The Himalayan Rally also launched several big names in Indian motorsport. Farad Bhathena was a lad of 18 when he took part in the 1982 edition of the event for Team Mahindra. And he won his class too, arriving on the rallying scene in style. A few years later in 1989, Hari Singh made his rally debut at this very event when he drove for Team Thunderbolt. He started the rally dead last, was seventeenth by the end of the first day, and finished the rally sixth, making him one driver to watch out for.
A part of the spirit of the Himalayan Rally was about never giving up. President of the FMSCI, Vicky Chandhok talks of his first attempt at the Himalayan in an Ambassador. He suffered a broken gearbox in Manali, which didn’t deter him one bit. ‘I bought a taxi then and there and plonked a new gearbox into my car. Of course the car broke down eventually, but I had it towed to Kullu with the help of two bulls!’ He competed in a Fiat the next year and a Ford Escort the year after that, when he finished first in class and fourth overall.
Then there were the rivalries that you simply couldn’t let go of. Nikhil Taneja recalls his toughest rally ever was the 1988 Himalayan, where he had a 6,000 ft drop on one side and the sight of Kuldeep Singh Chauhan ahead of him keeping him going. ‘Everyone was convinced I’d crash, but it turned out that my rival was the one who ended up crashing out and I won my class.’
Sanjay Sharma, head of motorsport, JK Tyre had his first taste of motorsport with the Himalayan Rally when he was a marshal in the forests of Corbett in 1985. He went on to drive and co-drive in the event too. ‘Back then there were works teams with full factory support, close battles and fantastic rivalries,’ he says.
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