The Rally Desert Storm is perhaps the most difficult cross country event anywhere in the country. This is because it takes the participants on a challenging drive of 7 days though some really testing terrains the state of Rajasthan has to offer.  That this time around the rally was conducted in April instead of the usual February made the hot weather an additional challenge.  The 14th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, organized by Northern Motorsport, flagged off from Delhi and covering a total distance of over of 2000 kms, the rally steered through the sand dunes and rocky terrains of Hanumangarh, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jaipur in Rajasthan.  This year 200 motorsport enthusiasts were a part of the rally, a highest ever participation proving the growing popularity of motorsports in the country. The Rally was held in four categories — XTreme, NDure, XPlore & Moto. Vitara Brezza, the new launched compact urban SUV from Maruti Suzuki was also seen cruising through the rally route.

Day 1: Hanumangarh

The first day of the rally culminated in zeal and zest for some and in a desire to do better for others. Leg 1 & 2 of the extreme category had two competitive stages of 57 km and 24 km length around Hanumangarh district, nestled on the banks of the River Ghaggar, also revered by the locals as ancient river Saraswati in the colorful state of Rajasthan. The rally was observed by the local crowd with great fervor and bubbling energy. The participants zoomed past the beautiful archeological locations in full speed, leaving the crowd flabbergasted and the ambience electrifying.  The Extreme Car category drivers traveled a total distance of around 330 kms. Abhishek Mishra from Jaipur reigned supreme as he lead the category while Manali man Suresh Rana moved up to the second position.

Day 2: Bikaner

India’s most challenging Motorsport rally entered its second day in the city known for producing great warriors, Bikaner. Located in the heart of the Thar Desert, Bikaner is surrounded by golden sand dunes, majestic forts, stunning palaces, traditional havelis and spiritual temples. The leg 2 of the Desert Storm was one of the longest routes covering a total distance of approx. 160 kms, starting from Naal. All participants were in form, endeavoring to prove their mettle. The intense revving of the rallyist’s cars, shaking up the quaint alleys of Bikaner, was an ode to the great warrior spirit of the royal city. Leg 2 of Extreme category had one competitive stage of 183 km of length and at the end of it Abhishek Mishra led once again.

This year 200 motorsport enthusiasts were a part of the rally, a highest ever participation proving the growing popularity of motorsports in the country. The Rally was held in four categories – XTreme, NDure, XPlore & Moto. Vitara Brezza, the new launched compact urban SUV from Maruti Suzuki.

Day 3: Bikaner

Day 3 of the rally started from Bikaner and travelled to the ‘Golden City’ of India, Jaisalmer, after travelling a grueling distance of approximately 350 Kms. With the breathtaking sights of sand dunes swelling the gusto of the participants, there was a sense of urgency in the participants to take a lead in their respective rallying categories. While some participants soared high, some lost track in the intense battle of strength and stamina. However, with Jaisalmer Fort dominating the skyline, it is assured that each and every participant relished their drives. The tough terrain of the Thar Deserts were taking a toll on the vehicles as out of the 42 cars that started out on second day of the rally in the XTreme and NDure category, only 34 cars could make it to the end of day.

Day 4: Jaisalmer

With each day passing, the rally was proving to be a test of dedication and fitness for all the motorists. The competition kept getting tougher with a pressing need to overlook the harsh weather and grueling terrains and focus on taking a lead in their respective rallying categories. The battle was growing more and more intense by the hour, with unpredicted twists and turns taking place in the sand dunes. The amalgamation of ancient and the medieval era architecture and the tough terrains made a perfect mix of a picturesque and challenging scenario. However, the same honey golden sand tested the mettle of the bikers and car rallyists’ mettle to the core. It was Abhishek Mishra yet again who continued to impress and maintain his lead.

The hot weather was an additional challenge for the participants.

Day 5: Jaisalmer

Travelling through the vast expanse of Sam Dunes, the wide expanse of the desert, the ethereal magic of sunrise and sunset and the mean machines whizzing past the silhouette of camels, made for a spectacular rallying experience for both the rallyists and the onlookers alike. This day also saw the first night stage in Turkon ki Basti when the area was illuminated and bore a festive resemblance. There was an exciting turn of events when acclaimed rallyist, Suresh Rana, clinched the lead. The grueling terrain of Rajasthan took a major toll as Jaipur’s Abhishek Mishra was eliminated from the game due to technical issue in his vehicle.

Day 6: Jodhpur

The 14th edition of Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm ended in the Blue City of Jodhpur with Team Maruti Suresh rana and his navigator Ashwin Naik garnering the first position followed by Amanpreet Ahluwalia and Virendra Kashyap. The drive finally came to an end in the tangles of winding and glittering medieval streets of the city with blue rooftops. In the XTreme bike category, C S Santosh bagged the top slot at followed by Aravind KP and R Nataraj.

The rally was surely exhilarating to track, and to witness the passion and dedication of the rallyists even against the toughest conditions. The Desert Storm is the perfect example of the intense bond between a rally driver shares with his vehicle and that is why they keep coming back to face the hardships.

Shams Naqvi  is an anchor/producer  for the News X motor show Living  Cars.

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