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Old 14th October 2008, 16:39   #1
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Default An official’s view of the Raid

The Event
Raid-de-Himalaya is considered a tough event by all. Many a potential participant baulks at the thought of having to drive so many kilometers of tough Himalayan trails in conditions that are ever changing and can be very harsh and punishing. In short the event has a reputation.
Shortage of breath, fuel, sleep, food, warmth, bed space - in short - shortage of every comfort is hall mark of the Raid. What is available in excess is bravado and sheer hardiness of the competitors.
On the other hand come May all motoring enthusiasts start checking each other on various forums and blogs on when the entry lists is going to open. The entry list is fully susbscribed within month of its opening, in June itself! And the Raid actually takes place every year within opening days of October.
The actual event itself comprises of three distinct categories:
  • Extreme Bikes (less said the better about these souls with bent mind and noses)
  • Extreme Cars (those mad men in the mad machines)
  • Adventure Cars (those who would be fool hardy to believe organizers that this would be less strenuous)
Running from Simla and making its way past upper Himalaya, Lahual, Spiti, Zanskar and Ladakh regions the Raid covers distance of ~1800 kms with punishing schedule of 300~400 kms a day. Come rain of sunshine, warmth (unlikely) or chill, rain or snow the schedule pushes competitors to take a start each day with prayer of finishing the day on their collective lips the whole day.
The Raid competitors are one side of the story. The other side comprises of scores of officials who make the whole run possible and over see that none of the demented participants come to any avoidable grief. This bunch of people attend to self inflicted injuries of the over enthusiatic drivers and even recover the people flying off the precarious mountain roads rescued. They ensure that roads are clear of traffic and man a radio network covering the head and tail of the rally.
Generally an officials day (if it can ever be called that) start about four hours in advance of the actual competitors start and ends equally late in the night. With unremitting alarm bell jingling him awake for the next days start in the eerie darkness and cold the next morning.
With this series of articles I am going to share a log of an official. You be the judge of who is more off the rocker - the enthusiatic competitor or the invisible official on the Raid.
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Old 14th October 2008, 16:43   #2
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The start - 30th September 2008
A few months before the Raid starts a curt email or SMS informs you that you have been bestowed the honor of being an official on the Raid and the organizers would be pained if you did not agree to participate in their collective madness. Such endearing missive can not but be assented. No communication save one or maximum two phone calls in the ensuing period keep you loosely tied to the official duties.
When you are going to be out of office for more than few days you try to maximize work output by completing as much as you can before heading out. So it was this year, 2008, and as per my plan (in my mind) after finishing the days work I headed to my sons office to pick him up. All the packing had already been accomplished in the morning, before leaving home and loaded in to the car’s ample boot space. Given that the spate of recent bombings have resulted in increased police checks I had been working on explanations that I would have to shell out if I was stopped for a spot check. But fortunately this did not happen.
I was being accompanied this year by my son, Dhruvan, and his friend Abhinav. Having collected both of them we crawled out of New Delhi bearing the brunt of evening office hour rush. It took us a cool two hours to clear the traffic chaos of our nations capital city New Delhi. Thereafter we were driving smoothly on the National Highway #1. The route for the day being north on NH1 till Ambala and then NH65 to Simla via Chandigarh/Panchkula.
Hunger pangs hit us around 2200hours near Karnal and we stopped for a quick bite (you will be hearing so much about quick bites that I would rather stop using it and assume that unless mentioned otherwise all food intakes were quick) at a well appointed dhaba. Starting from here the car was running smoothly and we were crusing between 120~140kmph and hoping to hit the bed at Simla before 0100hrs - technically the next day morning. This is when we were batted out.
A emergency stop by few vehcile ahead of us was nicely anticipated and we duly came to a standing stop (ABS brakes working perfectly) in the fast lane of the highway. But one look in the rear view mirror revealed a horror to come. The truck trolley behind us did not anticipate and was headed for the back of car with noo hopes of stopping in time. Despite moving forwards a few more feet - as much as I could - WHAM!!! The truck hit our rear side and crumpled the rear considerably.
We were fortunate that those extra few feet that we moved gave the truck some further braking distance and what could have been a bad smash from back was more like a jab on the door without damaging much else.
Normally this was sufficient dampner to make us abandon the trip and turn back. But were were not ordinary tourist on way to mountains. We were that special brand of demented people called rally officials. A quick conversation to the chief organizers for organising a stand by repairs at Simla next day and we were gingerly on our way testing the car and its handling. There seemed to be nothing wrong mechanically with the car and except for lots of wind howling coming out of the gap between bent rear door and the frame nothing else appeared out of place.
Any thoughts of turning back were banished and the decision to go ahead was firmly taken and implemented.
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Old 14th October 2008, 16:51   #3
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Well well you just wrote your heart out. Awesome. waiting to hear more.

