Jaipur: As expected, Overnight leaders Abhishek Mishra (co-driver P.V. Srinivasa Murthy) and C.S. Santosh emerged champions in the XTreme and Moto (two-wheelers) categories, respectively, as the weeklong, 2,300 km 13th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm cross-country Rally concluded here on Sunday night.
Of the 130 participants who started the event in New Delhi on Monday, 69 made it to the finish line after surviving the harsh and tricky Thar Desert terrain, besides heavy rains in the final run from Bikaner to Jaipur.
Delhi-based Mishra, who moved to the front after favourite Suresh Rana (Parminder Kaur) packed up midway through after his Grand Vitara encountered engine problems, nursed the lead to emerge deserving winner.
Finishing behind Mishra were Harpreet Bawa (Ashwin Naik) and Niju Padia (Shekar V), both of Team Speedsport. The top three finishers were all driving the rugged Maruti Grand Vitara.
Mishra said: "I am super thrilled at this victory; all the hard work paid off. I am eagerly looking forward to next year's rally. It takes a lot of hard work, concentration and following the basic principles of safe driving to complete the rally."
Meanwhile, Santosh, the 31-year old from Bengaluru, riding a Suzuki RXM 450, decimated the opposition in the two-wheeler category to retain the title.
Santosh, who in January became the first Indian to complete the World's toughest cross-country Rally, the Dakar, finishing 36th, put in a flawless performance to conquer the challenging desert terrain, much like he did last year.
Trailing Santosh were two KTM riders, Jes David of Jaipur and Mohit Verma from Bengaluru, though neither had even a realistic chance of catching up the leader.
In the NDure category, run on the Time-Speed-Distance format, local entry Vishnu Singh and his navigator from Bengaluru Adithya Anthony driving Vitara, topped the charts ahead of Kolkata's Somdeb Chanda and Neerav Mehta and Sharavik Shah and Amit Kumar Saha in their Mitsubishi Pajero.
National champions Karthik Maruti and Sankar Anand from Erode won the XPlore category, also run on the TSD format, quite comfortably.
Manohar Bhatt, Vice President, Marketing, Maruti Suzuki said: "The participants did really well and increased the bar for the next rally. It indeed was a test of man and machine which only few brave hearts were able to finish and win."
Provisional final classification:
XTreme: Abhishek Mishra / PVS Murthy (Team Speedsport, Grand Vitara) 1 (14hrs, 33mins, 23secs); Harpreet Bawa / Ashwin Naik (Team Speedsport, Grand Vitara) 2 (15:05:09); Niju Padia / Shekhar V (Mitsubishi Pajero) 3 (16:26:18).
Moto-Quad: CS Santosh (Team Maruti, Suzuki RMX 450) 1 (08:24:59) 1; Jes David (KTM Duke 390) 2 (10:02:47); Mohit Verma (KTM Duke 390) 3 (10:22:00).
NDure: Vishnu Singh / Adithya Anthony (Grand Vitara) 1 (00:25:42); Somdeb Chanda / Neerav Mehta (Maruti Gypsy) 2 (00:33:28); Shravik Shah / Amit Saha (Maruti Gypsy) 3 (0:34:18).
XPlore: Karthik Maruti /ASankar Anand (Maruti SX4) 1 (02:21:54);ASubham Midha / Abhinav Kalra (Maruti SX4) 2 (02:35:45); Anubhab De / Chandan Sen (Maruti SX4) 3 (03:15:48).