Himalayan Car Rally: India’s Toughest and Most Demanding Motorsport Rally
Himalayan car rally is India’s toughest and most demanding motorsport rally. It is one of the oldest international motorsport events organised in the country, and is the only Indian motorsport event listed on the off-road rallies calendar of FIM (Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme), Geneva, Switzerland. Started in the 1980’s, the rally was claimed to be one of the major sporting events of the country, which also went on to be included as an event in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship by the FIA. While it attracted humungous crowds, it succeeded in making the Himalayas a hub for the world’s biggest men and machines.
Himalayan car rally is named as Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya is open to both car and bike enthusiasts and for professional as well as amateur motorsport lovers. The participants drive through some of the world’s highest motorable roads and passes in the Himalayas like Jalori Pass, Rohtang Pass, Kunzum La, Baralacha La, Tanglang La ; Khardung La, through the inhospitable terrains in the Lahual and Spiti valleys in the Ladakh region. Most of the drive is through boulders, snow capped peaks, gushing streams and at times, temperature below -20 degree Celsius. On an average, a participant covers a distance of 300 kms every day in this approximately 1800 km and week-long motoring event.
Number of participants increasing every year, more and more people participate in the Himalayan car rally, many of them from abroad. Increased interest in Himalayan car rally over the years has seen the participation levels exceeding 200 teams in car and bike categories. Certainly it will give boost to central as well as state govt tourism and also better opportunities to the local population of Himalayan region. The Himalayan car rally is held around October, just before the onset of winters in the Himalayan region. Maruti Suzuki and the Himalayan Motorsport Association, organize the Himalayan car rally(Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya), means over six months of hard work and preparations. But the spirit of motoring enthusiasts and organiser’s commitment to promote motorsport in India has kept it going – year after year.
The Himalayan car rally runs in three separate categories:
Extreme: This is the toughest of the lot and is open only to those 4 wheeler drivers who have prior rallying experience and have competed in one of the earlier editions of the Himalayan car rally or Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm Rally.
Adventure Trial: This version is open to those motorsports enthusiasts who would like to take on the Himalayas but without the tough competition, difficulty and stress involved in the Xtreme. This section is open only to stock cars and only certain safety related modifications would be allowed in the competing cars.
This is where first timers would fit in. • Car Category • SUV Category Bikes Extreme: This section is open to bikes of all types and makes. However each participant has to meet event regulations. The bikers have to brave the hostile weather and terrain without the comfort of a cabin surrounding them. For the first time in seven years, India’s best known motor car rally is daring to enter the troubled Kashmir Valley following an improvement in the situation here. The Maruti-Suzuki sponsored seventh Himalayan car rally kicks off in Shimla on Saturday and after travelling 1,745 km of treacherous mountain terrain, the race will end in Srinagar a week later, The rally will pass through Manali, Kaza, Sarchu, Leh, Kargil and Drass besides several high passes before reaching Srinagar,
Until now, participants had driven up to Leh in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ladakh region before finishing at Manali. But this year the drivers will for the first time travel further to Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley via Zoji La pass, Drass and Kargil. These spots are precariously close to the Line of Control (LOC) that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Indian Army had offered help both for security and in any emergency in the terrorist-prone Kashmir Valley to the organisers.
The race will test the participants’ skills and stamina as they pass through some of the most difficult terrains of the country where they will face temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius. Himalayan car rally has the reputation of being the longest, highest and most arduous motor rally of India. Tanglang La at 17,564 feet is the highest point on the 1,745 km route. Last year the rally had to be called off in its last leg in the Lahaul Valley due to heavy snowfall. Stranded drivers were rescued by the army and brought to Manali.