see the competition to be a whole lot tougher along with more participants next year. As I left Leh and was at the airport, I realized how great my whole experience has been and how little we appreciate the things our military does for us to protect us. Spending all that time up North at places that would be considered as hot zones for conflict, the environment was nothing short of peaceful with everything functioning in a normal fashion. Without them absolutely none of this would have been possible, so salute to them for their wonderful dedication to keeping our country great.
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