New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) With an impressive lead of 24.32 minutes over his closest competitor, Suresh Rana of Team Maruti looks set for victory in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm.
The rally will end Saturday, after the last competitive leg of the event in the wild outback of Bikaner and Jaipur.
On day five of the rally Friday, Rana drove his Grand Vitara over dunes and sand country with undisguised aggression, extending his 15.14 minute lead in the morning with an additional nine minutes over Sunny Sidhu of Chandigarh.
Rana is heading Rally Xtreme, which is all about speed. With eight titles of the Raid De Himalaya and two titles of the Desert Storm, the Manali man is set for another win.
Sidhu, who was ranking second at the end of Day Five, has a lead of 15.37 minutes over Lohit Urs of Mysore.
In the Ndure category, which follows the Xtreme route in the Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) format, the fight for the top positions is between Parth Beniwal, K. Prasad of Team Maruti and Somdev Chanda of Team Maruti.
Team Maruti has two of the top three positions in the Xplore category too. Sanjay Takale, driving a Maruti Suzuki SX4, has a lead of 24 seconds over Satish Gopalkrishnan of Bangalore. Gopalkrishnan has a lead of 1.52 minutes over Rajesh Chalana, also of Team Maruti.
Raj Singh Rathore is clocking the fastest speed overall in the desert marathon, driving his Polaris RZR 800. Rathore is heading the Xtreme Quad category, followed by Brandon Glissmeyer, who is also driving a Polaris RZR 800.
Top in Xtreme Moto is Vijay Parmar of Shimla. Parmar is ahead of Mohit Verma of Chandigarh by three minutes. German biker Stephan Rausch, who ranked low on the first two days of the rally, has steadily made his way up, and is behind Mohit Verma by two minutes.
The 11th edition of this tough, challenging motorsport event had started Feb 18, with 138 teams in the fray. These included 52 teams in Xtreme, 34 in Endure, 29 in Xplore, 29 in Moto and three in Quad. A total of 263 rallyists from all over the country took part in the event.