JK Tyre Himalayan Drive: Ali, Mustafa close in on title after day four

Hile, Nepal March 1 (IANS) For the fourth consecutive day, national Time Speed Distance (TSD) champions Ajgar Ali and Mohammed Mustafa stayed put to the pole position as the Biswa Bangla Himalayan Drive 5 entered its penultimate leg here on Wednesday.

The rallyists started from Darjeeling – where day three ended – on Wednesday morning and made their way to Ghoom, which has India’s highest railway station at 7,407 feet.

They then drove down the pine-tree lined road to Mirik to reach Pashupatinagar in the India-Nepal border.

Once inside Nepal, the rallyists drove down the hills to reach the Terai region of that country and took the East-West highway before turning right into a dirt track through a forest and then drive over a river bed.

The total distance on the fourth day was 258 km.

The challenging part was the last 20 km-stretch as it tested the competitors’ endurance after three days of battling dense mist, dipping temperatures, treacherous riverbed terrain and so on.

The rallyists were greeted to a felicitation organised by local people in Nepal. A large group of school children lined the road waving flags of Nepal, India and Bhutan. The competitors were felicitated in the traditional manner with khadas (white silk scarves).

On Thursday, which will be the final phase of the marathon rally, Ali and Mustafa will have to maintain their pace over 250 kilometres from Hile to Siliguri to be crowned champions for the second time in the event. They won the inaugural edition in 2012.

On Tuesday, Subir Roy and Nirav Mehta (co-driver) pulled the plug on their participation in the five-day meet which went tri-nation for the first time in its five years.