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Rains, landslides force changes in Himalayan motor rally

Shimla, Oct 6 : Incessant rainfall leading to landslides has affected the annual Raid-de-Himalaya motor rally in Himachal Pradesh starting Oct 10, as some routes may have to be abandoned due to the closure of roads.

"The rains have left a trail of destruction on the planned rally tracks, especially in Solan and Shimla districts," Manjeev Bhalla, vice-president of the organising club, Himalayan Motorsport Association, told IANS Wednesday.

"In the first stage of the X-treme category, a stretch of the road from Pinjore (in Haryana) to Nalagarh (in Himachal Pradesh) has been abandoned as it could not be restored."

He said now the rally would not turn to Nalagarh from Pinjore but proceed to Naina Tikker via Mallah and reach Chail via Gaura. The fifth competitive stage on the first day has also been altered and the rally would not venture into Chopal and instead return to Shimla via Fagu.

Besides, a few high mountain passes like Tanglang La and Lachung La would be avoided due to bad road conditions, he added.

He said almost all the competitive stages on day one and two were blocked by landslides, but efforts were on to get them cleared as soon as possible.

"There might be some last-minute changes in routes too but six legs and at least 15 competitive stages would be there to test the nerves of motorists," he said.

This year the Raid will skip Jammu and Kashmir's Ladakh region as flash floods in August badly affected road connectivity there. Organisers said the rally will not enter the area due to rehabilitation work.

The rally will instead zoom through the harsh, inhospitable but picturesque terrains of Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh.

"On the last two days, the motorists will explore the high mountain ranges of the cold desert around Kaza. Overall, the rally will cover a distance of 1,668 km," said Bhalla.

Last year the rally covered about 2,000 km. The Himalayan Motorsport Association, a member of the Federation of Motorsport Clubs of India, has been organising the Raid since 1999.

The 12th edition of one of the world's toughest motor rallies, Raid-de-Himalaya, will pass through Nalagarh, Solan, Manali, Kaza, Keylong and Sarchu and culminate at Manali Oct 15.

There are 166 participants, including 10 from the Indian Army and three from the Indian Air Force, in the X-treme Four-Wheeler, X-treme Two-Wheeler and Adventure Trail categories. There are six foreign bikers, all from Austria.

Ace drivers like Suresh Rana, five-time consecutive winner of the Raid in the X-treme Four-Wheeler category, and Sunny Sidhu, champion of the Moghul Rally, will try their luck in the rally.

The Raid-de-Himalaya is the only Asian motor sport event listed on the off-road rallies calendar of the Switzerland-based FIM (Federation Internationale Motorcyclisme), which captures the attention of the international rallying circuit as well. (IANS)

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