Shimla/October 3 (NG News)
Amir Yardenay, a 27-year-old Israeli who was at the Israel-Gaza border in July, pulling out injured and dead soldiers till he lost count, is among the 50 bikers racing their motorcycles at the 16th Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya that would take off from Shimla on October 5.
Yardenay was called by the Israel Army for war duty two days before he was to fly to India on July 10 to prepare for the Raid. He went on the war front, sometimes pulling out the mutilated bodies of soldiers he knew.
Now in Himachal Pradesh to do a recce of the Raid route, Yardenay said the war days seem like a ‘strange reality’ to him. He is riding the Royal Enfield at the Raid. “Competing at the Raid has been my dream since 2010. Sometimes I could not arrange the funds, other times it did not work out. And this summer when I was supposed to be here, I had to delay my flight thrice because I was on war duty, my normal life stripped away, feeling every day that I might die,” said Yardenay.
And among the oldest Raid competitors are two 53-year-old Germans who have brought with them a 35-year-old classic car – a “self-converted Rally Replica Mercedes SLC 350, built-in 1979.”
The car has been transported all the way from Stuttgart in South Germany. Martin Eitdorf and Jurgen Konnecke, competing in Raid Adventure, say the 16th Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya is part of their Motorsports motto: “Old cars, new adventures”.
The six-day marathon event will end at Manali on October 10 after crossing some of the most remote mountain passes in Ladakh and the Zanskar range of Jammu and Kashmir.
In sharp contrast to the Israeli are the two Germans on their India adventure, hugely excited about the largest and most demanding rally event in Central Asia. Martin and Jurgen said that they were ‘always looking for like-minded people for affordable motorsport, adventure travel and international understanding.
Maruti Suzuki Vice President (Marketing) Manohar Bhat said that the Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya will run over a total distance of approximately 1,650 kilometers this year. “The six-day motorsport marathon is among the top ten toughest rallies of the world, and demands the best out of man and machine,” Bhat said.
MHimalayan Motorsport President Vijay Parmar said there is a certain lure in competing in the Himalayas. “Rallying at some of the highest motorable roads in the world, competitors can expect temperatures from +25 degrees to -15 degrees Celsius, snowstorms and ice-topped roads. Only about one-third of the competitors successfully make it to the finish line. The exacting route this year may further pull down that figure,” said Parmar.
About 240 top rallyists of the country will compete at the Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya. The Raid will have 49 competitors in Rally Moto (Motorcycles and Quads), 40 teams in Rally Xtreme, 55 teams in Rally Adventure and three competitors in the scooter class.
During the grueling six-day run, competitors will drive on the jagged rock-ribbed terrain along Chandra river in Lahaul and Spiti district to some of the highest human establishments high above Kaza in Himachal Pradesh. The latter half of the Raid will see the rallyists descending from the slippery Baralacha La, 4,890 meters above sea level and make the road from Darcha to Shingo La, the legendary pass which guards the entry to the daunting Zanskar region near Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir.