Raid-de-Himalaya champion aims to retain title

October 2nd, 2009 - 1:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Shimla, Oct 2 (IANS) Known as the ‘King of Racers’, Suresh Rana of Himachal Pradesh’s Manali town is once again ready to test his nerves and his machine in the 11th edition of one of the world’s toughest motor rallies, the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya beginning Oct 6.
Five-time consecutive winner of the Raid in the X-treme four-wheeler category, Rana is once again aspiring to retain the title.

“This time I am aiming to win the ‘Raid’ for the sixth time. For this, I am trying to strengthen my concentration level. It is really an intense job,” Rana told IANS here Friday.

“Of course, during such treacherous winding roads mind should be faster than the machine,” he said.

The 2,000-km route of the rally is tough and the pressure on the participants is extreme as it passes through the hostile terrains of the cold deserts of Lahaul and Spiti and Ladakh districts.

“So far I have participated in the Raid eight times and in most of the rallies I was on the wheel of a Maruti Gypsy. It’s the only machine that can never ditch you. Of course, it is the driving skill that pays.”

Rana, who won the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2009 in the Xtreme category for the first time, said motor sports was always in his blood.

“Motor sports is always in my blood. Managing a garage (near Manali) for years, I can better understand the sturdiness of the vehicles. But driving on sand dunes is different from conquering the Himalayas. The success at Desert Storm depends more on the experience of the navigator. But I will definitely conquer the Himalayas this time too.”

Rana has to compete with 32 motorists, including two foreigners, in the X-treme category.

“Thirty-three professional motorists will take part in X-treme four-wheeler category, 20 in the X-treme two-wheeler category and 55 in the adventure trial category,” Manjeev Bhalla, an organiser of the Raid-de-Himalaya, said.

“While the X-treme route is full of dangers, the adventure trail is for those who want to explore the bounties of nature along with family members and friends,” he said.

The Raid-de-Himalaya is the only Asian motor sport event listed on the off-road rallies calendar of Switzerland-based FIM (Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme) that draws attention from the international rallying circuit.

This time the rally will cover a distance of more than 2,000 km in multiple legs spread over seven days. The rally will be flagged from Shimla on Oct 6, and after traversing through Manali, Patseo, Leh and Kargil, it will culminate in Leh Oct 12.

The Himalayan Motorsport Association, a member of the Federation of Motorsport Clubs of India, has been organising the Raid since 1999.

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