For some a vehicle is just something used for travelling but there are many out here who thinks other wise and still many who will know how to push theirs and their vehicles limits in taking such a trip. I would seriously love to become a part of the third group and am getting inspired by every moment i spend here.
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Old 14th October 2008, 23:04   #4
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Wow this promises to be seriously exciting. waiting for more

Please post pics as well.
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Old 14th October 2008, 23:47   #5
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The Running Repairs - 01st October 2008
In the normal course of every Raid this day - the day before the actual flag off of the event - is most chaotic but with a method to madness.
On one hand you have the participants lining up for the pre-event scrutinee of their vehicles. People have been know to have been denied a start because their vehicle was not up to safety mark. So understandably this corner of actors have fear and anxiety writ largely on their collective faces. Some keep the feeling hidden and some are plainly going over the edge. What fun. But mind you this is serious business. No one want ta competitor out and if a flaw is discovered the collective gaggle of officials try and help out in rectifications etc.
On the other hand you have all the officials coming to the office of the Raid to pick up all essential paper work and equipment that is needed by them for the next few days. And over the years the officials have developed a special kinship of their own and so one can see bear hugs, back slapping greetings, whoops of joy and introductions as each team comes in.
A detailed list of each officials movement plan is drawn up by the Raid office before hand. The senior organisers brief each official about his (and few cases her's) roles and important points that he needs to be aware of. All this is documented and summarised in two most important books along with few other things and handed out to each team of officials:
  1. The DCOC manual
  2. The Safety plan
  3. The "Official" stickers to be pasted on your car
  4. A set of road books that will be followed by the rally
  5. Special "tee" shirts (You can buy these from the Raid office if you are interested)
  6. Fuel money
  7. GPS for tracks and timings plus loads of extra cells
  8. Radio set
  9. First aid medical kit
  10. Torch, pens, etc.
  11. Road signs that are put up at each control
This hand over is culmination of loads of work done by the core team over last few months. Being an official a motorsport event is serious business and needs a cool and experienced head.
Of course added to this melee of pre-Raid day was our special need to get enough work done on the battered rear door of our GV to make it worthy of the road for next ten odd days and to have a working rear door. here the denting department of MotoWorld Simla came in to their own and they did a fast job knowing fully well that this was one job that did not need "finesse" but brute force reshaping.
Anyways the job which was estimated to be over in four hours took almost ten and it was only as the twilight was giving way to darkness that we were able to re-load our luggage and head towards the night halt at Fagu. Originally we would have been there before nightfall and enjoyed a good walk but now we barely reached the place by nine and quickly established contact with the three other teams that were to go along with us as convoy to the start of first stage next day. The start time from Fagu was listed at 0400hrs and we were required to establish control and radio communication by 0630hrs.
A gentle aside on walk in the hills. As the Raid progresses to higher altitudes very quickly it is important that you acclimatise your body. A gentle walk, without getting breathless, and drinking lots of water - even if means lots of P stops - is essential. Altitude sickness is not to be trifled with and when you are going to be responsible for safety of others all the more reason to takeprecautions . Since we do not get much walk time during the daily activity even a stroll in the vicinity of a time control before the rat pack comes buzzing in for time checks is good idea.
After a quick meal - as I said almost all meals are quick - and a last email check (Reliance network was in full swing) it was good night time.
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Old 14th October 2008, 23:50   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Locomotive View Post
Please post pics as well.
No pictures in this thread but the posts at my blog Pass with caution! An official’s view of the Raid would carry a mast head picture for each post. Look at my other threads for pictures from the area and short accompanying narrative.

This is more for those who want to know who is a rally official and what and how they work to ensure a rally's smoothest progress.
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Old 15th October 2008, 09:52   #7
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I am hooked to this now, everyday will be waiting for updates to this thread. Excellent writeup. Kudos.
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Old 15th October 2008, 12:08   #8
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Hi Sudev

This is Vinay Lazarus, glad to see you here buddy. Awesome first hand report of the Raid, feel bad for that bash ur GV. You might have had an awesome time up their in Bliss! Looking forward to the MSDS in Feb. Cheers!
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Old 15th October 2008, 12:38   #9
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Hooked! Waiting for updates
This POV is so rare. Good to read it first hand
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Old 15th October 2008, 12:41   #10
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Fantastic. sudev (& Samurai as well) - how does one get to be a volunteer for such events and progress to a official / marshal?
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Old 15th October 2008, 19:34   #11
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@akshayo: Thanks for the interest shown. And here I was thinking if any one will find this interesting enough to read.

@PowerBaleno: You need to change your sig now that you drive a lovely beast. Nice meeting up Vinay. And you know what officiating is all about having done work with us for the Storm. ;-)

@tsk1979: Thnaks for the support. You better read this again and again. I have written in your name (and wifey) as one of the about to suffer official for the next Storm in Feb09.

