Dominant Rana retains Desert Storm Rally title

Showing off his class, Suresh Rana of Team Maruti romped to victory at the 11th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, the six-day grueling motorsport event that started from Delhi on February 18 and ended at Jaipur today. Rana topped Rally Xtreme, the toughest category of the event to retain his title.

Competitively aggressive in his Grand Vitara, Rana kept a vice-like grip over the top position in 12 of the total 13 competitive stages of the event. Rana said that during a competitive stage on Day Two, he lost 14 minutes due to a minor upset on the track. "Thereafter, I made a conscious effort not to yield even a minute. Fortunately, I was able to increase my lead till the last competitive stage," said the marathon cross-country motorsport champion of the country.

Rana finally ended the event with a splendid lead of 29.33 minutes over his closest competitor, Sunny Sidhu of Chandigarh. Sidhu ranked second in Rally Xtreme with a lead of 15.36 minutes over Lohit Urs of Mysore.

In an event which had competitors driving all major Indian and also some foreign automobiles, Team Maruti kept its dominance in Rally Ndure and Rally Xplore. Mr Manohar Bhatt, Vice-President (Marketing) Maruti Suzuki, said it was matter of pride that 70 per cent of the prizes in all categories were won by Maruti Suzuki vehicles. Somdev Chanda of Team Maruti ranked first in Rally Ndure with a lead of three minutes over Jagmeet Gill. "The last competitive stage turned out to be the most dramatic. The morning rain packed the loose sand, and as we sped on, we saw a whole new facet of the desert challenge," said Chanda.

Jagmeet Gill of Team Maruti, who ranked second, had a lead of 7.37 minutes over Parth Beniwal, who ranked third in Rally Ndure. All three competitors drove Maruti Gypsy. Rally Ndure follows the Rally Xtreme route in the Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) format and four-wheel drive vehicles.

In Rally Xplore, Sanjay Takale of Team Maruti zoomed to victory in his SX4. "The speed rush was a battle of nerves, and I finally topped the Rally Xplore challenge with a lead of 32 seconds," said the champion TSD rallyist. Satish Gopalkrishnan of Bangalore ranked second with a lead of 1.36 minutes over Rajesh Chalana, also of Team Maruti. Rally Xplore follows the TSD format in a separate route and two-wheel drive vehicles.

Jaipur's Raj Singh Rathore topped Xtreme Quad, driving his Polaris RZR 800 to victory with the fastest stage timings. "I am a desert man, and 'dune up' or 'dune down' in the Polaris was a game of joy," said Rathore, who scored the fastest stages of the event. Second in Xtreme Quad was Brandon Glissmeyer, also driving a Polaris RZR 800.

The 11th edition of this tough, challenging motorsport event had started on February 18, with 138 teams in the fray. These included 52 teams in Xtreme, 34 in Endure, 29 in Xplore, 29 in Moto and three in Quad. A total of 263 rallyists from all over the country and also abroad fighting for top honours in one of the most prestigious motorsport events of the country.

The rally traversed about 2,200 kilometers in the wild outback of Sardarshahar, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jaipur, where it ended on Saturday. The harsh, unforgiving desert terrain took a toll over man and machine, and by the end of the rally, there were only about 25 per cent competitors running in each category.

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