The Raid-de-Himalaya is arguably one of the toughest and physically grueling rallies. This year, at the 14th Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya, the participants covered a distance of 1800 kms in six legs spread over six days undertaking a treacherous route through various crests and troughs embedded in the great Himalayan ranges. Around 130 teams with over 200 participants in the four wheeler and two wheeler categories braved the inhospitable terrains and weather conditions of the Himalayas to compete for the top prize. We caught up with one such ‘raider’ who not only went and saw, but also conquered the Himalaya emerging victorious in the AT6 Pro stock expert SUV category. In a candid chat with autojunction.in, Calcutta based rallyist Chandan Sen speaks about his experience at the 14th Raid-de-Himalaya and what it takes to win one of the toughest rallies in the Indian sub-continent.
What led to your interest in Raid-de-Himalaya and prompted you to enter in this event?
The Raid-de-Himalaya is one of the most challenging rallies in the Indian sub-continent. It is an ultimate test for man and machine. For anyone who loves rallying, this is one event that everyone has their eyes set on. Right from the time when I stepped into the rally circuit, I had dreamt of competing in the Raid-de-Himalaya. And finally this year, I was able to turn my dream into reality when I was picked by Team Maruti Suzuki to represent them at the Raid. This was the first time I was paired with driver Jagmeet Gill from Chandigarh who was also selected by Maruti Suzuki.
What kind of preparations did you take for the event?
The Raid-de-Himalaya is an extremely physically demanding rally and one has to be fighting fit to be able to give his or her best. The moment my entry was finalized, I started working out at the gym and swimming regularly to up my fitness and stamina level. One most common problems that competitors often face in the Raid-de-Himalaya is breathlessness at high altitude due to lack of oxygen. My rigorous swimming regimen proved especially helpful to counter this obstacle.
Tell us about the preparation of your car.
The route of the Raid-de-Himalaya is so treacherous that your vehicle will be put through the ultimate test. This is the reason why every participating vehicle has to be thoroughly prepared before starting for the event. The kind of pounding and torture that the car has to endure is almost criminal. Our vehicle was prepared by Team Maruti and we were given a really solid vehicle with a suspension strong enough to take six days of poundings.
What category did you enter in and what influenced your choice of category?
I participated in AT6 Pro stock expert SUV category- the most challenging category in TSD section. There are no restriction on vehicle modification in this category but one is prohibited from availing service during the event. If any team violates this rule, then a three minute penalty is imposed on the team in addition to the penalty points incurred during the event. Since I am a navigator, this category offers a lot of challenges and this fact influenced my choice of this particular category.
What are the challenges you faced at the event?
The terrain and the conditions are the most challenging aspects of this rally. With the increasing altitude, the lack of oxygen was affecting the combustion of our vehicle, which had to be dealt with precision. At the end of every leg, we were instilled with the fear of our petrol in the vehicle freezing in the sub-zero temperature. So during the night Jagmeet (driver) and I diligently kept on starting the vehicle, after every half an hour, to avoid the petrol from freezing over. Else, that could have hampered the start of the next leg in the early morning. Since availing of any service would have attracted penalty point, therefore, all the mechanical problems that occurred in our vehicle, no matter how minor or major had to be repaired by us.
Share with us your experience from this event?
Participating in the Raid-de-Himalaya was an unforgettable experience which I am going to cherish for the rest of my life. The conditions were most challenging, temperature 15 degree below the freezing point, altitude of above 5000 metres and increasing steeply, the roads kept on disappearing after every turn, the terrain filled with boulders and amidst all of this madness you are navigating your way out to reach and hit the control point with absolutel precision. What more can a navigator really ask for? I had the time of my life.
What is the craziest thing you have done to be part of the Raid-de-Himalaya?
I resigned from my job since my company refused to grant me leave to take part in the event and I don't regret it one bit.
Your future plans in rallying?
Presently, there are many events lined up. I am scheduled to participate in the INRC events at Jaipur and Nagaland. There are also some local rallies which will be held in Haldia and Darjeeling. I am also eagerly looking forward to another challenging rally, ‘Desert Storm’, scheduled to be held early next year. But for a privateer it is really tough. You need a lot of funds and infrastructural support to take part in these events and sposorships are really important. Therefore, it is very important for sponsors to support promising talent and to encourage motor sports.
What is your advice to those who wish to participate in ‘Raid De Himalaya’ in future?
Nothing is impossible. But it is important to prepare yourself physically and mentally before entering the event. During the course of the event, one should do their job diligently, irrespective of the tough conditions; only then can one achieve success in this rally.
Navigator Chandan Sen (left) and Driver Jagmeet Gill (right) receiving their winners throphy.
Maruti Suzuki Car Features
In a candid chat with autojunction.in, Calcutta based rallyist Chandan Sen speaks about his experience at the 14th Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya and what it takes to wins one of the toughest rallies in the Indian sub-continent.
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