The 16th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally set man and machine up against the mighty Thar Desert
The MaRUTI SUZUKI Desert Storm rally is one of India’s toughest rally events, held every year through the desert state of Rajasthan. Temperatures soar to well over 50 degrees Celsius, testing men, their motorcycles and their support teams in extreme conditions. This year’s rally saw about 40 entrants in the Moto category and, after five days of battling the unforgiving terrain, less than half of them made it to the finish. This year’s rally was flagged off in noida, after which the contestants headed south into Rajasthan for the first leg that was held near the city of Bikaner.
as the first special stage kicked off just north of Bikaner, hero Motorsports Team Rally’s C S Santosh set the tone and flew into an early lead, just ahead of the angata Racing duo of aaron Mare and Sanjay Kumar. The heat and endless sand in all directions may have disoriented a few of the riders, for quite a few lost their way during the stage while others faced mechanical problems and had to pull out; in all seven riders did not make it to the second leg of the rally.
The second day had two more special stages, the first being held in the opposite direction to the previous day’s stage, while the second, a shorter stage, was held around Bikampur. From here the racers headed to Jaisalmer, which would act as a base during the next three days of rallying. Day two once again saw C S Santosh dominate on his hero Speedbrain machinery, although aaron Mare was just a few seconds behind after the first special stage of the
day, stretching that lead to just over two minutes by the end of the second stage. Sanjay kumar held on to third place, about six minutes ahead of tVS racing’s Santolino Lorenzo.
We were now in Jaisalmer, deep in the thar desert, and the day’s first special stage took the racers off the main roads at Mokul, through the Sam sand dunes and to the village of asu tar, close to the india-Pakistan border. the second stage, although shorter, was held around asu tar and was a lot more challenging.
Day three saw aaron Mare push ahead and take a seven-minute lead over C S Santosh, who crashed during the stage, receiving head and neck injuries. Santosh got back up and finished the stage, but not without losing the lead. Meanwhile, Santolino Lorenzo made up time on Sanjay kumar to make it into the top three. Later in the day, it was announced that Santosh would not continue as the exact extent of his injuries was not known, and the team had chosen to pull him out rather than risk further injury this early in the racing season.
the next day’s Leg 4a took the contestants on a long and gruelling route through the Sam sand dunes, finishing at the town of Bhuwana, while Leg 4B was the same challenging route in the opposite direction. aaron Mare had clearly found his rhythm and finished the day over five minutes ahead of Santolino Lorenzo, with Sanjay kumar about half an hour behind.
With the end getting near and one short special stage to go, aaron Mare gave it his all to make it to the finish line among the dunes in first place. Five minutes behind him Santolino Lorenzo brought home second place for the tVS racing team, while Sanjay kumar secured the third spot on the podium.
With the racing over, contestants and teams headed back to the hotel in Jaisalmer for the prize distribution before heading back home to prepare bodies, minds and machines for more racing this year.
Aaron Mare took the lead from Santosh on day three, and never looked back
Sanjay Kumar was able to hold on to third place, to finish on the podium
TVS Racing’s Santolino Lorenzo came from behind to finish second
C S Santosh started strong, but didn’t make it past day three