Rana leads as Sidhu pulls out of Desert Storm
Team Thunderbolt’s Suresh Rana leads following the first leg of the 2012 Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm following the retirement of last year’s winner Sunny Sidhu. Vinayak Pande reports.india Updated: Feb 22, 2012 11:35 IST
Team Thunderbolt’s Suresh Rana leads following the first leg of the 2012 Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm following the retirement of last year’s winner Sunny Sidhu.
Rana, a seven-time winner of the Raid de Himalaya, holds an 8min.33sec. lead over Lt. Col. Subodh Verma following the first three special stages that comprised the first leg that took the competitors from Sardarshahar in Rajasthan to Bikaner.
The first leg saw one form of trouble or another hit the drivers who were using a Suzuki Grand Vitara to negotiate the 2,164.45 km, five leg event that includes 813.22 kms of special stages.
Sidhu’s vehicle developed an oil leak after he came down hard on one of the many sand dunes on the opening leg, which ultimately caused his engine to seize.
“That’s rallying,” said Sidhu with a wry smile after his car was brought back to parc ferme in Bikaner. Sidhu will now finish the remainder of the event in the capacity of a marshall.
The Grand Vitara of Randeep Miglani developed gearbox trouble with the car not pulling through the sandy stages in four-wheel-drive low while Udaybhir Sidhu’s car got briefly bogged down a few metres after the start of the opening stage itself.
Of the two Vitaras running in the event, Gaurav Chirpal is the highest classified runner in eleventh while Pradeep Gupta is in 31st position.
The two Mahindra XUV 500s of Lohit Urs and defending Indian National Rally champion Gaurav Gill are currently in 19th and 32nd position.
Before the rally’s ceremonial flag-off in Delhi on Monday, many of the top runners had said that they would be saving their cars to go flat out on the final stages of the event.
“Driving on the Storm is different to driving on the Raid,” said Rana. “I’ve had trouble with the car before so I’ll be saving it until the final two legs when I will go flat out.”
(The writer’s trip has been sponsored by Maruti-Suzuki)