India’s first hill climb challenge comes into play at the Mughal Rally in Kashmir




Srinagar, June 18: The Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, the iconic automobile and motorcycle hill climb in the USA, now has an Indian equivalent. The 4th edition of the Mughal Rally in Kashmir is the first motorsport event in the country to be a hill climb battle. The two-day race begins on June 28 with over 150 competitors.

India's first hill climb challenge comes into play at the Mughal Rally in Kashmir

India’s first hill climb challenge comes into play at the Mughal Rally in Kashmir

The Pikes Peak Hill Climb, also called the ‘Race to The Clouds’, is a 20-kilometer track in Colorado, USA, which rises to an elevation of  14,115 feet (4,302 meters). The Race has taken place since 1916, and is contested by cars, SUVs and motorcycles.

Almost 100 years later, the hill climb race begins on the Indian motorsport circuit on two of the highest peaks in the country – Pir Ki Gali and Sinthan Pass. ‘Gali’, which commonly implies ‘street’ in Hindi, is used in the Gujjar dialect of Kashmir for ‘mountain pass’. Here too, competitors will drive cars, SUVs and motorcycles. The event is slated on June 28 and 29. On June 27, the pre-event scrutiny will be held in Srinagar to ensure that all vehicles comply with stringent rallying and safety regulations.

Talat Parvez, Director Tourism Kashmir, said he was enamoured by the The Pikes Peak Hill Climb, one of the most popular motorsport events in the USA. “This race is on the international events calendar of Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing bodies for international motor sporting events. We realized that Pir Ki Gali on Mughal Road and Sinthan Pass offer the same challenge to motorsport enthusiasts. This year, we have entries from almost all parts of the country for the hill climb, and it has the potential of becoming  an international challenge,” said Pervez.

On June 28, motorsport daredevils will test their skills in the hill climb to Pir Ki Gali, the highest point on the Mughal Road, at an elevation of 11,500 feet (4,100 meters) approximately. The Mughal Road is the historic track used by Emperors Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan to traverse Kashmir to go to Lahore.

On June 29, the second hill climb battle will come into play when the competitors race to Sinthan Pass, at an altitude of 12,450 feet (3748 meters). The Sinthan Pass is on National Highway 1B, connecting Kishtwar and Anantnag. Even during the height of summer, the hill climb up to Sinthan Pass is lined with walls of snow. It is open from April to September.

The architect of the hill climb race is Himalayan Motorsport, the premier Shimla-based motorsport club which has created the Raid De Himalaya. The Raid, held in awe by rallyists across the world, is the only Indian event listed on the FIA calendar.

The Mughal Rally started in 2010, when the Mughal Road was a quagmire of deep mud and rocks. It is now a smooth, double laned highway which will be formally opened by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on June 25.

“The format of the event has changed from a rally to a hill climb because of the way the track has changed,” said Vijay Parmar, the President of Himalayan Motorsport. “Rallying is on dirt track, which we see in the Raid. With the road almost fully tarmac here, we now have a fantastic hill climb challenge,” he revealed.

Himalayan Motorsport has seen average top speeds on this stretch go up from a mere 55 kmph in 2010 to almost 170 kmph in 2012. “We see this rally becoming one of the fastest hill climbs in the world. At around 30 kilometers each, the four hill climb stages on Peer Ki Gali and Sinthan Pass will require great skill and concentration to master,” Parmar stated.

The Mughal Rally will race the 67 kilometer stretch of the Mughal Road in about 45 minutes.

The rally will be flagged off from the Royal Springs Golf Course by the J&K Tourism Minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir on June 28. It will proceed to Jammu over the Mughal Road for the night halt.

June 29 will see the rally return via the lesser known areas of  Reasi, Salal, Gool to Ramban, and finally taken on the hill climb to Sinthan Pass, to end in Srinagar. With greater peace in the valley, the Mughal Rally has boosted tourism in the region.

The Mughal Rally 2013 has 26 teams in the Xtreme (4X4) category, which is all about speed. The Enduro category, which runs on the Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) format, has 35 teams in the fray. Each team comprises a driver and a navigator. In the Xtreme (Moto) category, there are 10 bikers competing for the top spot this year.

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