Desert Storm – Day 2a
By this time, our provisional results were out, and we were placed at 7th place. (Not bad, we thought, considering the amount of time we had wasted the previous night.) So off we went to tackle Leg 1b. We had just done @20 odd kms, when the road book ordered us to take a left off the main road. This was a sandy road, and soon, there was no road. only sand. We were doing good till now, and had crossed all the sandy pits.
Up on the horizon there was a small dune which we had to cross. On crossing it, we saw a line of cars stuck in the sand. So, we had no choice but to lose momentum and pull off the road, where there was a little vegetation, and a chance of restarting. So we got down to investigate, and saw all the cars stuck one after the other. Soon, there was a crowd of the remaining cars behind us. Those people whose cars had gotten stuck tried every trick in the book, but did not manage to budge their vehicle.
This is where it all started. The first one bought the others down…
Isnt that a cool helmet?
The saviour- Red Bull Red Car
A bevy of stuck beauties…
Finally me and Manoj lost our patience, and tried to find an alternate route out of the mess, and did manage to get to the very end of the sandy zone, only to be stopped by the Marshals since the Xtreme guys were expected in that zone. And thats it. Once we had lost all momentum, there was no way we could restart or take a U turn, and we ended up being stuck like the others.
You pull me baby…
So, for the first time in the rally, we had to wait for the tractor and had him pull us out of the sand. This was not before we managed to snap a couple of tow straps and cable hooks.
Once he had deposited us to the firm zone, we found out that the leg was cancelled and we were to take the fast highway to Gajner palace where we were to spend the remaining hours.
The drive back was in a daze, and somehow managed to reach the beautiful hotel. Had some hot biryani, a much awaited bath, and it was time for some shut eye. Those couple of hours of sleep was the best ever.
– One of the competitors ended up falling asleep while awaiting the tractor. Turned out that the rest of the guys got rescued, but i guess, he’s still sleeping there.
– The army has an amazing participation. There are 4 army trucks supporting their xtreme participants
– In a rally, (or in real life as well) trust yourself. Specially, if the others say that there is no road ahead. Take that as a sign that you are on the right path.
– A rally is all about teamwork. Not just between the driver and the co-driver, but between other teams as well.
Desert Storm – Day Two
Carrying on from where i left off from Day 1. After flagging off, there was this period of confusion for me, of what exactly to do. Should i look at the Speed chart or the tulips, or both? Full marks to MV for bearing with me and his patience. Soon we settled into a pattern, and our co-ordination and communication went on improving as the days went by.
Little did i know that it was the beginning of the longest day, and that it was going to turn out to be the toughest of the entire experience. All was well till we approached a tulip called Leopard Country. There due to an growing error with our GPS odometer, we took a wrong turn into a forest. A couple of kilometers in the forest, we realised that the tulips (landmarks to follow) were no longer matching, and took a U turn out of the forest. On coming back to the main road, we met up with a Santro who told us that the road ahead was blocked and the A Star guys from Team RPM, Maruti Suzuki were having a different kind of adventure. Turns out that the locals had heard a lot of cars passing by, and mistook them to be dacoits. So they just fell a tree, and blocked the entire road. A gang of 40-50 odd villagers, armed with axes, knives and swords surrounded the competitors, and demanded an explanation. Its only after a lot of pleading and cajoling that they were allowed to go.
In the meanwhile, we were struggling to find our way out of the forest. By that time, 4-5 other cars had joined the party with everyone pointing in different directions. It was @0200hrs, and comfortably cold. The poor Punto took quite a beating here. This is where we lost the first of our mud flaps, and the entire cladding of the rear left wheel arch. But hats off to the engine guard, and the tank guard, none of the stones caused any damage. The Punto is not just a looker, its tough too.
This is also where, we heard ‘supposedly’ big cat noises, saw jackals, deer. Was an experience. This is where the road ended.
Since we had nothing else to do, we managed do do a little bit of photography… 🙂
Eventually, we decided to turn back and restart the entire track. And guess what? We had missed the actual turn by 15-20 meters. :-[ So much for navigation!
Rest of the journey was a blur, since MV decided to make up for the lost time. I distinctly remember a patch of twisties with around 9-10 hair pin bends within meters of each other. The way we tackled that particular patch would have made other cars wet their (umm..) radiators, but the way Punto took it was really amazing. That car is a handler. I remember holding (hanging) on to the handle with both hands, all the while wishing that even i had a steering wheel to hold on to.
We also made our first friends of the trip while waiting for a free zone to get over. We, along with Manish and Vishal, who were driving in a Ford Fiesta, would then onwards form convoy of sorts when the rally got over, and we were kind of coasting back to the hotel every day.
It was red bull that kept us awake and alert that night. But i am quite sure, that even without red bull, there was hardly ever time to even think of sleeping. there was so much to do! Calculations, re calculations, navigation etc.
Soon, it was day break, and this is where i saw one of the most beautiful sights of the entire trip. We had entered in a typical Rajasthani village, with small houses, narrow roads, sand everywhere. And Peacocks. I have seen peacocks only in zoos. And here, there were peacocks on the road, on rooftops, on gates, and even on garbage dumps. That is also when i found that peacocks are not that fast too. There were many times when we had to slow down to let one of the majestic national bird cross the road at their own pace. Damn! Why did the peacock cross the road?
