My bio says I have a penchant for unique experiences. Needless to say, I love to travel to extract amazing stories. As my blogger life would have it, I get privileged invitations as well. Each one rings in different memories. But of all such events, there are some which impact me deeply and urge me to look at life differently. One such invitation and action-packed weekend in Rajasthan has left me awe. Some of the words like ‘passion, determination, endurance, adrenaline rush, obstacles, breakdown, rally’ decided to storm in my story at the same time. I was there where the Thar desert of India witnessed 14th edition of Maruti Suzuki’s Desert Storm Rally. I had the opportunity to attend the Desert Rally Party, Leg 4 and Leg 5 and the Award Ceremony of the event. A run of over 2000 kilometers was grand and challenging in equal measures. I can’t stop talking about the event because it was an unique experience to be a part of it as an spectator (blogger). No less, I am pepped up too because it introduced me to the best rallying talents of India.
What is Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm (DS) rally?
It is one of the most adventurous motor-sports rally of car and bikes where a unique camaraderie of man and machine conspires to conquer the sand dunes in a pre-defined TSD format. This time the route covered New Delhi, Hanumanagarh, Bikaner, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur in Rajasthan. The rally was flagged off from Great India Place Mall, Noida on April 3. The four interesting categories, namely XTreme, NDure, Xplore, and Moto saw more than 200 participants from all over India and beyond. The names gives us a hint around the difficulty levels. A flexi-format, extreme temperature of April, challenging night legs, tricky terrains and yet another unfamiliar route of over 2000 kilometers were some of the highs of this season.
Desert Night Party
On 7th, Ragini and I flew from Delhi to Jodhpur and then we took a road trip to join the rally in Jaisalmer. While we had just checked in the Rajwada fort hotel, the itinerary said Desert Storm Party was in the offing. My past experiences of dune bashing in Dubai and camping in the deserts of Oman came calling almost immediately. We were tired but honestly, a party in the dunes sounded great after a long day of travel. Even for the participants who had made it till here, it was the much needed break from the rigorous battle of the machines. We traveled somewhere close to the Sam sand dunes in Jaisalmer to enjoy the night over lavish food and drinks. The highlights of the event were unique ambiance and a lively cultural program presented by the famous local dancer ‘Queen Harish’.
Navigator or the Driver?
Well, I was yet to find out for myself when I heard someone say, ‘No doubt, it is the driver who controls the wheels but the navigator does many jobs by sitting at his side. He or she plays a critical role by telling the driver what lies ahead, when to make a turn, severity of the turn, and what to do in case of obstacles.’ The real fun of such rallies is extracted by the most lethal combination of pro-navigator and fearless driver. Trust me, I was taken in for many surprises when I met the people behind the teams. Two most unlikely personalities seemed to be bonded by the passion of Motorsports. Looks are deceptive. It was hard to believe that the ‘boy or uncle next door’ had that adventurous spirit in him. And more so such friendships are absolutely unique, so much so that if the navigator utters one wrong instruction or the driver acts differently, it can cost their precious life. It is very important to know all the rules, follow them religiously and work in tandem.
Leg 5 at Lathi, Jaisalmer
This was the leg which I really had a chance to see closely. We reached the starting point at 12:30 p.m. in the afternoon at a small village Lathi. Now, was the time to nail it in the final round. When the car stopped and our eyes could only see golden sands as far as they could reach, the realization actually hit us that we were somewhere in the middle of The Great Indian Desert Thar, 80 percent of which lies in Rajasthan. The sun was overhead and the temperature soared high at this peak hour. The experience was important for us because this gave us a faint idea as to what the participants were subjected to. The cars were already lined up and soon came the trail of bikers. There were officials from Northern Sports who managed the proceedings and recorded the starting time for every participant.
The atmosphere resounded of precision and aggression. Until all the motorists and the bikers left for the rally, I stayed out in the sun to click pictures, make videos, interact with them and wish them luck. In mere fifty minutes, my throat felt parched without water. As a blogger, my driving force was to take along unique memories as an spectator. But at the same time I got thinking about the participants. I felt an urge to know that what drove these people? What made them participate and come from all over India and a few other countries to take up this challenge in this soaring temperatures? What was the kick? I am sure it was different for each of them. But as far as I could read it, it was an undying spirit to tame risks and conquer the unknown.
Awards Ceremony at Jodhpur!
After seven days of adventurous play of ‘Time, Speed and Distance’, the 14th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally culminated at ITC Welcome, Jodhpur. The blue city witnessed the felicitation ceremony where the winners were awarded with shields and winning amount. Team Maruti’s Suresh Rana and his navigator Ashwin Naik came out to be the winners of the 14th edition of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally in the Xtreme category. CS Santosh Won the Desert Storm for Suzuki in Moto Class. By the end of this award ceremony, I was glad to know the faces behind India’s famous rallyists. Till now, I only knew the unfamiliar names (thanks to the results of the last few routes). As far as the award ceremony is concerned, this was not the end. As they say, the end of one leads to the beginning of another. Maruti Suziki organizes 10 rallies in a year. I am sure everyone is safely back home and is busy eyeing their next game.
Who wins in this War Field?
Well, if there is a race, there has to be cut-throat competition but some sports thrive beyond name and fame. In Motorsports, the urge to win maybe strong in the veterans but for most of the others, it is not actually about beating others but it is about improvising one’s own records. The first aim is to participate and complete all the legs. Those who stand winners dedicate it to their passion and love for Motorsports. In fact the real winner is the spirit of sportsmanship. I would define this sport as a perfect blend of skill, luck, passion, enthusiasm and adventure. The four days that I spent in the rally helped me to change my perception about this war field of man and machine. I interacted with the participants and learnt that they were not here to prove anything to others but themselves. Everyone who participated was a winner. And of all the people involved, we should not forget to applaud those who played a major role behind the scenes, who made it happen, who helped the participants and the winners sail through safely.
I came back as a winner too because I returned with lots of inspiration and zeal to follow my own passion. Yes, it was absolutely inspiring to meet India’s famous and successful rallyist and only Dakar participant, CS Santosh, No less, Suresh Rana and his navigator Ashwin Naik had a humble and helping demeanor that made them sail out as true winners. By the end of the event, I had heard many inspiring stories around car-sports, skills and passion. I am already looking forward to the next rally. And if you thought this event was only about men, I must tell you there were women participants and winners too. Though their numbers were less, nothing could match their unfettered spirits. In fact they sent out a strong message that nothing should stop you following your passion.
As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time at a real and kicking car rally. I have done a few random coverage for local rallies within Delhi but nothing of this sorts. This was entirely different and extremely enriching. I learnt a lot and came back with a new perspective towards Motorsports. If you are inspired enough, keep following my next post which will have more action from the Desert Storm and everything you ever wanted to know about participating in a rally. Also there will more in the travel section which will tell you what all to do and see if you have some free hours in hand, precisely six hours in Jaisalmer and four hours in Jodhpur.
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