Raid de Himalaya, in its 17th edition, is witnessing a record number of 250 participants, of which two are teenage girls participating in what is described as India's toughest motorsport event that covers some of the most difficult terrain spanning the Himalayan mountain range.
Shiana, from Mumbai, would be riding her Rodeo scooter while Sara will test her endurance skills on a Bullet. A Class XII student, Shiana is among the 75 bikers in the two-wheeler section in Xtreme category of Raid de Himalaya, according to a PTI report. Both the girls are 17 years of age.
The 2,200 km distance spans some of the toughest mountainous terrain and picturesque valleys; as many as 14 women and five foreigners are participating in the event this year. However, a rally document puts the distance as 1,850 km including 616 km in competitive section.
Out of the 167 entries, 41 are in Xtreme four-wheeler, 76 in Xtreme two-wheeler and 50 in adventure category.
The rally was ceremonially flagged off on Saturday at Hotel Peterhof, Shimla.
From Shimla, the participants will drive past Dalhousie, Srinagar, Manali and Rangdum; a new addition in the route is Bhadrawa of Jammu and Kashmir through the recently opened Paddri Gali pass and a 66-km stretch on the ridge between Drass and Kargil, PTI added.
But claims of elaborate safety measures by the organisers took a beating when on Day One, during the first leg of the competitive stage, when a participant sustained injuries and help came late. Mohit Verma's bike (No. 205), competing in the Xtreme two-wheel category was in trouble when he rammed into a mountain after failing to negotiate a curve just 300 metres from the starting point at Matiyana.
"We informed the raid authorities about the accident but there was no assistance for 10 minutes even though four riders drove past us at the same time," said advocate Gaurav Sharma, a rescuer, according to The Tribune.
The daily said that "no ambulance was available and a jeep with doctors came after a while."
However, an event spokesperson contested the claim.
"We offered him help but he chose to go in a private vehicle with friends. The spot was just 300 mts away from the starting point and as such, there was no question of unavailability of ambulance," said a spokesperson for Raid de Himalaya.
The rally would open new avenues for promoting tourism in the twin Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, according to Aditya Aggarwal, general manager, Maruti Suzuki, the main sponsor of the event.
The rally will end at Centaur Lakeside, Srinagar on 16 October.
Raid de Himalaya is organised by the Himalayan Motorsport Association.
Read the full rally schedule here.
Catch last year's Raid de Himalaya action below: