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The seventh edition of JK Tyre Himalayan Drive has come to an end and this year too, Ajgar and Mohammed in their Mitsubishi Cedia, defended their crown. This is the duo’s third consecutive win and they had scored 1110 penalty points in the TSD (time, speed, distance) rally, the only cross country TSD rally event in the country. Ajgar and Mohammed have won the rally four times including the inaugural event (2013, 2017, 2018 and 2019). The team that scores the least points is adjudged as the winner in a TSD rally. The team of Sudip Ghosh and co-driver Arindam Ghosh were the only other team to have won more than one championship title at this event (2014 and 2016)
“We are very happy to score this hat-trick. It was a very exciting rally and I can say that the seventh edition of JK Tyre Himalayan Drive is the best TSD rally in the country till date. The competitive sections were superb and posed a tough challenge to drivers, navigators and our cars.”
In second place were Gagan Sethi and Rajkumar Mundra in their Mahindra Scorpio with 1847 penalty points while Jogendra Jaiswal and Nagarajan Thangaraj in their Maruti Suzuki Swift ended their campaign in the third position with 2035 penalty points.
In the open category, the team of Govind Dalmia and Anand Agarwal edged past category leader Rohit Agarwal and Kunal Joshi to finish with 9149 penalty points. The Agarwal-Joshi team scored 9691 penalty points. Finishing third in this category were the team of Suyash Raj and Mohammad Sharif with 10796 penalty points.
The team of Jogendra Jaiswal and Nagarajan Thangaraj could have won the event if they had not missed a time control in the final leg. The duo started the final day (Day 4, Saturday) as championship leaders lost their bid to the crown in the final moments by missing the penultimate time control and suffering a 900-penalty points blow.
The 2019 JK Tyre Himalayan Drive was flagged off from the City Centre in Siliguri and for the first time in the event’s history, a night stage was conducted. The competitors drove to Murti passing through forest roads, river embankments, the Teesta Barrage and past tea gardens. Ali and Mustafa took the lead in the night stage, which comprised dirt tracks and sharp turns in the forest.
At the end of the stage, they had just accumulated 311 points. With total penalty points of 340, the pair of veteran driver Jogendra Jaiswal and his navigator Nagarajan Thangaraj claimed the second spot, while the team of V Santosh Kumar and C Sakhtivel with 380 points took the third at the end of day 1.
Ali and Mustafa held on to their lead, while Gagan Sethi and co-driver Rajkumar Mundra, who were not in the reckoning after the initial stages, bounced back to make up for their opening day’s loss and get back into the championship mix. The rally started from Murti and the competitors drove through Gorumara National Park via Phuentsholing to Paro in Bhutan. The stretch from Phuentsholing to Paro posed a challenge to the drivers as the route blanketed with thick fog due to the temperature dropping below freezing point.
The third and longest stage of the rally – from Paro to Kalimpong in the Darjeeling Hills was cancelled due to heavy snowfall. The drivers headed for the final leg, which saw the competitors traverse from Kalimpong to Siliguri. There was some drama as well, as top contenders Pratick Sirkar (& co-driver Debashish Ghosh) and Ratan Pal (& co-driver Prasenjit Roy) dropping out of contention with DNFs.
The last leg of the rally was flagged off from the Kalimpong stadium and started with a steep climb on the road from Mungpoo to Jorebungalow that was lined with verdant forests and offered majestic views of snow-capped peaks of the eastern Himalayas for a few kilometres. This was followed by another competitive section downhill through winding mountain roads of Rohini. The third and last competitive section was a tough drive stretching over nearly 23 kilometers through the bed of the Mechi river that forms the border between India and Nepal.