Women's power to add speed in 'Raid'

Shimla, Sep 22 (IANS) It's women's power at the highest motorsport rally of the world, the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya, rally organisers said Sunday.

Sheetal Bidaye of Mumbai is the first Indian woman biker to compete in the 'Raid Xtreme', the all-out speed category.

The 15th edition of Raid, to take off from here Oct 5, will have 45 teams in Raid Xtreme (4x4) and over 45 in Raid Xtreme (motorcycles and motoquads).

Raid Adventure will have 75 teams of speed lovers from all corners of the country, said the organisers.

For the first time, 'Raid' has the first women officers' team from the Indian Army.

The team comprises Maj Smitha of ASC and Capt Madhavi Singh of EME. They are driving a Maruti Gypsy to aim for the top spot in Raid Adventure. This category follows the time-speed-distance format.

It also has the first woman cop competing for the top spot. Constable Richa, posted in the state capital, in the 'Raid Adventure' category, will compete in a Maruti Gypsy.

In another first, Kalyani Potekar, a 20-year-old student from Fergusson College, Pune, will compete in 'Raid Xtreme (Alpine)', the category for amateur bikers.

Another woman rallyist Shuchi Thakur of Dharamsala is among the motorsport competitors.

Shuchi, competing for the ninth time, will showcase her prowess in 'Raid Xtreme' and race for the top spot driving her Maruti Gypsy.

The Raid-de-Himalaya is among the top 10 toughest motorsport events of the world. Competitors will race to some of the highest mountain passes like Khardung La at 5,359 metres (17,582 feet), and Wari La at 5,250 metres (17,300 feet).

The 'Raid' will traverse the difficult stretches of Kaza and the Monastery Necklace, Khardung La and Wari La, and the temperamental Nubra Valley. It will draw to a close at Leh.

The rally is organised by Shimla-based motorsport club Himalayan Motorsport, whose president Vijay Parmar said: "Wari La is going to be a highly exacting challenge for the raiders."

"The Wari La climb happens in 14 kilometres, while the Khardung La climb takes 32 kilometres. The descent is equally steep and rapid into the Nubra Valley. The challenge of the raid lies in competitive driving at these impossible altitudes, which demand the best from both man and machine," he added.