Michael Velasco and Peter St George (above) took their 1971 Mercedes-Benz 280S to the top of the timesheets to record their first victory, on the inaugural Himalayan Challenge.
The rally was a battle against the elements for the 40 intrepid crews, for whom simply getting to the finish was a huge achievement.
“This has been a great event, despite the appalling weather early on and all of the subsequent problems,” said Velasco.
“Not getting to the high mountains was naturally a disappointment, but we made the best of it and the organisers rose to the challenge with some clever rerouting. Just driving these roads is a challenge, never mind competing on them.”
Organised by the Endurance Rally Association (ERA), the 21-day rally for pre-’76 cars was blighted by storms, landslides and road closures.
It all kicked off in Delhi back on 21 September and finished on 11 October in the shadow of the Taj Mahal in Agra, but it didn’t all go according to plan.
“This was always planned as a challenging event, we knew that the landscape and terrain would be the things to beat but, as we saw in Manali, we were thrown a curveball with the most testing set of circumstances on an ERA event since 1997,” said John Spiller, Clerk of the Course.
Heavy rain and landslides washed roads and bridges away, engulfing forests and tracks, and keeping the quick-thinking organisers busy with reroutes.
“I’ve been impressed with the way the crews have risen to this challenge and taken everything in their stride with unfailing good humour and common sense,” Spiller added.
Finishing second overall and first in the division for vintage cars built between 1920 and 1931 were Artur Lukasiewicz and Adam Tuszynski in a 1931 Chrysler CM 6 – an impressive performance on only their first ERA event.
“We like a challenge, so we’ve really enjoyed pitting ourselves against the rest of the rally,” Lukasiewicz said.
“This was a preparation for next year’s Peking to Paris and, now that we’ve seen this, we’ve learned a lot.”
Rounding out the podium positions were Phil Garratt and Kieron Brown, who competed in a 1975 Mercedes-Benz 280 Coupé.
In the Vintageant class for cars built between 1932 and 1947, Nigel Lee and Richard Turner came out on top in their 1938 Ford 62.
Meanwhile, in the category for classic cars from 1947 to 1975 with engines up to 2000cc, the first-placed crew was Ludovic Bois and Julia Colman in a ’69 Volvo Amazon.
Bob Harrod and Dana Hradecka in a 1974 Porsche 911 finished 19th overall and also collected the Spirit of the Rally accolade.
Almost a year ago, Dana’s husband, Jan, passed away and this was a tribute to a competitor who’s very much missed.
Another well-deserved trophy went to Jo and David Roberts. The pair made not one but two comebacks after serious mechanical problems with their 1968 Triumph TR250.
Images: Gerard Brown/ERA