Motorists are going to clash at the 20th edition of the Raid de Himalaya -- the world's highest cross-country motorsport challenge -- on the most impossible roads of Kargil, Zanskar and Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, the organisers said earlier. However, this time the racing competition, kicking-off on October 8 from Leh, will miss the high-altitude terrains of Himachal Pradesh.
A total of 31 teams for Xtreme cars and trucks, 37 teams for Xtreme motorcycles and quads, 12 bikers in the Alpine two-wheeler category and 31 teams in Adventure Trail, which follows the Time-Speed-Distance format, are going to race on the highest reaches of the Himalayas.
This year's event will run its first stage on the never-before traversed section from Lamayuru, called the moonland of Ladakh, to Photoksar. Rallyists are going to race on a newly-upgraded road that was earlier a mule track into Zanskar. Crossing the Sirisir La at a height of 4805 metres above sea level, the 20th Raid De Himalaya is going to enter totally uncharted territory.
Raid 2018 is all set for the clash between motorsport titans Phil Mathais and Amitrajit Ghosh of Team Mahindra, Raid winner 2015 Lhakpa Tsering, Raid 2017 Runners-Up Sanjay Razdan and Sanjay Agarwal, Raid 2017 third overall.
The Raid de Himalaya is going to feature Mathais and Ghosh driving the XUV 500, Sanjay Razdan driving the Maruti Gypsy, Sanjay Agarwal driving the Grand Vitara, and Lakhpa Tsering of Arunachal Pradesh challenging them all with the Polaris RZR 1000 Turbo Dynamix.
Raid 2018 will see competitors racing to Umba La, a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4,496 meters above the sea level. This is one of the most spectacular stretches globally, and is listed on dangerousroads.org. The high mountain road features more than 50 hairpin curves and dangerous dropoffs. Lhakpa Tsering, Raid Winner 2015, said it takes guts to race at the heights and the roads that form part of the Raid de Himalaya.
"Rallying is not cricket or tennis where you have 17-18 year olds as champions. Competitive high-altitude racing needs maturity, brains and physical fitness, and tremendous grit," said Lakhpa, 45, who has been in motorsport for 20 years. The Raid de Himalaya, the world's highest cross-country rally raid and established in 1999, is considered among the top 10 toughest rallies of the world.
"Raid 2018 offers new winding high-altitude dirt roads as extremely challenging stages on the worlds' highest cross-country challenge," Shimla-based motorsport club Himalayan Motorsport President Vijay Parmar said.
"Racing on the new pass of Kaldang-Kildang La at an elevation of 4,092m in the Ladakh region, and the daunting stretches of Photoksar and Sirisir La promises to make Raid 2018 a nail-biting finish," he added.