Shimla: Raid de Himalaya, one of the most adventurous motorsports in the world has contributed a lot to the fame of Himachal Pradesh as it is organized by the people of Himachal Pradesh: Vijay Parmar, Atul Handa and Manjeev SinghÂ Bhalla (key persons).
We are very glad to present before you their interview on. Due to busy schedule Mr. Manjeev Bhalla could not make it but President, Vijay Parmar, who refuses to be called President and Atul Handa could spare some time for exchange of ideas.
Raid de Himalaya is another name for daredevilry, its lofty not merely in terms of altitude and escapade but the exaltation offered while riding and driving through the most soul stirring landscape and climatic conditions.
So, people please welcome Mr. Vijay Parmar and Mr. Atul Handa for their master minds and efforts to make Raid de Himalaya a big success. Hey! Donâ€™t forget Mr. Manjeev Bhalla though he could not join us for the interview but his contribution behind Raidâ€™s success is not negligible.
Disha Singh: So, Atul and Vijay first of all, how about a little background? How did you get started with Raid-de-Himalaya?
Vijay Parmar said, In 1996 I drove my VW Beetle into Ladakh. On seeing the stark moonscape and stunning lakes, I thought to myself, “This is the place for the world’s best and worst rally.” Three years later, three of us (Me, Atul Handa and Manjeev Bhalla) turned the thought into reality. And in the past ten years the Raid de Himalaya has shown us both the best and worst times.
Atul Handa described his rendezvous as, “I was rallying during late eighties. I have done five Himalayan rallies 1986 to 1990, after that there was no Himalayan Rally. After then I was into managing teams for small rallies in the north India. After 1995 there were hardly any rallies so we three, the core team, were thinking of doing something for motor sport and we got an invitation in 1999 from the GoHP to do some motor sport event and that is how it started.
Disha: Mr. Atul what made a Civil Engineer to enter the field of motorsports?
Atul: Spirit of adventure. 🙂
Disha: How do you manage your job and radio mapping, route mapping and survey for the Raid?
Atul: If there is a will to do something any and everything can be managed. And I always aim at total quality management for the event.
Disha: What are your thoughts about 10th edition of Raid?
Vijay: Hmm! Probably the best one yet. Fantastic response with 150 entries. Amazing odds were stacked against our running the raid at all. Still it ran and while the country watched in disbelief it completed every planned leg. The Raid had a charmed life.
Wonderfully picturesque vistas, no serious accidents, but enough upsets to keep interest alive till the very end!
Technically an easy event compared to earlier years, easier on the organizers too.
Above all we saw Zanskar covered in fresh snow, something very few can boast of. Let alone run a rally there.
Atul intervened, “Yeah very true, it went very well. All the competitors must have definitely enjoyed their drive through one of the most spectacular routes in Zanskar Himalayas.”
Disha: How have things changed for you and the Raid since 1999?
For Vijay things have not changed at all, I still work 6 months of the year to see the Raid come alive. And a month before it actually goes live I wake at 0300hrs every morning, dry mouthed with uncertainty, and completely convinced that organizing 600 peoples lives is complete madness and we cannot do it.
By 0900 hrs I make a list of priorities to be tackled for the day and go for it. Eventually, the Raid and me have started to understand each other now.
The raid has become bigger in size and better managed through the years and one has to make an extra effort to organize things, added Atul.
Disha: What difficulties have you people faced in organizing, seeking help from various sectors sponsorships, terrain, etc.
Vijay: We need assistance from governments, the armed forces and private sponsors. Maruti Suzuki India Ltd. have been our main sponsor and believe in us completely. We have had a very comfortable ten years and the relationship is solid rock.
The Himachal government backs us very strongly logistically. As the Raid is perceived as a rich manâ€™s sport they do not contribute more than a token amount as sponsorship. However, the support of all the departments is unflinching and more than generous.
The government of JK is as good on logistic support as well as sponsorship. However, they are clear that if Srinagar is not the end point then sponsorship is not forthcoming.
