Nazir Hoosein Memorial Drive

Bob Rupani Updated: November 26, 2021, 12:03 PM IST

On 7th November, the late Nazir Hoosein (1940-2019), Indian racer and rally driver, and organiser of the famous Himalayan Rally, was inducted into the inaugural FIVA Hall of Fame Awards and his daughter was given the trophy at a glittering and well attended function in Greater Noida.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveNazir Hoosein, the organiser of the Himalayan Rally was recently inducted into the FIVA Hall of Fame Awards

Next morning, the 90 plus vehicles participating in the Nazir Hoosein Memorial Drive (NHMD) were flagged off by the Chief of Army Staff, General MM Naravane. The drive, a commemoration in honour of Nazir Hoosein, retraced parts of the original route from the 1981 edition and what was heartening is that several old-timers turned up to take part in this event.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveKiran Modi, two time winner of the national category in the Himalayan Rally being flagged off at the NHMD by General MM Naravane

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveRajan Syal, one of the organisers of the NHMD with the Chief of Army Staff, General MM Naravane

Officer and a gentleman, and six-time winner Colonel SS Sekhon was there with his wife, as were former winners, podium finishers and participants like Flory Rootheart, Kiran Mody, Tutu Dhawan, Manjeev Bhalla, Hari Singh, Alak Raju,Farad Bhatena, Farokh Commisariat, Hormazd Sorabjee, Vikas Chudiwala, Asif Haidery, Alak Raju, Surinder Thatthi, Manoj Kasliwal, Subhash Goel, Anita Nanjappa and Jay Mehta.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveColonel SS Sekhon, six-time winner of the Himalayan, was participant No 1 at the NHMD

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveOver 90 vehicles took part and a good time was had by all participants

The duo of Rajan Syal and Rajiv Rai were of course also there as organisers and representatives of Team Firefox. Meeting all these people and reliving memories and moments from the past, was the highlight of the drive that was brimming with nostalgia. In fact it was almost as if everyone was constantly chanting "Those were the days my friend…"

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveDriving through snow covered mountains was a very enjoyable experience

Nazir Hoosein Memorial Drive

Others on the drive included some former rally officials, members of service teams and also media and keen enthusiasts. An all lady team from the Indian Army was there too in a fully rally prepared Maruti Gypsy, evoking realistic reflections from the glorious days of the Himalayan.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThe Army Adventure Team was in a rally prepared Maruti Gypsy, evoking memories of the the Himalayan Rally

I participated with my dear friend and former co-driver Sandeep Dodhiwala, and we drove a Hyundai Tucson with AWD that performed brilliantly. Driving it on the twisty and sometimes treacherous and challenging Himalayan mountain roads was a pleasure and we really appreciated the fine balance between ride comfort and handling.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveBob Rupani and Sandeep Dodhiwala drove this Hyundai Tucson AWD

It also proved to be extremely comfortable and reliable and while several luxury SUVs faced problems like suspension failure, our Tucson simply sailed through everything- only collecting some layers of Himalayan dust. I have always felt the Tucson is a highly underrated SUV with not many being aware of its all-round capabilities, and this was reinforced on this drive.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThe Hyundai Tucson performed most impressively and proved to be comfortable and reliable

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveDriving through the Atal Tunnel made one realize what an amazing engineering marvel it is

The first night halt after the flag off at Greater Noida was Lansdowne followed by Mussoorie, Kufri and Manali. On the final day, there was a free run through the Atal Tunnel to Sissau and the participants got to experience driving through snow covered mountains.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThere could be few better ways to begin a day, than looking at the Himalayas

The route from Kufri to Manali was via Jalori Pass, which used to be one of the biggest and steepest challenges in the Himalayan Rally. Unfortunately, with the passage of time the region has seen unplanned and haphazard development and the massive increase in the amount of traffic, particularly trucks and buses, resulted in the participants getting caught in traffic jams and blockages. They often had to reverse and go off-the road to give way to oncoming vehicles, due to which quite a few ended up with punctured tyres.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveSix classic cars also participated in the NHMD

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThe performance of this 1957 Fiat Elegant driven by Manoj Sadarangani and Neckzad Engineer, was most impressive

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveWhen you drive in the Himalayas you learn to respect the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) that builds such bridges

Through all this what really stood out was the spirit and performance of the teams in the six classic cars- 1957 Fiat Elegant (Manoj Sadarangani and Neckzad Engineer), 1963 Fiat Select 1100 (Paresh Parihar and Dhirendra Soni), 1963 VW Beetle (Santaji Shirke and Dhanaji Shirke), 1968 VW Beetle 1300 (Venkatesh Belaugi), 1968 VW Beetle 1600 (Captain Sachin Ogale) and a 1972 VW Westfalia Microbus (Hassan Husseini and Rhea Suresh Rao).

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThe classic car crews must be applauded for the preparation of their cars and their own positive attitude that got them to the top of such mountain passes

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThese classics were the true stars of the Nazir Hoosein Memorial Drive

All of them completed the drive successfully and what was even more impressive was that they were actually running with the best of modern machinery and at times even ahead of them. This speaks volumes about the restoration and preparedness of their cars and also of the strong character and never give up attitude of the drivers. I am sure if Nazir was around, he would have doffed his hat to these six classic car teams.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveIn the 60s and 70s, the VW Microbus was a favourite of the hippies to drive from London to Kathmandu. So it's no stranger to the Himalayas

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThis car displays their Covid negative status – the most important condition today

Another highlight was the stay and gala dinner at the historic WelcomHotel by ITC Hotels, The Savoy Mussoorie, a heritage hotel that has played host to many previous editions of the Himalayan Rally. Due to various reasons, The Savoy was shut for several years and fell into a state of neglect and decay. The present owner Kishore Kumar Kaya and his team need to be complimented for restoring it so painstakingly, and reopening its grand gates to the participants of the NHMD.

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveThe Savoy Mussoorie all lit up and ready for the gala dinner

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveKishore Kumar Kaya (left), owner of the Savoy, had invited legendary author Ruskin Bond to be the Chief Guest at the gala dinner

Renowned bestselling author Ruskin Bond, was the Chief Guest at the gala dinner at the Savoy and while reminiscing about the Himalayan Rally said, "In those days metaled roads were almost non-existent and therefore the rallyists were pioneers, charting new ways. Today it's different but nonetheless, for many participants it will be a novel experience. Driving in the mountains makes you appreciate the journey, not crave the destination."

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveBob Rupani and his co-driver Sandeep Dodhiwala (right)

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveIn the Himalayas, most parking lots have views that the cars can enjoy

Nazir Hoosein Memorial DriveAnd some are so stunning, that even the cars deserve a "selfie"

Photos Courtesy Team Firefox, Bob Rupani and some participants

Also see:

The Himalayan Rally

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 27.69 Lakhs
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12.95 Kmpl

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