The Himalayan Challenge
21 September - 11 October 2018
SEPTEMBER 20, 2018 - New Delhi
Scrutineering Day - An Indian summer
We’re in Delhi today, waiting for the start of the first Himalayan Challenge, inspired partly by the exploits of Philip Young who, along with the Rev Rupert Jones, took a Morris Minor to 15th overall in the 1980, Air India, Himalayan Rally.
This, the final event of the ERA calendar for 2018, sees 36 cars take on a three week adventure to the roof of the world - and back again. Over twenty one days and 9,366km, we will climb to a lung busting 5076m with an incredible total ascent of 54,458m. Everything will be tested to the limits, the cooling system, the transmission, the brakes - and the crews.
Temperatures have fallen a little since the summer high, but today dawned hot and sticky again for the morning transfer to the warehouse where Melvyn Palmer of CARS had been labouring for several days already. Wrestling with padlocks, ratchet straps and a clipboard, he strove to release the cars both physically and officially onto the roads of the subcontinent. The grateful crews simply had to arrive, sign on the dotted line, turn the key and then they were off.
For some, the drive through the dense Delhi traffic to the hotel, was perhaps a baptism of fire complete with roadside shrines to look at and countless honking and squawking taxis, scooters and auto rickshaws to avoid. Nowhere else does crowded quite like Delhi but however choked the roads become everyone remains polite and calm.
The car park of the magnificent Imperial Hotel was the destination and once there the sweep crews set to checking each vehicle for safety and compliance. This was hot work for sure but it was carried out, as usual, with the characteristic good humour and efficiency of Andy Inskip, Tony Jones, Jamie Turner and Russ Smith.
There were naturally a few niggling issues which needed ironing out. Jonathan Turner’s Bentley, which has returned to the Himalayas for the first time since the 1997 Peking to Paris required some welding to a front suspension mount.
Andy Mudra and Gernot Woerle, also in a Bentley, needed help with a timing issue. Last seen in a tiny Citroen Rosalie during the 2010 Peking to Paris, Gernot’s backfiring engine gave the birds and squirrels of the beautifully tended formal gardens something to think about.
Indeed there are six WO Bentleys lined up in the carpark making them by far the biggest works team here.
Steven Partridge and Corgi Le Grouw are here in their venerable Morris Oxford which has so far conquered the Gobi Desert and the Andes. Decked out with her own floral garland “Denise” was loving all of the attention. She’s sure to get plenty of admiring looks along the road as well given that she’s closely related to the once all conquering Hindustan Ambassador which still ply the streets of India as a taxi cab.
At the other end of the climate spectrum, Eleonora Piccolo and Gill Cotton meanwhile, ran the pop up Rally Office from the comparatively glacial Royal Ballroom. Thanks to a typically over zealous air conditioning system, paperwork and documents were issued, checked, signed and returned with an icy coolness.
An insulated bottle was also supplied to the crews which doubtless will prove useful in both the heat, and the inevitable cold, of the mountains which are coming.
Once the navigators had received their route books and the map book, then the serious business of sorting out life on the road began. And, as the sun dipped below the horizon, and the cars were put away for the night it was then left to John Spiller, the route designer and Clerk of the Course, to formally welcome everyone to the event and give a short briefing on what to expect.
This is a Regularity Rally, where the landscape and the roads will likely prove to be as much competition as the stopwatch will be so as such, it’s going to be the drive of a lifetime.
Dinner followed and a civilised start time tomorrow then allowed the crews to enjoy some of India’s legendary hospitality.