Aishwarya Pissay, riding a factory-supported TVS Apache RTR 200, endured the grueling 19th Maruti Suzuki Raid de Himalaya Rally to finish a creditable fourth in her category and the only female rider to complete course in the "Xtreme" category of the week-long event which concluded here Friday, October 13.
The Raid, which has earned notoriety for breaking the hardiest of men and machines, is considered to be among the toughest rallies in the World as the participants have to negotiate treacherous terrain and high altitude mountain passes.
Aishwarya, the 21-year old from Bengaluru and first-ever National champion among girls in both racing and rallying, was in line for a podium finish, but a couple of crashes cost her precious time.
Reflecting on her performance, Aishwarya said: "I am delighted to have finished such a grueling rally, and it was an improvement over my debut last year when I had to retire on the very first day. Today, the gap was too much to makeup and I focused on finishing the course, though fourth in Group B.
"It was a very challenging event which tested my mental and physical limits. There were times, especially when I crashed a few times, my body wanted to give up, but I pushed myself to continue. I also had to endure extreme cold and high altitude. So, overall, I am extremely happy to have crossed the finish line."
After a smooth start to her campaign which was flagged off from Manali on October 8, Aishwarya, who is supported by TVS Racing, had to endure tough moments. In her bid to catch up with front-runners yesterday, she fell heavily. In fact, she covered the last 20 Km of Stage on just two gears, first and second, and having to bend down to move the gear lever with her hand.
"I had a good start with trouble-free runs on Days 1 and 2 through the terrain was really rough. Only about 25 of the 43 bikes which had taken the start finished Day 2.
"On Day 3, I had some issues with my bike as there was not enough intake of oxygen into the carburetor and the engine kept stalling, but I managed to pull through and was running third in my Group B class.
"I survived a couple of crashes on Day 4 when we did the Leh to Kargil run and dropped one spot to fourth. Yesterday, Day 5, was very stressful. We had a 65Kms of Competitive Section followed by 85 Km of Special Stage. In the latter half of the run, I fell heavily as I pushed too hard trying to catch up with a couple of bikers ahead of me.
"The bike suffered some damage and kept dragging to the left. Over the last 20 Kms or so, I had to bend down to change the gears with my hand. There were only first and second gears available, but somehow I managed to finish the Stage at the end of which the TVS service crew did a fantastic job of repairing the bike.
"We had to return to Kargil by the same route as the next Stage was cancelled due to technical reasons. I had a 4 am flag-off and I think, I rode for nearly 11 hours, covering some 400-plus Km!"