Indias longest cross-country rally, Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, will see a record participation in the upcoming edition with 250 competitors vying for top honours across categories from March 17-23 in the sprawling and arid expanse of the Thar Desert around Bikaner and Jaisalmer.
The biggest attraction of the 2018 edition is the participation of several international riders in the Moto-Quad category. Coming off a welcome break after the gruelling Dakar Rally in January, Desert Strom will mark the beginning of a new season for the international riders.
The top draws include three-time winner of the Desert Storm, C S Santosh, who achieved his career-best finish in 34th place in this years Dakar, piloting a Hero-Speedbrain 450 Rally in the 14-day race across South America. He will be riding the updated Dakar-spec bike in the sands of Rajasthan.
But it wont be easy for Indias top rally-raid pilot with TVS Racing entering strong team of five riders, spearheaded by the formidable Juan Pedrero Garcia.
The highly-experienced Portuguese rider finished in commendable 11th place in this years Dakar Rally. He will be supported by the defending champion, R. Nataraj and highly-talented Tanveer Abdul Wahid, who was the highest ranked rookie finisher in third place in the last years India Baja Dakar Challenge.
The event will also see the participation of Dubai-based Angata Racing. The four-man motocross and supercrosss specialist team will be led by Aaron Mare. The team includes Indian rider Sanjay Kumar, who was in the front-running pack in the previous edition of the rally before being hit by mechanical issues in the dunes of Sam, Jaisalmer.
Sarah Kashyap as the only female participant in foreign bikes’ category in the upcoming Desert Storm rally
Sarah is the only woman biker to have finished all major cross country rallies in India and was the first to finish Raid-de-Himalaya in 2015 and also became the first ever to finish Desert Storm in 2017.
This year, the Desert Storm will be a lot more compact rally with the competitive stages looping around Bikaner and Jaisalmer, where the rally will be parked for four days.
The competitors will be covering an approximate total distance of 2,500 km after the ceremonial flag off from Noida. Out of this the competitive timed section will comprise 900 km over 10 stages, which is almost three times the racing distance of the entire National Rally Championship.
The rally will run four different categories concurrently. The Xtreme cars and Moto-Quad categories will be an outright speed test in the competitive sections, while the Ndure category for four-wheel drive vehicles and the Explore categories will be run on the Time-Speed-Distance format.