New Delhi: The seventh Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm was flagged off in New Delhi today by Shashank Srivastava, chief general manager (marketing) Maruti Suzuki India Limited, from south Delhi. The six-day rally, which has many firsts to its credit, will traverse approximately 2,600km through the interiors of Rajasthan and along the Gujarat coastline before touching the finishing line at Udaipur.
The Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally is one of the toughest motor-sports events in India. The rally is a mix of adventure, thrill and excitement for the participants as they drive across uncharted territory and experience the formidable Thar Desert, the rocky and Aravalli ranges of Rajasthan, and the slippery and white sands of the Gujarat's Rann of Kutch.
The route will take 170 rallyists through competitive and transport sections. The competitive section includes tough, off-road terrain that has gravel, sand and rocks, while the transport section is run on inter-city state highways and connecting roads.
Following the ceremonial flag-off in New Delhi, the rallyists will assemble at Shahpura on the outskirts of Manesar in Haryana on the Delhi-Jaipur highway where the first competitive section starts and will be flagged off at midnight from Shahpura to Bikaner in Rajasthan.
This year's Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally will have many firsts. For one, this will be the first time when an Indian rally will be conducted at night and second, this is the maiden occasion when rallyists will cross semi-dry river beds in the Aravalli range.
The rallyists will thereafter halt at Bikaner before proceeding towards the sand dunes of Jaisalmer. As the desert sand of the mighty Thar greets the rallyists in the backdrop of the medieval fort, the four-wheel drives will come into play.
After the desert, the next halt will be at Adesar, which connects the Small Rann to the Great Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. Here, the participants will rev-up their vehicles and sprint across the wet and dry sand along the Gujarat coastline. This is the first time that any motorsport event in India will traverse this area. The rallyists will spend two nights in tent camps at Adesar, very close to the Indo-Pakistan border, with a reputation for being fairly inhospitable.
From here the rallyists will next proceed to Udaipur, where a prize distribution ceremony will be held on the evening of 22 February.
Desert Storm 2009 will run a mix of around 12 special stages to test the participants' driving skills under various conditions. The 12 stages are:
- Wild cat: A drive through leopard territory via a dry river bed under the night sky
- Back to school: A simple straight-forward section through sandy farming country which can bog down the unwary
- Redline express: Running parallel to a train track and then suddenly turning into a sandy section is not so easy that too with a speed evaluation.
- The twilight zone: This section might make the participants end up on a sand dune
- Dust to glory: This is a stage where one can even find that he has lost the path
- Ground zero: It may seem easy to drive through dry lakes till they reveal that they aren't really dry
- Tora Tora Tora: Situated right next to an Air Force practice range.
- Bad Max: It is a freezing level where one has to cross a 80km long river bed
- Black gold special: The site of local 'Mahopar' festival features a short and twisty special track that snakes between two dunes and then opens at the National Highway
- Forest & furious: The thrill of driving through the forest
- The beach: Driving along the waves of the Arabian Sea and inhaling the salt-infused air of the high seas
- Gone in 60 seconds: After a long, sandy and scary drives, the last one is quite exciting with a 75 km long stretch on a flat horizon with no discerning landmarks
The challenging terrain has drawn a colourful and interesting blend of 170 participants from all over India. Rally enthusiasts from as far as Arunachal Pradesh to Goa, are keen to take on the challenges of the wilderness.
Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm participants include doctors, engineers, businessmen and homemakers across age groups. There are also a few all-women teams and husband-wife teams as well. The Indian Army will also be participating with its teams.
Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm 2009 is being organized in partnership with Northern Motorsport, for the seventh year in the running. Northern Motorsport is one of the leading motorsport organization in India and organizes a range of motorsport events for Maruti Suzuki including Auto-Cross, Rally of the North etc. With a team of well-known automotive enthusiasts, Maruti Suzuki and Northern Motorsport together are exploring the unexplored terrains of motorsports in India.
''Maruti Suzuki has been the pioneer in motorsports in India," said Srivastava. "We organise and support the most challenging motorsport events in the country like Maruti Suzuki Raid-de-Himalaya, Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm and Maruti Suzuki Autocross, for both professional and amateur motoring enthusiasts."
According to Srivastava, the demographics and psychographics in Indians are fast changing with the number of younger and sportier enthusiasts rising.
"Maruti Suzuki is conscious of this change and we will create many more motorsport opportunities for the young at heart and younger India, '' Srivastava added.