Desert Storm Rally hits dust tracks Tuesday

February 21st, 2011 - 8:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Anand Philar
Ahmedabad, Feb 21 (IANS) One of India’s most gruelling motorsport events, the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm that covers 3,500 km over six days, will be flagged off here Tuesday afternoon with 120 four-wheelers in three categories - Xtreme, Ndurance and Xplore - besides 14 two-wheelers participating.The rally route traverses through the Thar desert, the salt lake of Rann of Kutch and the Aravalli mountain range before finishing in Delhi Sunday while also passing through Bhuj, Jaisalmer, Barmer, Pokhran, Bikaner and Jaipur.

The event, in its ninth year, includes India’s longest Special Stage of some 280 km that puts a premium on driving and navigational skills of the competitors headed by last year’s Xtreme category champion Sanjay Agarwal (co-driver Shiva Prakash) in a modified Gypsy from Bangalore.

The field also includes two US-based brothers, Ravi and Gaurav Prabhakar, driving a modified Subaru Forester in the Xtreme category and making their debut.

The vehicle, kitted with a two-litre, 300bhp turbo engine evoked considerable attention at the pre-event scrutiny here Monday morning. The Prabhakar siblings have taken time off from their engineering business in California to participate in the Desert Storm.

Tata Motors too have entered a four-car team led by ace rally driver, Arjun Balu (co-driver Sujith Kumar) in the Ndure category. The team comprises two Safari and two Xenon Sports Utility Vehicles (SUV).

Needless to say, Tata’s foray into rallying has caused a buzz in the motorsports circles as it is likely that they will be participating in other events too, notably the Dakshin Dare and the premium rally, Raid de Himalaya.

The Xtreme category has attracted most number of entries, 53, with a mix of Gypsy and SUVs backed by fully-equipped teams, some of them newly formed, like Team Stallion that has entered six vehicles led by veteran Sunny Sidhu (co-driver Rohit Michael) and Naveen Goel (Suresh Babu).

The other strong entry is from Team Thunderbolt from Chandigarh that has National Rally championship regulars in their line-up.

“Maruti Suzuki is committed to promote and bring the motorsport closer to common man in India. This continued effort by the company for over a decade now has seen many challenging motorsport events in the country. Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm is one such example,” said Shashank Srivastava, Chief GM (Marketing), Maruti Suzuki.

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