The Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2010 was nothing short of its title - full of desert and lots of sand. The only regret were the missing colossal sand dunes. It is interesting to note that Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm does not allow scouting of routes, except the very first stage. This means the responsibility on the co-driver is pretty high.
An all time of high of 107 competitors had lined up for this year’s Desert Storm. The Xtreme category saw 44 cars battle it out for the coveted trophy. While the Moto Quads, Xplore and Ndure category saw 21 participants each. Big names we involved in the Xtreme and Ndure category, but the desert proved that the mighty could be humbled and the ‘also rans’ could also taste victory.
While the Xtreme Cars, Moto Quads, and Ndure had a tougher run covering the extra mile, the Xplore category meant for new comers was on the easier side. But night halts this time around proved to be the same for each class. We were on the trail of the Xtremes and Ndures.
The February 14th, Sunday afternoon saw all participants line up at the start ramp at The Great India Place in Noida for the ceremonial start. The rally proceeded to Shakunt, about 71 km on theDelhi- Jaipur Highway for a re-group. The first leg of the gruelling storm - a night run that seperated the Men from the Boys and the Ladies from the Girls was flagged off.
The stage, named ‘Wild Cat’ was along a river bed which meanders through the Aravali foothills. The best of the drivers and riders completed the leg from Ramgarh to Nain (52.48 km) and did a tremendous 380 km traversing liaison stage to reach the Teja Garden retreat, at Sheruna early in the morning. The total run of the first the Leg 1A was 434.42 kms.
February 15th, Monday saw the participants take to the ‘Twister’ stage filled with twists and turns (53.81 km ) and the ‘Never Ending Saga’ (78.3 km ) - a stage that wanders along a ridge of sand dunes with track going all over - a stage where the navigator calls were crucial. With a distance of 122.86 km, the total run for Day 2, Leg 1B was 254.41 km.
February 16th, Tuesday was an early start at 6.30 am and ran from Bikaner to Jaiselmer with two stages, ‘Airport Express’ or ‘Dust to Glory’ (29.38 km) and ‘Nuke Zone’ or ‘Ground Zero’ (78.3 km), with a transport stage of 279.89 km, totalling 387.57 km for the day. A fast paced stage, the Airport Express was run near the Bikaner airbase, a flat but hard gravel packed surface, and shifting sand dunes. The Nuke Zone was set on three dry lake beds with mining territory running alongside the Indian Nuclear Test site at Pokhran. Flat out terrain with interspersed jumps, the rallyists had an early finish at around 4 pm, with night stay at Jaiselmer.
February 17th, Wednesday started at 8 am with two interesting stages ‘Bad Max’ (87.97 km) and ‘The Twilight Zone’ (61.98 km) om platter. Coupled with a 532.25 km of liaison distance, this was the longest day with 682.20 km of running. The GPS introduced this year was a great support to the dare devils. The stage started with a bit of smooth tarmac which later changed to sand, and then some more sand. The ‘Twilight Zone’ lived up to its name, for this was after a 500 km transport after the first stage of the day. After a tiring and exhaustive transport run, the competitors had a tough time completing the stage with the very first competitor reaching the Camp at Bhuj at 8.30pm.
February 18th, Thursday was one of those early wake-up days with the first car being flagged off at 6.30am.With each passing day, the stages started getting longer. The penultimate day had ‘The Beach’ ( 26.25 km), and Tropic of Cancer ( 120.38 km) stages, with 331.78 km of liaison, making the total distance for the day to around 478 km. The Beach is an interesting stage with the rallyists driving and riding down the a stretch of white sand with the sea on their left. The thrill - you have hit the Rann of Kutch. The next stage ran parallel to the Tropic of Cancer ending near the epicentre of the devastating Bhuj earthquake. A high speed section saw the day ending quite early at 4 pm.
February 19th, Friday, the final day of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2010 had one more section, ‘The Quake Zone (67.30 km). This was a reverse run of the second stage from the previous day. Starting the stage as early as 3.30 am, coupled with a 489.36 km of Liaison run, the day ended after covering 566 km for the final day of the storm.
The Desert Storm 2010 also included a fun filled Special Stage of 650 km. The entire rally had 2138 km of liaison distance, totalling about 2800 km of gruelling sand and storm.
16 cars in the Xtreme category, 7 bikes in the Xtreme Motoquads, 11 finishers in the Ndure class and 23 in the Xplore category made it to the finish line. 57 vehicles among the 107 starter completed the rally.
The storm saw a new winner in Abhisake Mishra and co-driver Hanumant from Perfect Rally Team. Suresh Rana and Sunny Sidhu had pulled out earlier during the rally. Harpreet Singh Bawa & co-driver Inderpreet and Sandeep Sharma & co-driver Anmol Rampal from Team Thunderbolt finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Veteran Rallyist Sanjay Agarwal & co-driver J.Jeevarathinam won the Xtreme Class T2 .
Jes David won the overall top spot in the Moto Quad category. Nataraj of Team TVS Racing and Virendra R Vaghela finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. Amardev Singh Marwa won the Moto Class A among Motoquads.
Raj Singh Rathore & co- driver Dhiraj Arora, won the Ndure Category in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm Rally 2010 and are a thrilled lot. Sanjay Ram Takale & co-driver Pradeep Kumar completed the podium with a win in the Xplore category.
A well prepared Media Plan, perfect timings, and cancellation of hardly 60 kms of Stage distance, plus a perfect retreat in the Camp at Bhuj would never let anyone forget the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm Rally 2010. Lots of sand and lots of sun, and lots of desert with boiling days and freezing nights. If this is what one is looking for, c’mon get ready... February 2011.