Suresh Rana took his third Desert Storm victory in his Maruti-Suzuki Grand Vitara. HT Photo
It's not easy to explain how running 200 km rallies held over a weekend would be more difficult or less attractive for competitors and car manufacturers than cross-country events lasting a week and running over 2,000km.
This, however, is the case due to everything from sponsor trouble to cancelled events and lack of manufacturer participation in the FMSCI Indian National Rally Championship (INRC).
The end of the 2013 Desert Storm in Jaipur on Saturday (kicked off on Monday) marked the conclusion of the first of three rounds of the newly formed National Championship for Cross Country Rallies (NCCR).
Suresh Rana won behind the wheel of a Maruti-Suzuki Grand Vitara. Almost 30 minutes behind him was the 2011 winner Sunny Siddhu in his factory-backed Mahindra Thar, with which he beat the SUV manufacturer's much hyped XUV 500 entries piloted by INRC winner Lohitt Urs and former Production class world rally champion Karamjit Singh in third and fourth, respectively.
Urs had finished third in last year's event too and was relieved to not encounter as many problems with the car as he did then. However, his tone changed when the subject of the INRC was breached.
"I'm speaking on behalf of the rally drivers," Urs told HT. "We have been told to register for all seven rounds of the INRC without getting a guarantee that those rounds will be run. We lost a lot of money last year when we showed up for rallies that were cancelled."
Speaking to HT from Chennai, the president of the FMSCI, Vicky Chandhok said that the possibility of cancellation was a worry for India's motor sport governing body too.
"It cost us a lot of money to call off rallies as well," said Chandhok. "Seven rounds is an ambitious target and we would have ideally run six but the organizers are enthusiastic about the events going ahead as they are bearing the costs and running the events on private properties."
On the subject of the popular cross-country events, Chandhok was hopeful of two more rounds joining the NCCR that currently comprises of the Desert Storm, Mughal Rally and Raid de Himalaya.
The challenge such events pose to competitors was best summed up by the feedback of a visibly frustrated Karamjit Singh.
"There were way too many problems for us, especially with the turbo and electrical too," said Singh.
Trouble with the turbo also hit Urs's car, causing him to lose 40 minutes over three stages by his estimates. However, Singh had to deal with something more drastic.
"At one point it seemed some of the wires burnt and the whole cockpit was filled with toxic smelling smoke," he said. "I hope I don't end up getting cancer some years later (laughs)!"
Disclaimer: The writer's trip has been sponsored by Maruti-Suzuki