Raid de Himalaya begins today in Kargil
The 20th edition of Raid de Himalaya is officially underway following the flag-off ceremony in Leh on Tuesday.
230 competitors will battle it out for glory in India’s most prestigious motorsport event - and one that is considered as one of the toughest around the world.
As always the focus will be on the Xtreme cars category, despite the absence of long-time title sponsor and participant Maruti Suzuki.
The Indian arm of the Japanese car maker backed out as a sponsor earlier this year and also failed to lodge an entry on time, meaning 10-time champion Suresh Rana won’t be seen in action.
However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any manufacturer-run cars in Raid. Mahindra returned to cross-country rallying earlier this year in in Dakshin Dare and is also participating in Raid, fielding factory Super XUV500s for Philippos Mathai and Amittrajit Ghosh.
The two drivers, who have a wealth of experience in both cross-country rallying and Indian National Rally Championship, are the favourites for the crown, along with 2015 winner Lhakpa Tsering, who would be driving a Polaris RZR 1000 Turbo Turbo Dynamix.
Sanjay Agarwal and Sanjay Razdan are also expected to be in the mix. The two will be driving customer Maruti cars - Gypsy and Grand Vitara respectively - which will continue to dominate the entry list, despite no factory-run or supported cars from the manufacturer.
Meanwhile, TVS will be fielding a five-strong line-up in the Moto category. R Nataraj and Abdul Wahid Tanveer, who will be competing with TVS Sherco 450 rally bikes, are the firm favourites for the overall crown.
Elsewhere, 12 riders will compete in the Alpine two-wheeler category and 31 teams will contest the Adventure Trial division for cars.
Several late changes have been made to this year’s route due to unforeseen circumstances, with the first leg now beginning in Kargil.
The first stage, which was due to run from Lamayuru to Photoksar, has been cancelled and replaced by the Sankhoo to Drass stage that was due to run in both directions on Day 3.
Competitors will then drive from Panikher to Panzila and back on Day 2, while Day 3 schedule remains unchanged - meaning the Sakhoo-Drass stages will be repeated.
On the final day, a new tarmac stage between Rumste to Debring has been added. It replaces the Debring to Datt route that was on the original map.
Three riders to compete in Raid de Himalaya on scooters
Raid de Himalaya: 2015 winner Tsering retires on Day 1