Assam boy Arindam Saikia of Team Polaris has won the 20th edition of the iconic Raid de Himalaya in Leh on Saturday. Lodging a total penalty of 6.32.49 hours, Arindam jumped ahead on Day 2, hung on to his lead tenaciously for the next two days to claim the Xtreme 4×4 category.
The prestigious Raid started from Kargil on October 10 last and concluded on October 13 last across Kargil, Zanskar and Ladakh with the drivers having to cope up with extreme weather conditions (read chill). The second slot was occupied by 2015 Raid winner Captain AVS Gill in his Grand Vitara. He finished 10.53 minutes behind to take the second position. Hailing from Golaghat in Upper Assam, Arindam’s preparation started four years ago and he was among the first few individuals to buy the Polaris.
“Since I was 20, I wanted to compete in Baja 1000, Mint 400, Dakar and other top international off-road motorsport rallies. And I wanted to win the Raid de Himalaya, India’s top off-road motorsport challenge. I bought the Polaris to fulfill this dream of mine,” said Arindam. Saikia first competed in the Raid in 2015. “I had an accident on Day Three of the race. My rear wheel hub came off. I was heart-broken. I came back in 2016 harbouring lots of hope in my mind. That year, a biker lost his life racing at the Raid, and the event was called off,” he recalls.
Arindam took a year off from rallying in 2017 to sharpen his skills more at the wheels. The racer says 2018 has been a great year for him. “I bagged the Raid crown, and earlier in the year, I was at the Indian Baja 2018, which I won by 15 minutes,” he grinned. “In off-road racing, suspension and light weight plays a major role. Also, it has a 1000 cc engine giving 110 HP. All this enables the vehicle to endure all kind of terrain and road conditions,” Arindam explained.
Raid de Himalaya, considered among the top 10 toughest motorsport rallies of the world, is organised by the Shimla-based Himalayan Motorsport, India’s premier motorsport club. Earlier in August, Arindam emerged champion in the Xtreme category at the India Baja 2018 in Jaisalmer making his direct entry to 42nd Dakar rally to be held in South America in 2020 and Afriquia Merzouga rally in 2019.