Motorsports: Sunny Sidhu consolidates lead

Jaisalmer, Feb 27: Sunny Sidhu with co-driver P.V. Srinivasa Murthy, driving a Mahindra XUV 500, maintained his lead in overall classification at the end of Leg 3 in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm cross-country rally here Thursday.

Much like the shifting sands of the Thar desert, there were surprises in store as Raj Singh Rathore (with Vishnu Singh) on a Polaris Ranger, who was the quickest in the initial phase of the six-day event, found himself excluded for reporting late at the check-out in Leg 2.

The Stewards, following their meeting Wednesday night, allowed Rathore to continue the rally “on pain of exclusion”, but effectively, he was out of contention for the title.

C.S. Santosh from Bangalore also consolidated his lead in the two-wheeler category despite a fall while negotiating the tricky sand dunes of the Maliawas Special Stage that was just 1.22 km long, but took quite a few casualities.

The day witnessed plenty of action, especially on the short dune stage near here with many in the Xtreme and two-wheeler categories failing to tame the sandy terrain.

Several four-wheelers lost time after getting entrenched in the sand due to lack of traction while some bikers took a fall, but were back on their machines to continue.

Behind Sidhu, who represented Mahindra Adventure team, was Thunderbolt team’s Sandeep Sharma and his co-driver Varun Davessar in a Gypsy.

With there being little or no official communication from the organizers with regard to timings and classification, the media was left to fend for itself with regard to securing information, especially the Leg results.

The 2,200-km-long rally enters its penultimate day Friday when the competitors will head to Bikaner and after an overnight stop, finish in Jaipur Saturday.

Meanwhile, the participants in the Xtreme category had also to negotiate boulders placed across the roads on the transport section by the locals one of whom said they were upset with rally vehicles speeding through.

A media convoy was forced to drive off the tarmac road to get past stones placed across the road and when queried about the obstacles, an angry local said it was their way to voice their protest of the Rally vehicles.

Adding spice to the proceedings were whispers of accidents involving Rally vehicles on the transport sections, but there was no official word on this.