Raid de Himalaya: Saikia, Nataraj inch closer to wins
Arindam Saikia looks set to take victory in the 20th edition of Raid de Himalaya after extending his advantage in the penultimate leg on Friday.
This year’s Raid was already shortened to four days as opposed to six in recent years and several route changes were also made in the run-up to the event.
And constant snowfall played even more havoc with the schedule, forcing organisers to cut short today’s stage which ran from Sankoo in Kargil valley to Uma La, a mountain pass at a height of nearly 4,500m.
“Over the last 20 years, we have cancelled many competitive stages due to heavy snowfall. In fact, a couple of times the entire Raid was called off,” Vijay Parmar, president of Himalayan Motorsports, the organisers, said.
“Today too, it snowed heavily. But we discovered that we could still run the stage. We couldn’t complete it but we managed 30 out of the 54 km that were scheduled. The rallyists had to contend with -11 degrees temperatures,” Parmar added.
Changes to the schedule did little to deter Polaris driver Saikia, who has managed to build a 15-minute lead over AVS Gill in the Xtreme cars category.
Himanshu Arora of Harjee Rallying sits third in the standings, just 53 seconds behind Gill.
Mahindra drivers Amittrajit Ghosh and Philippos Mathai, who started the rally as favourites following their Dakshin Dare success and led a 1-2 for the Indian manufacturer on Day 1, were hit by separate punctures, further derailing their challenge.
With just one day of running to go, they are unlikely to be in hunt for victory.
Meanwhile, TVS ace R Nataraj holds a mammoth 13m05s advantage over teammate Imran Pasha in the Moto division, with SD Vishwas a further 9m15s adrift in third.
Raid de Himalaya: 2015 winner Tsering retires on Day 1
Raid de Himalaya: Saikia and Nataraj crowned champions