Bikaner, Feb 28: Enjoying a lead of nearly 14 minutes at the end of Leg 4 here Friday, Sunny Sidhu and his co-driver P.V. Srinivasa Murthy of Mahindra Adventure team were poised to win the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm cross-country rally.
Sidhu, a veteran of many a battle, and driving the XUV 500, overcame fever to hold his overnight overall first position while Team Thunderbolt’s Sandeep Sharma (with Varun Davessar) in a Maruti Gypsy was placed second, nearly seven minutes ahead of Lohitt Urs (with K. Kumar) of Mahindra Adventure who moved up a spot despite two punctures.
While Sidhu and Sharma, participating in the Xtreme category, nursed their vehicles to remain in the top two, Urs moved up a spot to displace overnight third Amarjeet Buwal (with Nakul Mendiratta) of Team Thunderbolt who slipped to fourth, trailing by 11 minutes.
Urs came up with a brilliant drive that helped him to overcome a huge deficit after losing 21 minutes in the Dune stage Thursday and more time Friday due to two punctures to not only catch Buwal but also outpace him to finish third at the end of the penultimate Leg.
With only one Special Stage of about 37 km to be run Saturday following the cancellation of the second Special Stage of the 2,200 km rally, it is likely that the positions at the top would remain unchanged.
The participants will then head to Jaipur where the rally concludes with podium and prize-distribution functions.
Saturday’s second stage was cancelled due to “deteriorating track condition because of recent storms”, according to an official announcement.
In the Moto-Quad category, Bangalore’s C.S. Santosh extended his lead over Austrian Helmut Frauwallner to 34 minutes and barring any mishap, looked set to win the title on his debut.
Meanwhile, Team Maruti Suzuki was set for a podium sweep in the Endure category with Bangalore’s husband-wife pair of Satish Gopalkrishnan and navigator Savera D’Souza leading team-mates Pratap Thakur and Dheeraj Arora by 17 minutes while Somdeb Chanda and Nirav Mehta were a distant third.
The day was marred by the death of a member of the service crew of Northern Motorsport, when the Toyota Innova carrying spares he was driving collided head-on with a bus.
Provisional, unaudited results:
Xtreme (after Leg 4): Sunny Sidhu/P.V.S. Murthy (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 1 (12hrs, 44 mins, 43secs); Sandeep Sharma/Varun Davessar (Team Thunderbolt, Maruti Gypsy) 2 (12:26:09); Lohitt Urs/K. Kumar (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 3 (12:33:02); Amarjeet Pal Buwal/Nakul Mendiratta (Team Thunderbolt, Maruti Gypsy) 4 (12:44.16).
Moto-Quad: C.S. Santosh (Suzuki RMX450) 1 (08:55:49); Helmut Frauwallner (Yamaha WR 450F) 2 (09:29:52); Suresh Babu Janarthanan (Suzuki RMX 450Z) 3 (10:40:47); Trivikram Singh Rathore (KTM 450XCW) 4 (10:46:40).
Endure (TSD format): Satish Gopalkrishnan/Savera D’Souza (Team Maruti Suzuki) 1 (17:05 penalty); Pratap Thakur/Dheeraj Arora 2 (Team Maruti Suzuki) 2 (28:33); Somdeb Chanda/Nirav Mehta (Team Maruti Suzuki) 3 (54:17).
Explore (TSD): Rajesh Chalana/Yogesh (Team Maruti Suzuki) 1.