In the last post, I wrote about my day out in the desert, watching rallyists in action at the 2016 Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. In the 6th and final leg of the rally, as the competitors raced towards the finishing point at Sankda in Bhilwara district of the state, the media covering the rally made their way to Jodhpur, where the rally was scheduled to culminate officially and the winners were to be felicitated.
|Stage all set for celebrations
It was late in the evening when we arrived at the ITC WelcomHotel in Jodhpur and it was exciting to see a section of the hotel entrance and parking all decked up to welcome the racers and the winners among them. There was a lot of buzz about the Desert Storm rally, with other hotel guests too milling around the venue, looking forward to the celebratory champagne showers by the rally winners.And this is how the evening panned out –
|And the champagne showers begin
|CS Santosh celebrating his big win. A treat it was to see him zoom down the tracks
While the champagne showers and celebrations went on till late in the night, it was at the Award Ceremony the next afternoon that the elaborate results in all categories where formally declared. This was a good opportunity to see the participating teams together and also connect hitherto nameless faces to names and understand their roles in the rally.
|Time for awards and rewards
For me, the most amazing part of the award ceremony was not the prime winners, for after following the rally for 3 days, their names hardly came as a surprise. It was the many participants that left me awe-struck, for they looked most unlikely people to indulge in adventure sports like motor rallying. How looks deceive and how we stereotype people! It was a big lesson in not taking people at face value.
|Ashwin Naik and Suresh Rana (2nd and 3rd from left) – winners of Desert Storm 2016 (Xtreme)
|Army team too showed its mettle on the tracks
While the rallyists were being felicitated inside, their winning machines had been put on display in one of the gardens. On one side stood Xtreme category winners Suresh Rana and Ashwin Naik’s Maruti Suzuki Grand Vitara, with 1st Runner-up Amanpreet Ahluwalia and Virendar Kashyap’s Maruti Gypsy giving it company. Close to them and being gawked at by one and all was Moto category winner CS Santosh’s Suzuki RMX450Z Rally.
It was a delight to check out these mean machines from close quarters and marvel at the toil they undertook to emerge the leaders along with their riders. Displayed alongside these stars of the rally were fancy quad bikes that seemed to be catching every onlookers fancy.
|CS Santosh’s Suzuki RMX450Z Rally
|A quad on display
|Another one from Suzuki
And It’s a wrap. Rally On!
So THIS is how the experience of covering the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2016 panned out for me. Till now so far as I was concerned, motor rally was a distant sport, something relegated to the small columns of the sports pages of newspapers. It was a distant sport also because I had never really bothered to understand the nitty-gritty that goes into making rallying the phenomena that it is gradually becoming. The popularity of this sport is growing in India and all the laurels for rallying’s exponential growth in the country goes to the passionate officials, rally marshals, rallyists and the crew members who are all working with great enthusiasm to take this sport forward.
Needless to say, rallying is a tough sport. It’s not just about speed and stamina. Luck too plays a big role in determining how a race ends for a rallyist. There can be technical failures and errors beyond a rallyist’s control that can mar his performance on the tracks. Mix a fine concoction of passion, speed, stamina, focus and luck, and it’s then that you get an ace rallyist!
Covering the Desert Storm was a privilege and it was wonderful to see and understand this fascinating sport from such close quarters. Kudos to Team Northern Motorsports and Maruti Suzuki’s motorsports division for the precision with which this event was executed – with 200-plus participants, over 2000 kms of diverse Rajasthan terrain to be traversed and the energy-draining 43+degrees heat, only a team with single-minded dedication could have executed this rally with this exactness.