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Women rallyists will be at the forefront in the world’s highest motorsport rally, the legendary 15th Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya, which will run from October 4 to 12, 2013. The rally is organized by Himalayan Motorsport, the Shimla-based motorsport club.
Sheetal Bidaye of Mumbai is the first Indian woman biker to compete in the ‘Raid Xtreme’, an all-out speed category. In addition, this year’s Raid will for the first time have a team of women Army officers competing – Maj. Smitha of ASC and Capt. Madhavi Singh of EME. These two ladies will be driving a Maruti Gypsy as they aim to capture top spot in the ‘Raid Adventure’, the category which follows the time-speed-distance (TSD) format.
Raid 2013 also sees the first woman cop competing for top honours – Constable Richa of Himachal Police. Richa, who is posted at Shimla, will drive a Maruti Gypsy in the ‘Raid Adventure’ category. And in another first, Kalyani Potekar, a 20-year-old student from Fergusson College, Pune, will compete in the ‘Raid Xtreme’ (Alpine), the category for amateur bikers.
Meanwhile, Dharamsala’s Shuchi Thakur, the most experienced woman rallyist in the country, is among the motorsport champions competing in the 15th Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya. Shuchi will be driving her Maruti Gypsy in the ‘Raid Xtreme’ category. This, incidentally, will be her ninth Raid.
The Raid de Himalaya, which starts in Shimla and goes up to Leh (Ladakh), is ranked among the top 10 toughest motorsport events in the world, with participants racing through and past the highest mountain passes in the world, like Khardung La (5602m) and Wari La (5250m). The Raid is the only Indian motorsport event to be listed in the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) calendar for off-road rallies. “The Raid showcases our commitment towards youth empowerment and women empowerment,” says Manohar Bhat, Vice President (Marketing), Maruti Suzuki.
The first edition of the Raid De Himalaya took place in 1999. It is held every October across the high altitudes and challenging terrain of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh. But such a toll do the mighty Himalayas, and the harsh weather conditions, take on the competitors that only a quarter of them manage to last the distance. It promises to be no different this time around, as the excitement mounts towards the start of The Raid ’13.