@hrag: Well I think basic pre-requisite is having a will to volunteer. I hope you will not dis-illusioned by end of this series. If you - or others - want to vounteer for Desert Strom drop in a email to info@motorsport.in or register at the web site motorsport.in
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Old 15th October 2008, 20:21   #12
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Very enlightening journal, straight from a Discovery documentary.
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Old 15th October 2008, 20:26   #13
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Oh god is it already 3AM! - 02st October 2008
The best way to make sure that you do not miss a alarm is to keep your clock away from the bedside table. Maybe the dressing table is better place as this make you get up and out of the bed to shut that damned thing up. This is a cardinal mistake made by one team of officials as early morning banging on the door to get them going revealed.
But then I am getting ahead a little. With the start time from Fagu listed as 0400hrs the alarms were set for 0300hrs for wake up, getting ready and repacking stuff in the car. I am usually a early riser at home so this time did not really bother me but then I also had to make sure my roomy also got up and got out in time.
As it was I was actually woken up a minute before my alarm went off by the soft beep of alarm from next room. Assuming that those guys were also up I was off to my morning "throne" and a quick bath. After fifteen minutes I was out of the toilet and shouted at my roomy to make a move on. This was established pattern through out. I would be the first out while he grabbed another fifteen minutes of snooze. He was out and pulling up his jeans in next twenty odd minutes and by this time I had packed my bags. So I told him to head down to the parking once he is ready as I was going down. Just off chance I banged on the next door and expected a yell or curse coming my way. But there was only silence. A flutter passed through my heart - were these guys awake? With only about twenty minutes to go we were going to be late. More banging on the door and simultaneous use of mobile got the sleeping dogs up. Few curses and shouts thrown their way ensured use of both toilets and we just about spilled out in to the parking lot just a few minutes late.
Here we were greeted by Chief Organizer in his Gypsy greeting us good morning and gently reminding us to be on our way ASAP. Now this guy would have been up much much later and had driven in the morning from Simla. This is sort of back breaking that is needed from organizers to make sure each and every team is in proper location and in time. And there were others, having gotten up perhaps hour or two before us, already much beyond us racing to reach their assigned positions.
We also switched on our wireless and did customary good mornings etc. more to make sure our set was working perfectly and we could hear others and others us clearly. One of the most interesting thing about officiating if almost constant radio chatter that goes on while officials move to locations in the morning or in the evenings when they head to wards next night halt. Many a times some one takes a wrong turn and has to be guided back with hilarity and abuses being exchanged. The atmosphere in the morning is of suppressed tension and sleepy voices floating out of darkness illuminated in side the car with soft glows of the wireless set. Familiarity with the area can be a boon but also a curse as you can go off in to different direction. So a cross check with GPS is a good practise.
We travelled further to Theog and from there took a road right to Guma and onward to Kiyari. By now while it was still dark outside a convoy had formed and at the lead a wrong turn would have been emabarrasing. All said we did reach our location about ten minutes late but that sort o things is factored in.
On the radio we could hear other teams also getting in to positions not neccessarily using the same route. A crisp dawn greeted us revealing our location in middle of apple country. Here we were to set up the Time Control for start of the first section of the 10th Raid-De-Himalaya.
A rally comprises of series of sections - usually alternating between transport and competitive stages. At start of each competitive the time control is split between two sub controls the IN control and the OUT control. The competitors coming in get their time recorded in the time card and then at the out control they are "counted" down to the second and given a start. At the end of competitive the "flying finish" control records time in exact seconds the competitor corsses a finish line and then after sufficient braking distance this is entered in the time card, carried by the comptitor.
Then along the way there are additional radio cars or safety vehicles stationed to make sure that no other traffic moves on to the section and also report on progress of competitor through the stage.
Eah offcial team manning the satge keeps track of vehcile that has passed the last control and up to the time it has passed the subsequent control. This is done to ensured that if any competitor meets with a problem he is tracked ASAP and given help, if needed.
Will give more details of how tracking is achived later on and what rescue operations kick in as soon as a incident occurs. For the now we were happy to note that only one car - a Skoda - broke down between us and the next radio car. However further in to the section a biker fell off and was injured sligtly and an army team in a Gypsy tried flying but were ensnared in some trees and bushes ten feet below the road level. Both were rescued and attended to.
After the section was completed and all beings accounted for the next step was a long drive that would take us to our night halt at Manali - almost 300kilometers away - via Guma, Narkanda, Sainj, Jalori, Aut and Kullu. Again as the section was over we kept a move on with back ground of officials exchaging "pleasantries" over the air.
Arriving at night halt all officials get fueld up and provisioned up before heading to the control and getting their acco slips. We were put up at Banon's and it was relief to know that our next day movement plan was at 0500hrs and not 0200hrs as some of the unlucky ones.
A quick wash and sumptuous dinner at Johnson's was our reward for the days duty.
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Old 15th October 2008, 21:57   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sudev View Post
@hrag: Well I think basic pre-requisite is having a will to volunteer. I hope you will not dis-illusioned by end of this series. If you - or others - want to vounteer for Desert Strom drop in a email to info@motorsport.in or register at the web site motorsport.in
No way I will be disillusioned. Thank you for the information and please continue the posts sir.
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Old 15th October 2008, 22:25   #15
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Keen to know if you could fix the damage to your vehicle. That was really sad to know. Otherwise nice write up Sudev. Keep the flow on. The Raid website should have the pics by ...........? Any idea?
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