Manali Oct 3 (UNI) The 9th Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya saw heavy attritions in the first day itself, due to the toughness of the raid, as 79 vehicles were left out of 120 which were flagged off from Shimla today.
Dark clouds hung over the Rohtang Pass as 15 vehicles and 20 bikes in the X-treme categories were flagged off this morning from Manali. Another 44 vehicles were still in the running in the 'Adventure Trail' category.
The small hill town of Marhi near Manali greeted the rallyists with a whiteout and doubts began to be entertained by the faint hearted. The decision to soldier on and attempt a crossing of the Rohtang Pass was taken by the organizers and a major logistic exercise of getting 79 participants across snow and ice was launched. The wisdom of ensuring each competitor carried snow chains soon came to the fore, as a successful crossing was achieved.
Yesterday's thrills and spills proved to be an appetizer for the participants as nature served up the main course when an overnight snowstorm led to winter alpine conditions in the Rohtang pass area.
Reigning Raid-de-Himalaya champion Suresh Rana in his Maruti Suzuki Gypsy is leading in the Xtreme category with Delhi's Harpreet Bawa also in his Maruti Suzuki Gypsy a close second.
An interesting element in the form of Along Aier from Dimapur, Nagaland a former champion in his Maruti Suzuki Gypsy is looming as a possible threat in third place in the Xtreme car category with Capt A S Brar of Army Adventure Wing at the fourth position.
Last year's motorcycling champion in the X-treme category Ashish Moudgill too leads the 'two wheeler' section followed by Sandeep Singh Matharu.
With a rally distance of 205 Kms including 78 Kms in the competitive sections, today's section also rans as one of the roughest and toughest as the mighty Rohtang Pass and Kunzum La have to be attempted in conditions which would intimidate the faint of heart.
The rallyists will reach Kaza by evening.
Leg 3 will start from Kaza tomorrow and will see the rallyists going to Patseo, through Kunzum, Gramphoo, Keylong and Darcha.