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Meet the lady brave hearts who promise to set the Raid de Himalaya 2018 on fire

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142   //    03 Oct 2018, 21:31 IST

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Shuchi Thakur [L] with her co-driver

If you thought the Raid de Himalaya draws only tough, rugged men with nerves of steel, think again. Delhi’s Shuchi Thakur and Chandigarh’s Anu Rana and Sarah Kashyap are three ladies who promise to set the Raid, rated among the Top 10 toughest rallies in the world, on fire.

Shuchi and Anu Rana have assiduously been preparing for the 20th edition of this gruelling event, starting on October 8, that traverses past torturous mountain roads, hairpin curves and dangerous drop-offs at a height of almost 4,900 metres above sea level in Kargil, Zanskar and Ladakh.

“Everything that I do in life is a means to this end – rallying. I am in top form and am confident of putting up a good show once again,” Shuchi said. “I am there to compete, not for a fun drive in the hills,” she added.

Indeed, Shuchi Thakur is regarded as one of the world’s leading cross-country high-altitude racers among women and she has competed in the Raid an astounding 12 times.

Sarah is also an an accomplished rider as she was the first Indian woman to finish the Xtreme Moto Category at the Raid de Himalaya in 2015. The only other woman biker to finish Raid Xtreme Moto has been the Austrian, Klaudia Honeder, who achieved the feat in 2008. 

In the Desert Storm 2017, she added another feather in her cap by becoming the first Indian woman to complete the race, competing in the Xtreme Moto category. In the next edition of the same event sarah Desert Storm 2018, Sarah finished eighth overall in Xtreme Moto.

The Raid will be flagged off from Leh on October 8, and will finish on October 14, after covering approximately 3,000 kilometers.

Anu has no hesitation in saying that the Raid is her favourite motorsport event. “I love the challenge of driving for long hours at high altitudes. It requires a completely different set of training and conditioning of your body,” she said. 

“The terrain keeps getting steeper with every turn, and you will not know when you will be racing on loose rocks or even sand, which makes the drive tougher with distance. For a racer like me, the terrain looks tempting, but you should never forget the limits of your car,” Anu, a seasoned rallyist now after three shots already at the Raid, added.

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Shuchi Thakur, who hails from Dharamshala and now lives in Delhi, first competed in the Raid de Himalaya in 2005. She has been racing every year in it since then, except in 2016. This makes Shuchi the only woman in the world to have raced a 4X4 vehicle over one lakh kilometers of high-altitude dangerous roads in an extreme motorsport event.

Shuchi’s commendable podium finishes include second in the T1 category at Raid 2017, first in the T2 category at Raid 2015, and second in the T2 category at Raid 2013. At the Maruti Suzuki National Autocross Championship 2016-17, she ranked first in North Zone 4-Wheel Drive category.

Shuchi, as a professional rallyist, believes in the fitness mantra. “For cross country endurance rallying, fitness is the key. One has to be prepared for long hours of strenuous driving under all kinds of conditions. I run a lot, also do resistance training and high intensity interval workout.”

Shuchi, who works in the advertising industry on the creative side, tries to compete in as many events a year as possible. She has been seen in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm and the SJOBA Sub-Himalayan Rally as well. “Seat time is crucial in motorsports. The more time you spend behind the wheel, the better you get at your craft,” she said as the countdown for the Raid begins.

In 2015, Anu finished second in the T2 category at the Raid. She bagged the Coup de Dames trophy, given to the all-women team that performs best at the Raid, in 2015 and 2016. Anu was second in the T2 category at the Dakshin Dare 2015 too, and first in the women’s category at Dakshin Dare in 2016 and 2017.

Anu, a financial consultant, will compete at the Raid with her sister Poonam Rana as navigator. The duo has won various trophies together.

The Raid de Himalaya is the flagship event of the country's premier motorsport club, the Shimla-based Himalayan Motorsport. Its president Vijay Parmar said women drivers who come to the Raid are really, really tough. “Their level of dedication, fearlessness and outright driving skills are a world apart. Shuchi Thakur has been coming for the Raid for over a decade. She has always aimed for an overall win, beating men and women in her category. Anu Rana, teaming with her sister, can be a formidable combination in Xtreme 4x4,” he pointed out.

The Raid de Himalaya 2018 will run its first stage on the never-before traversed section from Lamayuru, called the moonland of Ladakh, to Photoksar. It will then go to the newly-upgraded road leading to Zanskar that was earlier a mule track. They will also take the road leading to Umba La, a high mountain pass at an elevation of 4,496 meters above sea level. 

This is one of the most spectacular stretches globally, and is listed on dangerousroads.org. Crossing the Sirisir La at a height of 4,805 meters above sea level, the 20th Raid De Himalaya is going to enter totally unchartered territory. 

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