The battle for survival on the toughest rally-raid event of 14th Raid de Himalaya is getting tougher by every hour on the stages. Title contenders are fighting with all their vigour, yet keeping their machines in one piece to finish each leg at this battle against attrition.
Yet, this event does takes its share of retirements year after year, without a miss. There are many factors that lead to this rate of attrition, like human/machine fatigue as the event goes higher and higher, leads to thinning of air. The temperature drops drastically with the altitude, and is always welcomed with snow/ice on the Khardung La.
The roads are covered with black-ice at dark/shady road patches & even at some sunny parts. The gravel is nothing short of the word 'brutal', and better not talk about the landslides & cliff-drop lined roads the rally passes. In short, it is not an event for the faint-hearted!!
On second day, Amittrajit Ghosh [Sunny] dropped out, due to mechanical failure, drive shafts to be precise. He was 5th overall, and with reach with the leader Harpreet Sing Bawa, with just 3mins adrift. For regular rally, it may sound big, but for rally-raid it is pretty minute and is achievable. At the end of day 3, Rana had snatched the lead with over 2mins to his closest rival Mishra, while Ahluwalia & Bawa slipped to 3rd and 4th. Indian Army entry Pande is at 5th overall, and the lone factory XUV is at 16th with Lohit Urs behind the wheel. Tata's too had its only Xenon at 23rd position with Mughal Raja at the wheel.
experienced and twice winner in class, Chethan Ganapathy too retired by day 2. Finishing last on day 1, was quite dramatic for this veteran rider. The rally leader on two wheels and title defender, Austria's Helmut Frauwallner had his share of bitter experience on day 2, [despite his lead on day 1] after a bad fall & loosing his position to Indian MX rider champ, C.S.Santhosh. Although Santhosh too had his share of a bad fall, but he was quite quick in recovering from it. Maybe, his younger body was an advantage to the 50+year old Helmut. All these tossing & falling, happened over the infamous black-ice. The is still big/short at 5mins from Helmut for Santhosh.
Special thanks to Manan & Ranvir for sharing their photos/video.