Speed Gun: Santolino Lorenzo tops out at 88. 08 kmph in Motos, Abhishek Mishra clocks 62. 46 kmph in cars in MSDS
New Delhi: Marathon stages in cross-country rallying are often the turning point that has a major bearing on the final outcome. These long stages not only test the endurance limits of the drivers and riders, they also demand extremely high levels of concentration.
This year at the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally, the 199.36-km marathon stage in Leg 3, which ran in the sand dunes around Jaisalmer, played a crucial role in determining the overall standings. At the sharp end of the competition, especially in the moto class, the average speeds were eye-popping. The long stage with a refuelling stop at the 90-km mark provided the best setting for the best high-speed action in this edition of the rally.
Going into the fifth stage of the rally, very little separated the top three riders. Though, C.S. Santosh of Hero Motosport was in overall lead, it had dwindled considerably in the two stages of the previous leg. Aaron Mare of Ang’ata Racing and Santolino Lorenzo of TVS Racing were on a charge to catch the Indian rider. The longest stage of this edition’s Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm presented the perfect opportunity to catch the leader.
On this stage, Lorenzo was a class apart as he blitzed the 199.36 km of competitive distance at an average speed of 88.08 kmph completing it in 2:15:48. In comparison, Mare, the eventual winner in the Moto class, managed to clock an average speed of 82.88 kmph. The fact that the Ang’ata Racing rider lost considerable amount of time at the refuelling point because his assistance could reach the designated spot on time needs be factored in the calculations. Had he not lost the time waiting to be refuelled, he would have been much closer to Lorenzo.
Sanjay Kumar, who eventually finished in third place, clocked an average speed of 81.02 kmph. Overnight leader Santosh managed an average speed of 77.87 kmph. But it must be remembered that on this stage, the Hero Motosport rider had a massive accident when he was chasing Mare and got caught in his dust before crashing into a sandbank due to lack of visibility. Though Santosh managed to complete the stage, riding through pain, he lost plenty of time before he got going again, which in turn brought down his average speed. He subsequently pulled out of the rally the next day due to the neck injury that he suffered from the fall.
Among the Xtreme cars, the eventual winner, Abhishek Mishra, clocked an average speed of 62.46 kmph. Almost 26 kmph slower than the fastest moto. But the biggest surprise was provided by Dharampal Jhangra, who powered his prototype four-wheel drive Maruti Suzuki Vitara Brezza through the sand dunes at an average speed of 61.62 kmph. That Maruti Suzuki’s developmental vehicle survived and excelled on this gruelling stage should come as good news for those might like to upgrade from the Gypsy in the future. Niju Phadia, who finished in third place overall, clocked 60.75 kmph, while Raj Singh Rathore, who finished in second place, recorded an average speed of 57.30 kmph.