2012 Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm re-visited

In its 10th edition, the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm has grown in both proportion as well as participation to arguably become India's most prestigious rally. This year the rally was witness to the advent of new classes including a truck class as well as some diesel domination in the Xtreme segment while retaining a steady diet of action packed stages that challenged participants to the hilt


Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2012



For a rally that began as a two day event a decade ago, the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally has evolved into an event of massive proportions that now runs from Delhi to Ahmedabad while taking on the perils of the desert in Rajasthan and the barren landscape of the Rann of Kutch. Spanning over six days of competitive driving and traversing over 3500 kilometers in the process, the tenth edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm registered a stellar entry of over 280 participants from across the country. The rally included a total of five major categories namely the Ndure, Ndure Plus (trucks), Xplore, Xtreme, and MotoQuad (motorcycles and ATVs). The Xplore, Ndure and Ndure Plus follow a TSD format while the MotoQuad and Xtreme categories are based solely on the fastest timing.  


Planned and managed by Northern Motorsports, the six day rally is action packed from the second the clock starts. The first day of the competition includes a grueling night stage that tests the competence of both man and machine. Driving at night is a challenge in itself and fatigue is a major troublemaker on this part of the rally and if the lack of sleep doesn’t get to you, then the terrain surely does. In fact, Sunny Sidhu, the defending champion of the Desert Storm was forced to pull out due to a seized engine on this stage. As dawn breaks, the rally moves on to the outskirts of Bikaner for the day’s drive through some rather sandy mole hills. By the end of this day, the drivers and navigators have not had any sleep for over 24 hours! A night halt in Bikaner and the rally continues at the break of dawn on to Pokaran and Jaiselmer. 



Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2012



These stages are marked with sandy, rocky and gravel terrain that has the ability to shake up even veteran drivers. For those who have survived so far, the rally has a night halt in Jaiselmer and then the following day is the long run into Gujarat. Here the participants have to face two days of strenuous rallying on two very different types of terrain. One stage includes a breathtaking drive along the coast of the Arabian Sea and its quite a challenge dealing with all the beach sand. The second stage in Gujarat is the monumental run through the Rann of Kutch. The Rann is a vast flat land and losing one’s bearings can happen at the blink of an eye. Participants are allowed to use GPS devices, and for those without, only divine intervention can help! Each day is action packed with special stages and Northern Motorsports deserves a solid pat on the back for designing such a rigourous course that challenges even the most seasoned driver.


As many as 32cars out of the 50 competing in the Xtreme category were forced to pull out, while in the Ndure category, only 28 cars remained out of the original cast of 48. Bikers fared no better as only 10 competitors completed the rally route out of the 16 which initially flagged off for the rally. The only segment that saw no loss were the trucks as all four trucks made it to the finish line.


Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2012



While the Desert Storm has been predominantly a Maruti Suzuki event, the rally is catching the fancy of other manufacturers as well. Company sponsored teams from Mahindra, AMW and Tata also took part and have been striving to take trophies with growing determination. The development of such competition within the rally is exactly the impetus this sport required and going forward we do hope to see an increase in manufacturer participation for then the Desert Storm will truly evolve into the international standard rally that it’s designed to be.


Speaking about teams taking part in the Desert Storm, this year the two teams that really stood out to make a difference were AMW and Mahindra. AMW took to the rally in four AMW Trucks. This is the first time that the Desert Storm has had a truck class and the rally proved to be a great way in proving the robust build quality of these trucks! We hope to see more trucks in the coming year, after all the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm is taking on a strong Dakar style personality! Team Mahindra on the other hand has taken to rallying with a vengeance and in doing so they decided to compete in the highest echelons that the Desert Storm offers, namely the Xtreme category.



Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2012



With two specially prepared XUV5oo SUVs, the team matched pace with the likes of Suzuki Grand Vitaras and modified Maruti Suzuki Gypsys. While one XUV5oo had to drop out due to technical difficulties, the second one piloted by Lohit Urs managed a run that was nothing short of spectacular. With a terrible start on day one and dropping to literally the last place in the Xtreme category, Lohit didn’t give up hope and over the next four days he embarked on a stellar run through the stages to finally finish third overall! In doing so, he set a few records in terms of stage times as well as highest average speed on select stages. His finish also marks the first time a diesel powered SUV has made it to the podium in this rally and has opened the doors to a new era in Indian motorsport. 


The growing popularity of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm is evident with an increased participation in the rally. It has evolved to become one of the toughest motorsport rallies in the country and rightly so, for the challenge offered to both man and machine is second to none. The evolution of the Desert Storm also mirrors the evolution of motorsport in the country. Competitors are spending more money on their vehicles, teams are emerging and other manufacturers are looking at utilizing this platform to showcase their products. It’s extreme action and its only going to get better with time.