Himalayan range is one of the most extreme places present on planet earth that can drain out even the toughest drivers ever born. The whole Himalayan range is comprised of the most grueling landscape which is famous for showing no mercy.
Like every year, Maruti Suzuki organized India’s toughest rally race, the 18th Raid-de-Himalaya and gave us a chance to experience what it’s like to be a part of one of the most challenging rally races on planet earth. It was a 6-day race comprised of one of the most challenging and high altitude terrain one can race on.
This is how it started, Day 1:
We took off from Delhi in a Volvo bus and touched down Manali a day before the race was to officially flag off from Manali. Traveling slowly up to the mountain range helps your body to acclimatize to the changing altitude and temperature. While, when you are flying directly up to that range, your body doesn’t get much time to adjust and that may reflect with a slight dizziness and nausea feeling.
A day Before the race, all the participant with their racing machines are supposed to go through a scrutiny round where all the machines are checked so that they abide by all the rules and regulations by FMSCI.
At the flag off, we got a chance to personally meet and interact with the participants knowing what goes through them at the time of the race. Also, we were briefed up for the journey and the challenges that awaited us. From hill-driving rules to basic survival strategies, we were guided properly so that we do not put ourselves in danger in such extreme conditions.
9th Oct 2016: Gramphoo- Losar- Kaza.
It started snowing moments after the start and hence, the track was challenging right from turn 1st. The twists and turns of the Gramphoo range were soon followed by high altitude mountain trails. The path becomes so rocky that it becomes impossible to retain speed at that track. As we went further on the track, it went narrower and scarier.
As the stage commenced at Losar, we journos followed up and it took our team around 10 hours to cover a stretch of 140 km, which the Leg 1 leaders of Xtreme class, Tsering Lhakpa / Ramesh Kumar V Venu did in 01:26:58.
We took off from Gramphoo at 12:30pm, after driving endless in the Spiti Valley range the day just became more challenging as the sunlight went off after 7 in the evening, leaving us on our own in the dark. It was only after we touched down Losar, we found some civilization, and it was a relief as our car didn’t give up on us and we were in a safe zone now. Touched down Kaza at around 10:30 PM, totally exhausted and dying for sleep. The race was to start again in the morning.
10th Oct 2016: Kaza Gate- Demul Jn- Lingti Rama- Sizhiling – Kaza Gate – Demul Jn – Kaza.
On this day, we found ourselves some time and had local breakfast at the nearby market in Kaza. After that, we took off straight to the points where race was to commence, and in-between we found ourselves star-struck by the beauty of the amazing Kaza Valley. The whole day went well, and we were back at our resting places by evening.
The race, as usual, was to start from the early morning, but as this day we had to cover almost double the distance we did on the first day, we started as early as possible.
11th Oct 2016: Losar – Gramphoo – Patseo – Sarchu In.
Having taken off from Kaza at 2:00 AM, we stopped at the famous “ChaCha-ChaChi ka Dhaba” to grab some delicious paranthas on the mid-way. By the day three, we were already acclimatized and were ready for everything this valley had to throw at us.
We were traveling back on the same route as the day 1, but it was longer, as from Gramphoo we had to travel all the way till Sarchu.
As the road went on to become slightly forgiving after Gramphoo towards Sarchu, we paced and reached out resting point faster than anyone else in our group. But the day ended with a sad news of the demise of PAUL Subhamoy, the KTM EXE500 rider who died after losing control of his bike. And that day the Himalayas again proved how unforgiving they are.
The rally was called off on the day three, and the winners were announced based on the timings clocked till the previous day.
Suresh Raina, also famous the name – The Manali Man, along with his co-driver Ashwin Naik, was declared victorious after clocking a total of 03:42:02 Hrs in the 18th edition of Maruti Suzuki Raid de Himalaya. This is their 10th Maruti Suzuki Raid de Himalaya winner title.
Chasing the lead at the second position were Tsering Lhakpa and Venu Ramesh Kumar in Polaris RZR 1000, clocking 03:49:15 Hrs, the third position was bagged by Sandeep Sharma and Karan Arya at 03:51:11 Hrs in Maruti Suzuki Gypsy.
Tanveer Abdul Wahid on his TVS RTR450 grabbed the 1st position in the Motoquad Xtreme followed by R Natraj on TVS RTR450 at the 2nd position and Umang Saxena at the 3rd position driving KTM Duke 390.
In the adventure category, Jagmeet Gill and Chandan Sen took the lead driving Maruti Suzuki Swift. Ajgar Ali & Mohd Mustafa in Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza and Sunder Singh & Zaman Daoud Khan in Vitara Brezza stood at second and third position respectively.
Trip to Leh:
We decided to fly back to Delhi from Leh, and so started off from Sarchu the next morning. As we made our way through the Ladakh Valley, we found out that it is very much different from the Spiti Valley. The mountains here were less rocky, the roads were very well made, and if you start off early you will have enough time to stop anywhere you want and admire one of the highest points you can reach on planet earth.
As the path was fully tarmac, and Raid for us was over, we were able to lay back and enjoy the scenic beauty of the valley. We even stopped in the Pang valley to cherish our limited time in the hills. The Pang Valley was so far the best place we came across in the whole journey of ours.
We salute indomitable spirit of Late Subhomoy Paul, ace rallyist from Kolkata and offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Photography: Mohd. Nasir