Phillipos, Amitrajjit, Lhakpa start favourites in Raid de Himalaya
Leh : The 20th edition of the iconic Raid de Himalaya gets under way here on Wednesday, with the countrys leading rallying lights lining up to battle for the ultimate prize in Indian motorsports.
Rallying titans Phillipos Matthai and Amitrajjit Ghosh of Team Mahindra, 2015 Raid winner Lhakpa Tsering and 2017 runner-up Sanjay Razdan and third-placed Sanjay Agarwal are among the over 230 competitors in fray.
The rally includes 31 teams in the Xtreme cars and trucks category, 37 teams in the Xtreme motorcycles and quads, 12 bikers in the Alpine two-wheeler category, and 31 teams in Adventure Trail.
They will all be required to show their mettle and fight with each other in the highest reaches of the Himalayas, passing through dangerous roads in the sectors of Kargil, Zanskar and Ladakh.
2015 Raid winner Lhakpa Tsering of Arunachal Pradesh pointed out that it took guts to race at such heights on such difficult roads.
"Rallying is not cricket or tennis where you have 17-18 year olds becoming champions. Competitive high-altitude racing needs maturity, brains and physical fitness, and tremendous grit," the 45-year-old veteran, who has been in motorsports for 20 years, said.
Multiple rally and racing champion Amitrajjit Ghost of Team Mahindra expressed his excitement, saying: "I am really excited and am looking forward to go all out and win another title for our team."
The first stage of the Raid will take the competitors on the never-before traversed section from Lamayuru, called the moonland of Ladakh, to Photoksar.
They will then hit the newly-upgraded road that was earlier a mule track into Zanskar before crossing the Sirisir La at a height of 4805 meters above sea level.
Interestingly, the main contenders have all opted for different vehicles which require different skill sets.
Matthai and Ghosh will be driving in their preferred XUV 500 while Sanjay Razdan will be in his Maruti Gypsy; Sanjay Agarwal will be in a Grand Vitara while Lhakpa Tsering in a Polaris RZR 1000 Turbo Dynamix.
Raid de Himalaya, India's most formidable motorsport race, is the flagship rally of the country's leading motorsport club, Himalayan Motorsport president Vijay Parmar, the organisers of the Raid said: "Raid 2018 offers new winding high-altitude dirt roads which are extremely challenging stages on the worlds' highest cross-country challenge."
"We have been discovering new routes every year. For the 20th anniversary, there had to be something special," Parmar added.