Shimla-Manali: The Raid got off to a great start when blue skies welcomed it in the alpine stages around the forests of Rio ghatti and Rohru instead of the wet weather predicted by the met department!
Almost immediately the drama began to unfold. In the cars Rana the hot favourite from Manali was beset by punctures- first one within 10 kilometres of the 54 km long stage.Scarcely had he changed this tyre that he saw Sunny Sidhu go by putting him into second spot. However Lady Luck was on Ranas side with Sidhu too puncturing a tyre soon after ! But that was not the end of this unfolding chapter. Rana hit tyre problems again and this time the delay would impact his overall positions.
Aman Ahluwalia, having a clean but spirited run claimed the victors podium on the first leg. Driving a Gypsy for the first time on the Raid Aman seemed pleased when confronted with the results displayed.However there is a long long way to go before Srinagar.
Sunny Sidhu, the fearless rallyist from Punjab, championing the cause of the newly formed W+K team, continued his Raid jinx. Soon after the puncture, which on Stage 1 is considered routine, Sidhu lost an alternator bolt on Stage 3 which eventually depleted his electrics to the point where he had no choice but to drop out.
Not alone in this he shared his disappointment with friend Rohit Michael who succumbed to an exact fate on the exact same stage!
The greatest loss to the Raid stable of 4X4 cars was that of the Impreza engined Chevy Forester of the brothers Prabhakar. Painted in the WRC colors of the marque the car did look sorry as it stood in the dust at Pujarli 3 village stubbornly refusing to start!
As cars broke down or were otherwise stopped on stages the GeoTerrestrial Tracker showed them on the satellite maps. Not once did the rally have to stop to search for cars that were “lost on stage”.When the Air Force Team (Car # 30) lost their way to Stage 3 and instead headed off on a different tangent the GoeTerrestrial Tracking System fitted on all the Xtreme cars was a boon. This is a sytem that has proved itself today and will be onmost Indian rallies from now on.
The Bike Brigade pretty much seemd to be pleased to maintain staus quo from previous years. Ashish Moudghil, who earlier rallied the Karizma with great success was at last on Yamaha metal! His first outing on the marque seemed to augur well for his fans for he had a flawless run that put him 15 minutes ahead of the competiton!
In second spot was the young lad from Houston Gurpinder Sarao. After his last unsuccessful Raid visit he too favoured Yamaha metal and though he had 200cc more under his belt he could not do much better than beat third placed Yogesh Lakhani by a minute. Still second spot is no mean achievement and Lakhani would definitely feel the heat of superior technology in the days to come.
Sandeep Matharu soldiered on in 4th place while veteran Amardev Singh was a very distant 16 minutes behind him!
Jangra and Hari led the Cars category of the Adventure Trial in their SX4 leading the second placed Minocha /Jindal duo in their Swift VXi by 6 minutes. Rajesh Diwan and Deepa Malik ( Maruti Baleno) followed in third spot with less than a minute between them. Tomorrow will unfold the story as it moves into the real Himalaya.
Somdeb Chandra / Mehta led the SUV charge in a Mahindra Bolero. Raheja brothers in a Gypsy were close on their heels with just a minute in arrears. In third spot and making time was the Prasad factor in a Mahindra Scorpio. A previous winner on the Raid Prasad can make a diffrence when needed. Just 40 seconds separated him from the Gypsy of the Rahejas.
As the Raid moves to the higher Himalayas and drama after drama unfolds watch this space for news and the simple joys of being there and experiencing it !!!!