For most competitors at Raid de Himalaya, one of the most formidable motor sport events of the world, racing at the Raid is an individual dream, but for Sri Lankan rallyists Shafraz Junaid and Akhry Ameer ,reaching Leh this year to compete at the Raid is the long-cherished dream of his father.
Shafraz Junaid and Akhry Ameer, the driver-navigator duo from Sri Lanka, have shipped their favourite rally vehicle, a Nissan pick-up truck, from their home country to India. Then the duo transported the truck all the way to Leh to compete in the 20 edition of Raid de Himalaya.
Shafraz and Ameer are fulfilling the dream of Shafraz' father Faizal Junaid, who was the navigator for the celebrated rallyist of Sri Lanka, Cassim Wahab. For years, Junaid Senior and Cassim had dreamt of competing at the Himalayan Rally, which ran from 1981 to 1990. Junaid Junior is now out to achieve his Dad's dream.
Shafraz and Ameer have been in Leh for more than a week now to refine their skills in high-altitude rallying. Shafraz said Sri Lanka has a vibrant rallying and off-roading culture, with good cars prepared as per international standards.
"I started rallying more than two decades ago, and Ameer has been my navigator for long. My Dad's dream of rallying in the Himalayas always stayed with me. Last year too, we tried hard to come for Raid de Himalaya but could not make it. We are elated to be here this year," said Shafraz.
Raid de Himalaya is a natural progression of Shafraz and Ameer's passion for rallying, which has consistently progressed to greater heights. Last year, the duo were placed 2nd Runners Up at the Asia Pacific Rally Championships Coffee Day Rally of Chikmagalur. "Coming for the Raid as been a challenge as individual entrants. We have stretched to our budgets to get here in terms of preparation and logistics. Our target is simply one thing finish the Raid!" said Ameer.
In another first at the Raid, an Indian with international rallying honours is coming back to his home country to race here. Amitrajit Ghosh, an established name in the Indian rallying circles, moved to England five years ago to pursue motorsport internationally.
Ghosh is the only Indian with a podium in a British Rally Championship round and a win in a European Rally Championship Round (Greece). He was also among the top five at the Latvian Rally Championship. Ghosh is driving for Team Mahindra at the Raid.
Raid de Himalaya is the flagship event of the country's premier motorsport club, Shimla-based Himalayan Motorsport. President Himalayan Motorsport Vijay Parmar said that in the last decade, the Raid has seen the participation of teams from Austria and Germany.
"The whole idea is to have international participation. The German crew had shipped the Mercedes from Germany to compete in Raid Adventure, which follows the Time-Speed-Distance format. It is great to have a Sri Lankan team in Raid Xtreme, with a vehicle race-tuned in Sri Lanka and brought here," said Parmar.
Other foreign competitors at Raid de Himalaya 2018 are Deepak Sah from Nepal and Suzanne Bull, a British national who divides her time between Switzerland and India. Both are competing in Xtreme Moto at the Raid. Suzanne Bull is currently managing a bungee-jumping set-up in Rishikesh.
Bull has been in India for six years now. She learnt how to ride a motorcycle after coming to India.
"I have been motor-cycling in the Himalayas for many years now. I was thrilled when I learnt about the Raid de Himalaya. It's not about proving anything to anybody. I have to prove to myself that I can compete at this tough, highly challenging event," said Suzanne.
The Raid will begin at Leh this year on October 8. Rallyists will race on some of the highest motorable roads of Ladakh, Zanskar and Kargil regions. The Raid will finish on October 14.
UNI ML SDR 1701
-- (UNI) -- C-1-1-DL0431-1541939.Xml