Shakti Bajaj, Ashish Moudghil lead Raid on Day One

Shimla: Last year’s Raid’s winner Maj. Amarinder Brar was perhaps the first one to fall by the wayside at India’s toughest off-road rally because an unforeseen electric glitch, forcing him to retire out of race rather early in the competition.

It was Lt Col. Shakti Bajaj, (Team Army) who came out on top at end of Leg 1 as a last minute warning about a bridge showing cracks on the competitive stage between Sunnupul and Chail, forced the organizers to cancel Stage 3, leaving the leg shortened down to just 2 competitive stages instead of the 5 initially planned.

Col Bajaj was a mere 23 seconds ahead in time of veteran Suresh Rana, the lad for Kullu, who has been a winner at more than one Raid. In 3rd position was the Chandigarh based Harpreet Bawa.

The first stage was rough, with mud, slush and finally loose gravel going from Mallah to Sunnupul with rapid altitude gain.

The action being keenly watched in is the Moto-Quad section as Team Austria, with all five competitors in rally showing up in the top ten positions.

However, the challenge posed by the orange KTM riders failed to dethrone Ashish Moudghil (Kalka), the multiple Raid winner, who was ahead of rivals by over 10 minutes at end of day one.

But it was veteran Rajiv Khanna, one of the fastest car drivers from the 1980s era, riding a KTM who showed the younger guys, some half his age, a lesson or two in competitive rallying.

Back in Shimla at the end of a hard day out on the road, Khanna candidly admitted ‘driving a car was easier’.

The Alpine category had a few crashes, which was evident from broken headlights and rear view mirrors but there was nothing serious till.

Subhamony Paul (Howarh Kolkata), Macche Kaustubh (Nasik) and Rohit Arya (Dehradun) retired from the field due to mechanical problems.

The bitter battle is brewing up in the Adventure Trial category, which besides a minor accident was otherwise a straightforward day.

Delhi based Rahaul Singh with co-driver Yadvendra Yadavin a Gypsy skidded off the edge of a grassy slope.

The duo emerged bruised but otherwise unhurt from the vehicle. The accident happened when the duo amongst almost 13 other crews lost their way and ventured into Himalayan unknown!

The need for using GPS was evidently felt.

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