Manali, Oct 7

The 19th edition of Maruti Suzuki Raid de Himalaya, the worlds highest arena rally, was flagged off from this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort on Saturday.

More than 170 motorsport enthusiasts in 110 teams are participating in the Raid which will culminate at Leh in Jammu and Kashmir on October 14.

The rally will take place at an extremely high altitude of 17,500 feet with temperatures as low as 15 degrees celsius and will traverse through the terrains of Kaza, Sarchu, Pang, Leh, Kargil and Pensi La.

"Rated among the top 10 most difficult rallies in the world, the premiere motorsport spectacle of the country has grown slowly but strongly into the rallying phenomenon it is today," an official statement quoted Maruti Suzuki India Ltd Vice President Sanjeev Handa as saying.

"From a small rally that began in 1999 with just 19 teams, it has been a long journey since then and has seen over 110 teams and over 170 participants go head to head for the most coveted title in Indian rallying history," he added.

Winning last year's top title, rallyists Suresh Rana and his navigator P.V.S. Murthy aim to defend the title in their Grand Vitara.

Sandeep Sharma and Karan Aryain are at the wheel of S.Cross, Hari Krishnan and Dinesh Dhankarin on Ignis, Dhram Pal Jangra and Thinless Namgail on Vitara Brezza and Samrat Yadav and S.N. Nizami are driving a Gypsy.

Cutting it close will be six women teams as well as eight Indian Army teams, which would be taking part across categories this year.

The rally is divided into three categories -- X-treme cars, X-treme bikes and Adventure -- and will cover about 1,850 km over a span of seven days.

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