Suresh Rana's Gypsy was more than just a little worse for wear at the end of the penultimate stage of the 10th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm on Friday.
While Rana managed to hold on to the lead that he had maintained since the end of the first leg of the rally, he was just over 11 minutes ahead of Gaurav Chiripal's second placed Maruti-Suzuki Vitara at the end of the eighth special stage that was held in the Rann of Kutch.
The big mover of the day, however, was Lohit Urs in his Mahindra XUV 500 as he made up seven positions in order to finish the stage in overall fourth place, just under 40 minutes behind Rana. After suffering from early reliability issues, Urs has managed to his stride over the last two stages that have accounted for 415.47 kms of the rally's total of 813.91 km tally of special stages.
Both of the last two stages have favoured the XUV 500, which has a far superior top speed than Rana's Gypsy, which was only capable of a maximum speed of around 130 kmph. The XUV 500, by contrast, was regularly exceeding 160 kmph on the flat and long stretches of the last two stages.
While not as fast as Urs' XUV 500, Chiripal's Vitara managed to reach a top speed of 147 kmph on the 339.76 km long eighth special stage, which allowed him to close in on Rana who had held a lead of 36 minutes over Chiripal prior to the seventh special stage.
Chiripal's run was not without problems, however, as his car failed to start at the beginning of the transport stage today and prevented him from being the second driver to start the day's stage. He also had to incur a 1m 40s transport penalty as a result.
The rally's final stage on Saturday is a repeat of the seventh special stage that was run on Thursday night. The 75.91 km long stage will, however, be run in the opposite direction. With its superior top speed, Urs is expected to make up even more time on third placed Abhishek Mishra.
Mahindra admitted that they had been targeting a top three finish in the Desert Storm when they entered the two vehicles.
(The writer's trip has been sponsored by Maruti-Suzuki)