By Harpal Singh Bedi
Dominating each leg of the grueling Desert Storm defending champion Aabhishek Mishra extended his lead over the title for the fourth year in row in Jaisalmer on Saturday.
In the process the 30-year-old from Jaipur became only the third driver to defend the Storm, an FMSCI-approved event, (besides h six-time winner Sunny Sidhu and Suresh Rana) With co-driver Srikanth Gowda by his side, he conquered the heat, the desert and one of the strongest fields ever in 9 hours 21 minutes and 45 seconds for a commendable victory.
In the Moto Category, Adrian Metge of Team TVS Racing was equally commanding, winning the country’s longest motorbike rally with a cumulative time of 6 hours 13 minutes and 25 seconds. Ankur Chauhan (and co-driver Prakash M) was the other big winner, taking the Endure Category.
CS Santosh breathed fire down Adrian Metge’s neck in each of the stages, surpassing him a few times too, to finish second in the Moto Category.
The Hero Motorsports front man will rue the second day which handed Metge a huge lead and proved to be impossible to bridge in the final analysis. TVS Racing’s Abdul Wahid Tanveer, who clocked a cumulative timing of 06:35:28, took the other place on the podium.
“This is an incredibly special win for us,” Aabhishek Mishra, who drove his Maruti Vitara smartly, said, after his victory. “I have won the title in the four-wheel category four times and once in the motorbike category. But this year was the toughest due to the conditions as also because of the competition, which attracted all the top drivers, teams and manufacturers in the country,” he added.
Driving a Toyota Fortuner for the first time in a rally, Chandigarh’s Samrat Yadav (and co-driver Kunal Kashyap) grabbed the second position in 09:41:34 by showing remarkable poise and consistency over the scorching four days. Arunachal Pradesh’s Lakhpa Tsering (co-driver V Venu Rameshkumar) overcame a slow start to corner the third position in his Polaris RZR 1000.
The Army Team, returning to competitive rally after a long hiatus, will be proud of their show in the Thar Desert. Capt AVS Gill (co-driver Diwakar Kalia) claimed the fourth place in the Extreme Category while Aman Katoch (Siddhartha Nandal), Parth Bharadwaj (Mohit Bisht) and Sanjay Jadon (Sahil Dua) took the third, fourth and fifth places in the Endure Category.
Aabhishek Mishra and co-driver Srikanth Gowda from Team Sparky’s Garage have emerged as the ultimate champions of Xtreme Category (cross country rally for cars) at Rally Desert Storm 2019 with cumulative time of 9 hours 21 minutes 45 seconds.
The three champions — Mishra, Metge and Chauhan – and other podium finishers, category winners and special award winners, were felicitated at a glittering prize distribution ceremony at the Jaisalmer Marriott Resorts & Spa late in the evening.