days ahead of International Women’s Day, a group of feisty women at the Maruti
Suzuki Desert Storm is redefining woman power by taking on the big boys at
what is still primarily a male sport – rallying.
12th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm was flagged off from Delhi on February 24, 2014,
with 250 champion rallyists from all over the country and also abroad fighting
for top honours in one of the most prestigious motorsport events of the
country. The six-day marathon motorsport event will end at Jaipur on March 1,
covering about 2,200 km through the dune outback of Sardarshahar, Bikaner,
Jaisalmer and Jaipur.
the pack is Sarika Sehrawat Vohra, India’s only woman rallyist in high-speed
dune racing. The Gurgaon-based entrepreneur has been racing since 2002.
55 teams of champion rallyists from all over the country and abroad, Sarika is
the only woman driving in Rally Xtreme, the all-out speed category of the
event. Her navigator is Delhi-based Deepali Gupta, an IT professional working
with Royal Bank of Scotland.
confesses she is a speed-freak, and is passionate about marathon motorsport
races. She is driving a Maruti Gypsy for the rally.
Manohar Bhat, Vice President Marketing of
Maruti Suzuki, said that total number of competitors at the Desert Storm 2014
is the highest-ever in its 12-year history. It stood at 220 last year. “The
high number of women competitors at the event is encouraging. Our motorsport
events showcase our commitment towards youth empowerment and women
empowerment," he said.
Army brings in its share of woman power to the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm with
Capt Madavi Singh and Capt Komal S, both from The Corps of Electrical and
Mechanical Engineers (EME). While fitness training is a major issue for all
rallyists preparing for a marathon motorsport event, Capt Madhavi says the
training wasn’t rally-specific for them. “In the army, fitness training is a
daily thing. That was not a concern. Desert driving was new to us, and we were
able to learn it during the Army trials at Bikaner,” said Capt Madhvi.
Capt Komal, competing at the Desert Storm is a dream-come-true. “I was also
chosen to compete at The Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya 2013, but during the
second round of training for the event was my wedding day,” she informed with a
smile. Capt Komal hopes to celebrate her first wedding anniversary at The 16th
Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya in October this year. Both officers are
competing in Rally Enduro, which follows the Rally Xtreme route in a
Time-Speed-Distance format. They are driving a Maruti Gypsy for the rally.
petite Garima Avtar, a Sufi singer, golfer and entrepreneur based at Noida, is
a regular at motorsport events across the country, including the Maruti Suzuki
Raid De Himalaya, the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, the Mughal Rally in Kashmir
and the Royal Rajasthan Rally. Garima said the excitement and the challenge of
the rallies kept her hooked to the sport. “My annual calendar is marked with
the rallies I must do, and then make space for holidays,” she said. Garima’s
navigator Sukhbans Mann is a home-maker based at Gurgaon.
2014 edition of the Desert Storm started with 55 teams in Rally Xtreme (4X4)
and 35 teams in Rally Moto (Motorcycles). These two categories are based solely
on fastest timing.
addition, 35 teams in Rally Ndure and 25 in Rally Xplore took the start on day
one. Both these categories follow the Time-Speed-Distance format. Rally Ndure
is the more challenging category here, since it follows the Xtreme route. The
Xtreme (4-wheelers), Endure and Xplore teams comprise two rallyists each – the
driver and the navigator.
On Day Three of the rally, Sunny Sidhu of
Chandigarh was leading Rally Xtreme, followed by Delhi's Sandeep Sharma,
driving a Maruti Gypsy. In Rally Xplore, Sanjay Takale and Mustafa of Team
Maruti Suzuki are leading, driving an SX4. Second in this category are Rajesh
Chalana and Yogesh Gupta, again driving an SX4 for Team Maruti Suzuki. Third in
Rally Xplore is Nitin Yadav with navigator Ravi Bansal, driving a Tata Aria.
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