Support from the local administration of Leh and Kargil is fantastic.
The JK Police are phenomenal in their support for traffic control.
The Army is as devoted to the event as we are to them!
As the event is designed to be really extreme we view bad weather, landslides, flood and avalanches as challenging obstacles, not as problems.
On two occasions we have lost out to snow, but on eight others we have survived the ordeal unscathed! Several raids ago we had a bridge wash out on the day of the event which was repaired in 4 hours! This year the Raid drove into Leh, which was all out of petrol that day! To arrange 5000 ltrs of fuel at and hours notice is just some of the stuff we deal with on war footing every day.
This year while on a reconnaissance of an alternate route via Chamba we arrived in Kishtwar district just as curfew was declared and all shops, pumps and dhabas shut down for 10 days. Sneaking back to Himachal through a town under curfew was not fun, especially when the cars were running out of fuel. Atul smiled and said, But nothing is easy.
Disha: If you wouldn’t have been associated with Himalayan Motorsports, what would you be?
Vijay laughed, Useless and Atul said, I would have been doing trekking in the Himalayas or doing 4WD safari around the world!
Disha: Mr. Vijay what difficulties you experience as a President of the Raid?
Vijay: Actually, on the Raid there is no President. The top officials are the two Clerks of the Course“ Manjeev Bhalla and Atul Handa. I looked after communications and results. The first went flawlessly and the second was questionable!
Disha: You have never thought ‘God, why I did that? What do you feel that you really still need to work on?
Vijay: Yes! many, many times. We need to work on raising better sponsorship so we can have a higher quality of rescue backup incase things go wrong.
We need a better presented website and definitely need more events to keep interest alive throughout the year. We need to start a 4X4 club so that members are better trained for extreme driving.
Disha: Please describe your most unforgettable incident in the Raid? Good or Bad.
Vijay: The worst was undoubtedly losing three lives in 2001. The best I am sure is still to come! Each time we feel this is the best thing that can happen something better comes along.
Atul: Hmmm! I had a good time during 2004 at Patseo when raid got struck due to snow fall.
Disha: How would you compare the Raid with other National and International rallies?
Both of them gave prompt answer, there is no comparison as the raid is run on a different format altogether and it has no equal in India. Vijay added, As far as international events are concerned there are quite a few that are tougher, many that are faster, but none that is higher or colder!
Disha: Describe Raid-de-Himalaya in one line?
Vijay: Unbelievably tough and totally unpredictable.
Disha: Vijay, what do you have to say about Sanket Shanbagh’s controversy in 10th Raid de Himalaya?
Vijay: There is no controversy. He was slower and the results found that out before they were officially final. I have already posted the official report.
Disha: Atul you yourself had been active in motorsport? How does it feel to think about then and now?
Atul: Yeah! Things have changed dramatically.
Disha: What are your plans in near future?
Both settled to make the Raid a motorsport icon of the Himalayas. We are half way there already!
Disha: Who or what particularly inspires you? Do you have any heroes?
Atul said his will to do something different inspires him whereas for Vijay, The Paris Dakar Rally Raid was the inspiration for the Raid de Himalaya. Now that the Dakar is history and the Raid is ten years old we are lost for inspiration.
Gaston Raheier, a Belgian in the motorcycle category of the Paris Dakar in 1985, who went on to ride a BMW 800 GS for 21 days with a broken collarbone, and finally won the event, will be my all time favourite hero!
When asked about their dream both had differen but in a way somewhat same answer, Vijay dreams to make Shimla to Lhasa on the Raid de Himalaya and Atul dreams to make raid a very popular International event.
During off-season you can see Vijay, Golfing, skiing, ice-skating, motorcycling and Precision rifle shooting while Atul will be seen working or attending some motorsport related activities.
Finally, both of them gave their motorsports mantras to the upcoming drivers & navigators that Its not life and death, its just a game. Play it like one. And Atul says, Work hard and be thorough.
Thank you so much for sharing and sparing your time.