The 2018 Maruti-Suzuki Desert Storm took a dramatic turn here in Jaisalmer on Wednesday as the defending champion on four wheels and the leader in the motorcycle class, after the first two legs, were forced to retire following the completion of the third leg of the rally yesterday.
After the provisional results of the third leg, Abhishek Mishra was the leading car competitor while Aaron Mare of Ang'ata Racing was leading the motorcycle competitors.
Following the completion of the first two legs (out of five) of the event in Bikaner and en route to Jaisalmer, respectively, CS Santosh of Hero MotoSports Team Rally was leading the motorcycle class (Moto) while Maruti-Suzuki Motorsport's Suresh Rana (Xtreme), who had won the event last year, was second overall with Aabhishek Mishra leading.
Rana was forced to retire somewhere before the half-way point of the 199km long special stage that made up the entire third leg of the rally yesterday. The Grand Vitara he was driving suffered an engine failure, leaving Mishra all but certain to win the rally unless Raj Singh Rathore (driving an Isuzu D-Max V-Cross) is able to catch him. Rathore currently lies second overall with Maruti-Suzuki Motorsport's Dharampal Jangra in third place.
Mishra's total time after the first three legs is 6hr.55min.38sec with Rathore a further 26 minutes behind after losing time in the third leg when the emergency cut-off switch in his Isuzu got activated on its own and brought the car to a halt just 200 meters from the end of the stage. Rathore was ultimately able to rectify the situation and finish the stage.
INJURY FORCES SANTOSH OUT
Three-time Dakar Rally finisher and former Desert Storm and Raid de Himalaya winner CS Santosh was forced to retire from the rally after a fall 44km towards the end of the leg that caused what is suspected to be a neck injury. Hero MotoSports described it as a minor injury but one that could be aggravated, hence prompting Santosh to withdraw from the event.
Aaron Mare now is the leader with TVS Racing's Lorenzo Santolino (the 2010 junior world enduro champion) third overall.
Santosh had been classified second overall after he finished the stage following his fall. Mare's total time was 5hr.29min.39sec. while Santosh was just over seven minutes behind and Santolino another six minutes behind him.
The fourth leg of the rally continues today with four special stages initially planned to be held around Jaisalmer but the last two of the day, scheduled to be held in the evening may be cancelled for the Moto class on safety grounds.