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The 15th Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya, India’s most exciting motorsport event, and a regular stopover on the international circuit, came to a rousing conclusion in Leh, Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), after travelling more than 1800km over six days. The competitors, men and women (tough nuts all), crossed some of the world’s highest motorable terrain and braved sub-zero temperatures – those who managed to complete the arduous route would surely have felt on top of the world!
Suresh Rana and Ashwin Naik, driving a Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, were crowned champions in the X-Treme 4W category. Rana won this coveted title for a ninth time (and a second time with Naik as co-driver); Sanjay Agarwal and Shiv Prakash finished as first runners-up, while Harpreet Bawa and Parminder Thakur were second runners-up. Meanwhile, Jagmeet Gill and Chandan Sen, driving a Maruti Suzuki Gypsy, triumphed in the Adventure Trial 4W category, with Subir Roy and Mohammed Mustafa (first runners-up) and Kaushal and Gaurav Patel (second runners-up) completing the top three.
Austria’s Helmut Frauwallner was crowned champion in the X-Treme 2W category – the indefatigable 55-year-old also finished the Raid-de-Himalaya top of the overall X-Treme (Motorcycles and Quads) category; Germany’s Stephan Rausch and Bangalore-based R. Nataraj finished second and third, respectively. Also celebrating wins were Sajan Preet Singh, who took the honours in the X-Treme (Alpine) category, and Kunal Rao, who clinched top spot in the X-Treme (Scooters) category.
Out of the 75 cars, bikes and scooters that entered the X-Treme categories, 29 finished the rally, including all five participants in the new Scooters category. In the Adventure Trial category, from the 62 cars that were flagged off, an impressive 41 made it through to the final leg of the rally. And age was no barrier to participation in the Raid – the youngest competitor was aged 18 years while the eldest was 57 years old.
Among the women, Sheetal Bidaye of Mumbai became the first Indian lady biker to compete in the ‘Raid Xtreme’, an all-out speed category, while Dharamsala’s Shuchi Thakur, the most experienced woman rallyist in the country, was taking part in her ninth Raid.
The Raid-de-Himalaya is organized by the Himalayan Motorsport Association, whose president, Vijay Parmar, is an Adventure Nation Guru for Motorsport. This gruelling event is one of Indian sport’s most prestigious – but for sheer adventure, and for the many challenges it offers, it has no compare (the F1 race has a lot of catching up to do!). No wonder speed freaks and thrill seekers all around the world look forward to this autumn date!