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Raising sand
Glimpses of the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally in 2008

From the sand dunes of Bikaner to the wet sand beds of the Gujarat coastline. From the inhospitable terrain of Adesar to the majestic medieval fort of Jaisalmer. From the rocky riverbeds to the city of palaces. Rallyists in the seventh edition of Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm will brave the mighty Thar and more, putting their four-wheel drives to the ultimate test of endurance.

Traversing roughly 2,600 km through the interiors of Rajasthan and along the Gujarat coastline, Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm ’09 promises a mixture of adventure and thrills as 170-odd participants — among them a fair contingent of women — navigate uncharted territory.

There are a number of firsts being registered by the six-day drive this year, which was flagged off at midnight from Shahpura on the Delhi-Jaipur highway on February 17. Most significantly, this is the first time that a motor rally in India will be conducted at night and participants will have to cross the semi-dry riverbeds on the Aravalli.

As the contingent makes its way to Bikaner, teams will negotiate the treacherous stretch of sand dunes of Jaisalmer, which is where the four-wheel drive will first come into play. Next, the bravehearts will have to face the rather inhospitable terrain of the Rann of Kutch at Adesar where the Small Rann meets the Great Rann in Gujarat. Here, drivers will have to sprint across the wet and dry sand along the Gujarat coastline, another first for any motorsport event in India. At Adesar, participants will be spending two nights in tent camps, very close to the India-Pakistan border. The rally will culminate in the city of palaces, Udaipur, where a grand prize distribution ceremony will await them.

The rally will run a mix of 12 special stages to test the participants’ driving skills under various conditions. These include the Wild Cat drive, which is through leopard territory via a dry riverbed under the night sky. Back to School is a simple section through sandy farming country. The Redline Express involves running parallel to a train track and then suddenly turning into a sandy stretch. The Twilight Zone will be through sand dunes, while Dust to Glory is where even a seasoned rallyist can lose his way, leading to Ground Zero, where cars will have to take on lakes. The Tora Tora Tora stage will be right next to an Air Force practice range with a wrong turn putting the driver directly in the path of a plane! Bad Max is a freezing level where one has to cross a 80-km riverbed. The Black Gold Special features a short and twisty special track, which snakes between two dunes to open on the National Highway. Forest and Furious is a scary drive through the forest while The Beach travels along the waves of the Arabian Sea. And finally, One in Sixty Seconds is a 75-km dash on a flat horizon.

If all this doesn’t test endurance levels of the participants, nothing will.

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