Srinagar, Oct 9: The 8th Maruti Suzuki Raid de Himalaya car rally concluded at the Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali recently.
The customary high rate of attrition saw only 50% of the entrants being able to finish. A record 94 competitors started from Shimla but only 48 finished. Squadron Leader Bannerjee, who had gallantly lasted the course, met an accident three kilometres from the finish line. His brakes failed and while trying to save the spectators who had lined all along course to cheer the competitors, he went off the road and came to rest in the river bed. He and his co-driver, however, escaped with minor injuries, highlighting once again the high standards of safety which are required to be adhered to by the Raid organisers, the Himalayan Motorsports Association.
Suresh Rana was the overall winner in the four wheeler extreme category with Sunny Sidhu second and Squadron Leader Ashish Kumar of IAF third. Damon Ianson of England was the surprise winner in the extreme motor cycle category displacing the defending champion Ashish Moudgil of India. Yogesh Lakhani was a deserving third as he successfully nursed his bike through the gruelling seven legs of the Raid.
The Reliable Trial saw experienced Farhan Vohra of Chennai storming into first place in his Scorpio. Rajesh Challana, who normally clocks 10,000 kms a month during the course of his work, came second in an Esteem. Purujit Singh of Himachal Pradesh was a close third in Maruti Baleno.
The Raid had covered a total distance of 2139 kilometres across 6 of worlds highest mountain passes at 5,500 metres. The competitors were flagged in on October 4 at Leh by the State Power Minister Nuwan Rigzin Jora. They had a side lap to Pangong Lake 200 kilometres from Leh on October 5 which was a highlight of the trip and were flagged in by Mr.Tsering Dorje the Chief Executive Councillor of LAHDC on their return. The next year's rally is planned to finish at Srinagar. The event which had been co-sponsored by State Bank of India Auto Loans and supported by Himachal Tourism and J&K Tourism is expected to give boost to adventure tourism in J&K.
Ram Lal Thakur, Minister of Youth Services and Sports, Himachal Pradesh distributed prizes among the winners.