Bettering his last year’s performance, Chandigarh’s Sunny Sidhu claimed the top spot in the Rally Xtreme category of the 12th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm motorsports event that concluded in Jaipur on Saturday. The 39-year-old city rallyist, along with his navigator PV Srinivasa Murthy, drove a Mahindra XUV 500, clocking a total of 12 hours, 47 minutes, 42 seconds to log his seventh Desert Storm victory.
“It wasn’t easy to travel through the deserts, but we had a good star t and that helped,” said Sidhu after the race, adding, “I am happy to win my seventh Desert Storm title but it would have been more satisfying had the top guys like Suresh Rana and Gaurav Gill had not retired because I was looking forward to competing against them." Sidhu, who last won the event in 2011 in a Grand Vitara, had claimed the second spot last year.
“After Rana and Gill retired after Day 1, I controlled my desire to drive fast and preferred a conservative approach and had sufficient lead so wanted to maintain it rather than be too aggressive. I did lose some time early in the rally due to punctures but managed to make time on others," added the 2003 Raid de Himalaya winner.
Following Sidhu in the second place was Delhi’s Sandeep Sharma, who along with his Chandigarh navigator Varun Davessar, represented Team Thunderbolt in a Maruti Gypsy. They trailed the winners by 21 minutes, while Team Maruti Suzuki’s Amarjeet Pal Buwal and his navigator Nakul Mendiratta, also in a Gypsy, finished third.
Another UT-based navigator, Dhiraj Arora, guided his co-driver Pratap Thakur to the secondplace finish in the Rally Endure event. Driving a Maruti Gypsy, the pair trailed the winning team of Satish Gopalkrishnan and navigator Savera D’Souza, driving a Grand Vitara for Team Maruti Suzuki. Ashish Budhia and navigator Arindam Ghosh were third.
Desert Storm was flagged off from Delhi on February 24. It moved through Sardarshahar, Bikaner, Chattargarh, Jaisalmer, Sam, Pokhran, Lakshmangarh and other areas to finally end at Jaipur.
A total of 250 rallyists competed in various categories.