Vehicles Meant For Raid De Himalaya Teams Stuck On Jammu-Srinagar Highway

SRINAGAR — The 40-kilometer-long line-up of trucks on the Jammu-Srinagar highway is giving nightmares to the rally vehicles headed to Leh for the 20th Raid de Himalaya.

The Raid will begin on October 8 at Leh. It will end on October 14.

The huge trucks carrying the XUVs of Team Mahindra for the Raid, and similar trucks carrying the racing bikes of Team TVS, are stuck in traffic jams on the Jammu-Srinagar Highway, Vijay Parmar, President, Himalayan Motorsport said in a statement to Kashmir Observer on Friday.

Philippos Mathai, Team Manager for Mahindra Adventure (Rally Program), said that their trucks were stuck short of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel near Udhampur for four days.

“The trucks were allowed to move at about midnight. The line-up of trucks is so long that our trucks could finally start moving only at about 6 am. But the jams caused by the previous confusion and the heavy traffic on the road is halting movement,” he said.

Achu S Nair, part of management staff for Team TVS, said their trucks are stuck again, after the movement of a few kilometers. “Our trucks are still in Udhampur, and they haven’t crossed the Chenani-Nashri tunnel till now. It’s a very worrying situation, and we are looking at all alternatives,” said Nair.

Philippos Mathai is driving for Team Mahindra at the Raid. The other driver for Team Mahindra is Amitrajit Ghosh. Both Mathai and Ghosh, who have impressive rallying records, are reaching Leh on October 7. “Scrutiny for the Raid begins on October 8. If the trucks are still stuck on the highway and have not reached Leh by October 7, we will move towards the trucks. We will unload the XUVs and drive towards Leh, so that we reach in time for the second day of scrutiny on October 9,” said Mathai. The service vehicles can afford to reach Leh by October 9, since racing at the Raid will begin on October 10.  

Nair said Team TVS does not have the option of unloading the racing bikes and riding them to Leh. “These are race-tuned bikes, and are not meant for road-use. Riding these bikes to Leh is out of question. It will severely impact their performance. It is important that our racing bikes are in good shape when Raid de Himalaya begins,” said Nair.

Team TVS is exploring the option of hiring smaller transport vehicles on which the bikes can be loaded and taken to Leh. The trucks carrying the TVS racing bikes were still about 600 kilometers from Leh, said Nair.

On October 5, some Raid de Himalaya competitors who were driving to Leh via the Srinagar-Kargil highway decided to change route. These rallyists drove down to Jammu. Then they took the Mughal Road, starting from the outskirts of Jammu, to reach Srinagar. The Mughal Road goes across the Pir Panjal range to enter Kashmir valley via Shopian, crossing the mountain pass Pir ki Gali at a height of 3,485 meters.

“It is possible for the rallyists to drive up to Srinagar via Mughal Road. But certain sections of the Mughal Raod are very tight. It is not possible for huge trucks to traverse those sections,” said Mathai.

Raid de Himalaya is the flagship rally of the country’s premier motorsport club, Shimla-based Himalayan Motorsport. President Himalayan Motorsport Vijay Parmar said that in September-end, the snow blizzard on the higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh closed Rohtang Pass and Baralacha La. After the heavy snowstorm, the highway to Leh via Manali was closed.

Parmar said the decision to begin the Raid de Himalaya from Leh this year turned out to be providential. “If the Raid had planned to start from Shimla or Manali and go towards Kaza, we would have had to cancel it because of the heavy snow at Rohtang and Baralacha La. The competitors and teams are now facing major logistics problems, because of severe traffic jams on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. If the vehicles do not reach Leh on time, it will impact the Raid,” said Parmar.



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