Noida: The Thar Desert is majestic but is equally gruelling if you are tasked to rally through it.
Come Monday, the storm awaits the sand dunes surrounding Bikaner and Jaisalmer as the 16th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2018 will begin.
A five-day event will see close to 150 participants with their mean machines, take the challenge to get better of the testing conditions such as intense heat, dusty dunes as the gigantic ‘Thar’ will test the best of best to their limits.
The riders and drivers will have to keep their nerves and engines as cool as possible if they find themselves in a situation where their vehicle is making way helplessly through the dunes.
The 16th edition of the Rally will see events in four formats, namely Xtreme, Moto, Xplore and Endure.
The Xtreme format open for 4x4 rally prepared vehicles remains the classic format of Desert Storm and challenges the participants to the maximum as one has to cover the entire rally in fastest time.
Two-time defending champion, Suresh Rana will look to defend his title and bag hat-trick with his navigator PVS Murthy. With the highest number of entries (50) in this category, Rana will have to be alert while rest of the field must be cautious taking on the defending champion, who is also known as ‘Raid Legend’ for his exploits in Raid de Himalaya event.
Moto category is the category is for bikes and tracks are same as that of Xtreme format and runs on fastest time concept. Moto in Desert Storm gets extremely challenging with sand dunes playing it tough on competitors and navigation being a key component.
Last year’s winner R Natraj will once again race for his TVS Racing team, but the debutant and ace rider CS Santosh will pose him a tough challenge. India’s leading female rider, Aishwarya Pissay, of TVS racing will aim to and finish the Rally this year after multiple crashes prevented her from completing the Rally last year.
The other two categories Xplore (2 wheel drive) and Endure (4 wheel drive) are the two formats which run on a TSD (Time- Speed- Distance) format and Rally is not a Race.
A Roadbook is provided to Driver and Navigator, which has all the instructions on distances and directions, while a Speed Chart is provided to ascertain ideal speed and time they should move on. Now, the Navigator in a TSD has an important role to play, as he/she calculates the ideal time to reach at every point as per designated speed, with which they need to move.
In Xplore format, Team Maruti Suzuki Motorsport drivers Ali Asgar and MK Mohemmed Mustafa are the defending champions while in Endure format Nikunj Toshniwal and Suverjit Dutta were the winners last year.
This year the Rally will be slightly compact because unlike last year, the Rally will not head to Hanumangadh-off but will head to Bikaner, providing participants much needed rest on the first day, as one 200-km stretch awaits them later in the Rally along with night leg.
Desert Storm Stages
Mar 18 Noida Flag off
Mar 19-20 Bikaner Leg 1 & 2
Mar 21-23 Jaisalmer Leg 3-6
Mar 23 Jaisalmer Prize distribution