The Himalayan Challenge turned out to be one of the toughest rallies that the Endurance Rally Association (ERA) has ever run and getting to the finish was quite an achievement in itself for the 40 classic and vintage crews competing on the 21-day event. They had faced landslides, violent storms and road closures before reaching the finish line, in the shadow of the Taj Mahal in Agra.
On day three of the event, as the crews rallied from McLeod Ganj to Manali, incessant heavy rain saw bridges and roads washed away, tracks and forests swallowed by landslides and the planned route destroyed as crews could not reach their destination and most certainly could not go up into the higher altitude of the Himalayas.
As the ERA team sent out scouts to determine a way out of Manali, crews remained safe in a local hotel for an extra rest day before making their way out of the Kullu Valley via a dawn escape route over an extremely narrow Raison suspension bridge.
One by one the cars crossed over the bridge that spanned the raging Beas River. While the integrity of the structure of the bridge was not in question, it still took a certain amount of resolve to release the handbrake and drive across. The crews then spent three days in Shimla waiting for the weather and conditions to calm before rejoining the original rally route.
Clerk of the Course John Spiller said: “This was always planned as a challenging event, we knew that the landscape and terrain would be the things to beat but, as we saw in Manali we were thrown a curve ball with the most testing set of circumstances on an ERA event since 1997. I’ve been impressed with the way the crews have risen to this challenge and taken everything in their stride with unfailing good humour and common sense.”
The Vintageant class for cars from 1932 to 1947 was won by Nigel Lee and Richard Turner in a 1938 Ford 62, while Ludovic Bois and Julian Colman won the classic class, for cars up to 2000cc built from 1947 to 1975, in a Volvo Amazon.
After 21 days Michael Velasco and Peter St George won the most popular class, for cars over 2000cc built between 1947 and 1975, in their 1971 Mercedes Benz 280S, their first ever rally win.
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