Over the next six days,90 cars and over 184 rallyists will be putting their machines through the grind in a test of patience and endurance as the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm Rally gets underway.
On Tuesday morning,the cars were flagged off from the parking lot of DLF Place,Saket,for their 2,060-km journey across Rajasthan,crossing Bikaner,Jaisalmer,Udaipur and Adesar (close to the Rann of Kutch).
In its seventh year,the rally will have many firsts to its credit this time round. Driving through forests,the unpredictable dunes of the Thar as well as the slippery beach-front along the Arabian Sea,these vehicles are set to experience the extremes of weather in 12 stages.
Apart from The Beach stage,designed along the lines of the Paris-Dakar rally held in Argentina,the drivers will also cross semi-dry riverbeds along the Aravalli.
We wanted to pose many challenge for the drivers,since this is one of the most gruelling rallies held in India. Despite the global slump,there has been no dip in participant response,with over 50 per cent newcomers to the rally this year, says Raj Kapoor,vice president of Northern Motorsport,organisers of the rally.
There are also two All Terrain Bikes that are participating for the first time in the rally in the MotoQuad category.
Safety has become a prime concern for the organisers in recent years,with officials being prepared for all emergency scenarios. We now have two fully-equipped ambulances on the rally route. Also,there would be five other ambulances providing additional medical support, adds Kapoor.
The rally has a 59-year-old participant this year,the oldest in its history,as part of a group of four friends going by the name The Old Monks. We capitalise on this opportunity to get together and ride as friends, says Anil Kohli,56,who works with a multi-national bank.
Another Delhi duo to look out for is Rau Verma,33,and his navigator Jasbir Singh,who carried out modifications on their Gypsy at a cost of Rs 18 lakh. The car has a fibre-glass body now,which makes it lightweight and agile. The machines suspension is the kind used in the Paris-Dakar rally, says Verma,a businessman.
There are also a few who are taking part just for the sheer thrill of adventure. I have been an adventure junkie since childhood and love the outdoors, says Vibha Mehrotra,45,of the all-women team.
The rally concludes at Udaipur on February 22.