Manali man Suresh Rana, the marathon cross-country motorsport champion of the country, is the top favourite for the 'Overall First' winner's crown at the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, to be organized in Rajasthan from February 18 to 23.
About 250 motorsport enthusiasts from all over the country are participating in the 11thedition of the Desert Storm, an iconic motorsport event which is one of the toughest and most popular motorsport rallies of the country. The rally is the pride of Rajasthan, given the highly challenging conditions, tough stages and spectacular terrain, ranging from desert stretches and vast salt flats to deceptively simple dirt tracks. Mr Mayank Pareek, the Managing Executive Officer of Maruti Suzuki, said that the 11th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm will traverse about 2,200 kilometers this year.
The toughest category of any motorsport event is the Xtreme category, which is all about high speed. In the Xtreme (4X4) category, the participation of rallyists has gone up by an impressive 37.5 per cent. From about 40 entries in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2012, the total number of entries in Xtreme (4X4) has gone up to 55 this year. The increase is even more remarkable in the Xtreme (Moto & Quad) category. From 14 entries in this category last year, the number has increased to 29 competitors this year. This means a whopping 107 per cent increase in the number of bikers coming for the 11th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm.
"It is a matter of pride for us that Maruti Suzuki has made it possible for motorsport to reach the masses and flourish in the country. Our rallies now draw the best motorsport talent in the country, and also nurture new talent among youth each year," said Mr Pareek. 2013 is going to witness the highest ever participation of rallyists for this six-day challenge. The drama is going to unfold about a week from now, and the best motorsport talent is preparing in earnest for the event. The top favourite for the crown in the Xtreme (4X4) category at the Desert Storm this year is Suresh Rana, who drives for Team Maruti.
Rana is eight-time winner of the Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya, which ranks among the top ten toughest motorsport rallies of the world. Rana was numero uno at the Desert Storm 2012, and has won the formidable desert challenge several times earlier too. The Manali-based rallyist is considered the most formidable opponent by all those looking for the top position in the event. He will drive a Grand Vitara for the event. Challenging Rana are the motorsport champions driving for Team Mahindra. These include Gaurav Gill of Delhi, Karamjit Singh from Malasia, Sunny Sidhu from Chandigarh and Lohit Urs from Mysore.
Each February, over 250 motorsport enthusiasts from as far as Arunachal Pradesh in the east to Goa in the west, from J&K to Mangalore, converge in Rajasthan for the Maruti Suzuki DesertStorm. Participants compete in four-wheel drivers, two-wheel drives and motorbikes in diverse categories such as Xtreme, Moto, Ndure and Xplore, to take on the challenges of the wilderness.
The two other categories of the event are Ndure and Xplore. Both these categories follow the Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) format of rallying. The difference is that the Ndure rallyists follow almost the same route as taken by the Xtreme rallyists. The Xplore rallyists, on the other hand, have a comparatively easier route to follow, with less of dune country and outback challenge along the track.
Meanwhile, the Old Turks of Indian motorsport are up against the youth brigade at the Desert Storm. These include Rajan Syal, Vijay Parmar, Harvijay Singh Bahia, Niaz Ali and others. Syal is the Chief Executive Officer of the Federation of Motorsport Clubs of India (FMSCI), the governing body of all motorsport clubs and events in the country. Parmar is president of Himalayan Motorsport, the premier Shimla-based motorsport club that organizes the iconic Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya, one of the top-ten toughest motorsport rallies in the world. He is participating in the Xtreme Moto & Quad category of the Desert Storm, and is driving a KTM-450 EXC, especially customized for the
International Six Day Enduro (ISDE), the toughest international race in its category. Harvijay Singh Bahia has been a champion rallyist of the country in the 80s. Niaz Ali, an NRI based at Australia, has been a regular at most motorsport events of the country, and is bringing his vehicle from Australia, especially prepared for the event.