Assam lad Arindam Saikia of Team Polaris and Nataraj R of Team TVS have won the 20th edition of the iconic Raid de Himalaya in Leh on Saturday.
Lodging a total penalty of 6.32.49 hours the Assam Boy Arindam jumped ahead on Day 2, hung on to his lead tenaciously for the next two days to claim the Xtreme 4X4 category.
The prestigious Raid started from Kargil on October 10 and concluded on October 13 across Kargil, Zanskar and Ladakh with the drivers coping up with extreme cold.
The second position was won by 2015 Raid winner Captain AVS Gill in his Grand Vitara. He finished 10.53 minutes behind to take the second position.
Hailing from Golaghat, Arindam’s preparation started four years ago and was among the first few individuals to buy the Polaris.
“Since I was 20, I wanted to compete in Baja 1000, Mint 400, Dakar and other top international off-road motorsport rallies. And I wanted to win the Raid de Himalaya, India’s top off-road motorsport challenge. I bought the Polaris to fulfill this dream,” said Saikia, who owns tea gardens in Assam.
Saikia first competed in the Raid in 2015. “I had an accident on Day Three of racing. My rear wheel hub came off. I was heart-broken. I came back in 2016 withlots of hope and expectations. That year, a biker lost his life racing at the Raid, and the event was called off,” recalls Saikia.
Arindam took a year off from rallying in 2017 to sharpen his skills
“The whole stage was snow and black ice. My vehicle was the first one to enter the stage, and I think it’s the most dangerous stretch I have ever done. At a point my vehicle slipped, but I managed to save the vehicle also myself. I got goosebumps that day,” remembers Saikia.
“I had braking issues that day, and I lost 12 minutes to Amitrajit Ghosh of Team Mahindra. Day Two on the race to Umba La via Sankoo, I gave my 100 per cent and had a lead of 30 minutes. The third day of the Raid, I didn’t push my vehicle but still maintained a lead of about 15 minutes. Day Four was racing over tarmac, not quite the Polaris terrain. I lost a few minutes to other competitors, but my overall lead stayed,” said Saikia remembering a fearful time at Raid 2018.
The racer says 2018 has been a great year for him. “I bagged the Raid crown, and earlier in the year, I was at the Indian Baja 2018. I own it by 15 minutes,” he grinned. “In off-road racing, suspension and light weight plays a major role. Also, it has a 1000 cc engine giving 110 HP. All this enables the vehicle to take the beating and the abuse,” Saikia explained.
Raid de Himalaya, considered among the top 10 toughest motorsport rallies of the world, is organised by Shimla-based Himalayan Motorsport, India’s premier motorsport club.
Earlier in August Arindam emerged champion in the Xtreme category at the India Baja 2018 in Jaisalmer making his direct entry to 42nd Dakar rally to be held in South America in 2020 and Afriquia Merzouga rally in 2019.