New Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) Suresh Rana of Team Maruti led after day one of the 11th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally while favourite Gaurav Gill incurred heavy penalty in the first stage.
The Desert Storm, which was flagged off from Delhi Monday night, will go through the Thar Desert and the entire span of the dune country. It will run through the wild outback of Bikaner and Jaisalmer and traverse 2,200 kilometres to end in Jaipur Feb 23.
Out of a total 52 teams in Rally Xtreme, which is all about top speed, only 36 are left in the fray. Gill's Mahindra XUV 500 developed serious mechanical issues in the night stage which set off from Sardarshahar in Churu district Monday night. As other rallyists sped on, Gill was delayed considerably, and had to incur two hours of penalty.
Jayesh Desai, the Clerk of the Course for Xtreme and Motoquad, said that while technically Gill is still in the race, he has been heavily sanctioned.
If he joins the rally on Day Two, Gill will be given a start an hour later than the rest of the competitors. The other notable drop-downs of the day are the two teams from Australia of the 'Aussie Sand Surfers', led by Niaz Ali, and Gaurav Chiripal of Delhi.
In the Enduro Category, which follows the Xtreme route but follows the Time-Speed-Distance (TSD) format, Somdev Chand of Team Maruti and K. Prasad also of Team Maruti are leading on Day One.
Raj Singh Rathore of Jaipur, riding the Polaris RZR 800, is leading in the Quad category. Rathore, who rides for Team Polaris, is the first competitive quad rider of India.
In the Bikers category, Mohan Lal Sharma of Jaipur met with an accident and fractured his leg. Within a few minutes, he was evacuated and taken to a hospital.
The first competitive stage of the event for Rally Xtreme and Rally Ndure, which ran through the night, saw many twists and turns for even seasoned rallyists. Almost 50 per cent of the rallyists got stuck in the treacherous desert sand, and had to be pulled out. Rallyists admitted that the route was tough and despite GPS and the rally road book, they got lost and went around in circles, trying to find their way.