Shimla: Himachal Pradesh’s Suresh Rana, who won the 13th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya Sunday night, is modest in his record seventh success in what is arguably one of the toughest off-road motor rallies in the world.
“My vehicle stood up to the riddles of the rally splendidly,” the man known as the King of Racers said of his ninth participation in the event.
“My focus was mainly on preserving the vehicle and luck favoured me a lot,” the 38-year-old told over the phone from Srinagar. “My vehicle proved its worthiness again in cold, inhospitable terrain.”
He said he truly enjoyed the rally in his Maruti Gypsy, though the extreme cold did make it a bit tense in stretches.
Rana and navigator Ashwin Naik finished with a penalty time of 12.41.22 in the X-treme category, ahead of Chandigarh-based Harpreet Bawa and navigator Virender Kashyap (12.47.24).
There were 23 motorists in this category in the 1,950-km cross-country rally that began in Shimla Oct 11 and ended in Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir Sunday night.
The Raid-de-Himalaya is the only Asian motor sport event listed in the off-road rallies calendar of the Switzerland-based Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme (FIM), which captures the attention of the international rallying circuit.
Earlier, in the Mughal Road Car Rally held in Jammu and Kashmir in June, his vehicle broke down in the final stage.
“There is lot of difference between the Raid and the Mughal rally,” he said. “The Mughal is comparatively less tough and challenging. This one really tests one’s nerves, patience and determination.”
Rana, who runs a motor garage near Manali in Himachal Pradesh, said: “Surviving in extreme cold with low oxygen is quite challenging for motorists.”
In 2009, his vehicle suffered clutch failure when he was close to capturing the Raid, otherwise it would have been the eighth win for him in nine outings.
Rana, who won the race for five times on the trot till 2008, said: “Motorsports is in my blood.”
Rana led in the first four legs, slipped to third at the end of the fifth leg from the treacherous Rangdum-Padum, but rallied in the concluding leg to come up trumps.
“In the fifth stretch I was little bit nervous and tired. But some planning and maneuvering skill helped me,” he said.
Maruti Gypsy is his favourite machine and — as one who runs a garage and motors through the mountains of Manali — none can understand better both the vehicle and mountain conditions.