In Top Gear

Khardung-La Pass,in Ladakh region wraps around the mountains,winds up and touches the highest point in the world.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published: October 20, 2012 12:58:58 am

Khardung-La Pass,in Ladakh region wraps around the mountains,winds up and touches the highest point in the world. At 18,300 feet,it has the world’s highest motorable roads,and with its tricky terrain,the most challenging ones too. It is the darling of rallyists,so why all the fuss when a race car driver decides to speed up his Formula One car up the pass? “Formula One race cars are designed to only work on smooth tarmacs,like the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida. So,taking one through potholes,bumps,hair pin turns,mud and gravel,sometimes no road at all,was a challenge. Second,you have to survive the altitude,” says Neel Jani,a Swiss race car driver of Indian origin,who took up the tough task and has become the first driver to take a Formula One car to Khardung-La pass.

“Crazy” is how Jani describes the adventure which will be featured on Discovery Turbo’s Khardunga-La: Race Car Extreme this Sunday,on October 21 at 8 pm. It will be simulcast on Discovery Channel and Discovery Channel Tamil. Driving since the age of 16,Jani achieved his greatest success driving for A1 Team Switzerland in A1 Grand Prix,helping them win the 2007-2008 title and finishing runner-up in 2005-06 and 2008-09. He was also Swiss Champion of the Formula Lista Junior in his rookie year and currently competes in sports car racing with Rebellion Racing’s LMP1 Lola-Toyota.

For the show,Jani has pushed his limit to the highest altitude possible and also created a new world record. “You can’t go higher than this,and for me,the challenge itself had several challenges in it,” says Jani as he talks of battling technological barriers,lack of oxygen,extreme terrain and uneven roads. He also took up the task because it was in India. “I have my roots here and this drive helped me connect with them,” he says.

The show will also take viewers behind the scenes at the Red Bull Racing factory in Milton Keynes from the UK to New Delhi and to the spectacular Ladakh valley. From exhaustive logistical details required to undertake this mission that include transporting the car and five tons of Formula One equipment up the long and three-day treacherous journey from Delhi to Leh,to the special preparations made to get this magnificent machine running,Jani’s team left no stone unturned. “Our biggest issue was altitude and altitude sickness which has nothing to do with fitness. You either have it or not. So,I had to be alright and there was a lot of pressure,” says Jani,adding how,in low oxygen conditions,the team pushed themselves and Formula One car to run,and it took them two days to cover the 45 km track. “No amount of preparation readies you for this kind of an adventure. There are so many things one cannot foresee and you need to improvise as you go along,” sums up Jani.

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