Watching the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen compete on a Formula One circuit is thrilling in a detached way. But it is nowhere near the smell of burnt rubber and the bite of cold, that the highest-altitude event in the world offers.
Though the Gypsies and two-wheelers participating in the Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya are nowhere near the high speeds of track racing, the dirt does pose its own set of sever tests - some even more taxing than any that the controlled environment of racing can ever throw up. That the event unfolds from Shimla to Leh over seven days just before the onset of winter, makes it all the more on-the-edge kind of an experience.
Driving at 60km per hour might seem quite gentle for a race. But maneuvering the vehicle at that speed right beside a 15,000ft cliff makes things a little more interesting.
Even if, the drivers cope with the extreme kuccha tracks on offer, the weather and the altitude doesn't help their cause. With altitude increasing with each progressing leg, the oxygen in the air reduces and exertion becomes all the more difficult. Not to mention the bone chilling conditions with temperatures falling well below zero.
Even though the participants are aware of the taxing conditions lying in wait, the spirit of adventure is a strong enough driving force to keep them going.
Suresh Rana, four-time consecutive and defending champion epitomises this spirit, which propelled him to his fifth consecutive Raid-de-Himalaya win on Wednesday. Ashish Moudgil - astride his Hero Honda Karizma -- secured victory amongst the two-wheelers taking his total tally to three wins in this event.
The machine takes a lot of punishment in the Raid and it is not very surprising that many participants fail to complete the race due to breakdown - both of spirit and automobile.
For routine travelers, the route from Shimla to Manali is a smooth national highway. But, the route for the Raid is no more than a rough dirt track. Sleepless nights owing to early starts and long hours servicing the vehicles at the end of each leg adds to the exertion of the participants.
In the Raid, competing and finishing are in themselves a prize. For adventure fanatics it is just another exciting prospect but for the common man it is the experience of a lifetime.