Jaipur, March 1: Sunny Sidhu along with co-driver P.V. Srinivasa Murthy of Team Mahindra Adventure took the overall honours as they topped the time-charts in the 12th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm cross-country rally here Saturday while Bangaloreans C.S. Santosh and the husband-wife tandem of Satish Gopalkrishnan and Savera D’Souza emerged champions in the Moto and Endure categories, respectively.
Completing the winners list were Rajesh Chalana and co-driver Yogesh of Team Maruti Suzuki who topped the Explore category, run on the TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) format.
There were no surprises on the final day of the 2,000 km long rally when only one Special Stage of 37.21 km was run near Bikaner. The 39-year-old Chandigarh-based Sidhu nursed his XUV 500 to the finish with some “conservative” driving, clocking a total of 12 hours, 47 minutes, 42 seconds to pouch his seventh Desert Storm crown.
Finishing behind Sidhu was Team Thunderbolt’s Sandeep Sharma (Varu Davessar) in a Maruti Gypsy, 21 minutes adrift while Team Maruti Suzuki’s Amarjeet Pal Buwal (Nakul Mendiratta), also in a Gypsy, came in third ahead of Mahindra Adventure’s Lohitt Urs (K. Kumar).
“I am happy to win my seventh Desert Storm title but it would have been more satisfying had the top guys like Suresh Rana and Gaurav Gill had not retired because I was looking forward to competing against them,” said the 39-year-old Sidhu, who last won the event in 2011 in a Grand Vitara.
“After Rana and Gill retired after Day 1, I controlled my desire to drive fast and preferred a conservative approach and had sufficient lead so wanted to maintain it rather than be too aggressive. I did lose some time early in the rally due to punctures but managed to make time on others.”
For 30-year-old Santosh, riding a Suzuki RMX 450, it was a winning debut as he held off Austrian Helmut Frauwallner, who was on the more powerful Yamaha WR 450F. Santosh, who had won the 2012 Raid de Himalaya on debut, described his success here as satisfying and was looking forward to a good season, including performing well in the World Championship at Abu Dhabi in April.
“This was tougher than I thought. I had prepared well but then I thought I was lucky to win as I had a few crashes, especially on the 105 km Special Stage Friday. It was a great experience for me. I now look forward to representing India in the World Cross Country Championship,” said Santosh after completing the gruelling five-day event that was flagged-off from New Delhi Monday.
For Gopalkrishnan and D’Souza, the 2012 national TSD champions and representing Team Maruti Suzuki, it was business as usual as they sustained the momentum from the start for a well-deserved win. The couple, winners of many a TSD title, relished the fast pace of the Endure category and led most of the way.
Xtreme: Sunny Sidhu/P.V.S. Murthy (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 1 (12 hrs, 47 mins, 42 secs), Sandeep Sharma/Varun Davessar (Team Thunderbolt, Maruti Gypsy) 2 (13:08:20), Amarjeet Pal Buwal/Nakul Mendiratta (Team Thunderbolt, Maruti Gypsy) 4 (13:13.34), Lohitt Urs/K. Kumar (Mahindra Adventure, XUV 500) 4 (13:18:35).
Moto-Quad: C.S. Santosh (Suzuki RMX450) 1 (09:57:09), Helmut Frauwallner (Yamaha WR 450F) 2 (10:15:38), Suresh Babu Janarthanan (Suzuki RMX 450Z) 3 (11:31:45).
Endure (TSD format): Satish Gopalkrishnan/Savera D’Souza (Team Maruti Suzuki) 1 (21:25 penalty), Pratap Thakur/Dheeraj Arora (Team Maruti Suzuki) 2 (34:19), Ashish Bhudhia/Arindam Ghosh 3 (45:34).
Explore (TSD): Rajesh Chalana/Yogesh Gupta (Team Maruti Suzuki) 1 (15:56), Nitin Yadav Ravikumar Bansal 2 (01:05:13), Sanjay Takale/Mohd. Mustafa (Team Maruti Suauki) 3 (01:43.42).