Desert storm

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

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