But this was one of the highlights of the trip, and this memory is something i will never forget.
Eventually, after a gruelling night, we managed to reach Teja Garden, totally tired, drained and happy to have completed the first leg. We had a couple of hours to spare here. Once we had breakfast, and more than 3-4 cups of tea, we tried to have some shut-eye. Before we knew it, it was time to go again. This particular leg was going to be quite short – @100 kms, and we were looking forward to reach Gajner Palace near Bikaner.
Desert Storm – Day One
The D Day started off early morning, since we had to reach the Golf Club for the driver’s briefing. So, after a scrumptious breakfast at The Mosiac hotel, off went in search of the Golf Club. The location itself was not hard to find, since all we had to do is follow the lovely sound of petrol engines revved up to the max. It was total aural pleasure to hear the motor at full throttle. (takes a break, closes his eyes, and imagines the sound, ah!)
At the Driver’s briefing
At the gates
After the mandatory briefing, which set our expectations, and gave us an idea of what not to expect, we got the Road Books for the next 5 days. Leg 1 and Leg 1a were going to be the most challenging, since it was an all night drive, and since it was a first time for many people, including us, we yet had to settle down as a team. Personally, i had never read tulips before, and it was going to be a huge learning curve for me.
The Line- up
From there, we rushed back to the hotel, checked out, and were back at The Great India Place, which was the location of the ceremonial flag-off. The entire place had a festive air, with cheer girls, media people, one lost DJ, and lots of people milling about. Since I was a new comer to the rally crowd, on MV’s suggestion, I could easily mill about the other cars, and have a close look at the equipment being used by others…
The organizers too were having a hard time managing all the people, and setting up the start order. Ultimately, it was a First In First Out starting order, and finally we were off. Since we had a lot of time to cover, before reaching Shakunt Resort, we took our time and went at our own pace. Filled up the Punto’s tank on the way. The Punto’s such a head turner. Specially in the small towns, and villages, its got a universal appeal. On reaching the resort, we retired to our room to prepare for the long night ahead. Changed into rally gear, dusted the helmets, filled the water bottles, and got ready. Soon it was time for the flag off and the Desert Storm had begun!
During driver briefing, one of the competitors got hit in most delicate place with a golf ball, which lead to a lot of ball hits ball jokes.
Saw one of driver of an xplore category climb out of his car with a beer can in his hand
One hatch back was parked on the side of the highway, for no reason at all. This might have seemed strange at that time, but little did we realize that it was an indicator of things to come.
Got quite intimidated by the level of equipment in our competitor’s cars.
Scrutiny – Day Two
Since we had already finished our scrutiny yesterday, we had ample time to pamper the Punto today. So off we went (in circles) to search for a fiat workshop in Noida. After many turns and u turns, finally managed to find it. The works manager there was kind enough to help us jump the queue for a thorough checkup of the vehicle.
So, we spent a lot of time with the mechanics, answered a lot of questions, asked a few more, while the Punto was being attended to. Here are a few pics…
Scrutiny – Day One
The day started off very early at 03:00 am, thanks to a fiasco at workplace, which set my cell phone abuzz in the wee hours. Once that was taken care of I somehow managed to get some decent sleep. When the alarm went on, I stirred myself up and was well on my way to the airport before my planned time. Manoj (Henceforth called as, MV) also arrived in time and we were on our way to Saddi Dilli. On arriving at Delhi airport, we walked directly towards to the red beauty. The Punto still manages to take my breath away every time I see her. We checked into the Mosaic hotel at Sector 18, Noida which is very close to the scrutiny point, and ceremonial flag off point i.e.- The Great India Place. (A huge mall)
Once we checked in and settled down, we went for the scrutiny check, which is mandatory before we are declared eligible to race. This was a taxing experience since we had to go all over Noida searching for the recovery kit, which is made up of a spade, a rope, a few stickers and emergency rations. Finally, we managed to get the recovery kit after about an hour or searching. Next, in line was to install a GPS logger to show real time locations of the car which would be uploaded on the websites of the organizers. So as of now, we were all set for the rally.
The Punto is quite a head turner. Everyone from kids to oldies take a second look at this beauty. Just standing at a distance from the car, and overhearing conversations regarding the Punto, makes my day. It was a real carnival atmosphere, with people showing off their beauties and blipping the throttles for the audience. All my life, I was a part of the audience, just an anonymous face with an awed expression. However, the tables had changed this time round. I was on the other side and I was going to be a part of this. It felt different and absolutely amazing. I’m totally loving it.
The Desert Storm has always stood for the ultimate test for the man and machine. This year’s edition of the Storm as always has many new innovations. The longest rally in India again for the second year in the running with over 3500 gruelling kilometers. A total of 120 rally vehicles and 250 participants competing for the coveted overall championship trophy and the highest prize money in Indian Motorsport calendar. It’s the only rally in the country to run a comprehensive interactive virtual rally car tracking facility. Online competitor real time tracking and comparison page for all enthusiasts wanting to keep abreast with the rally on the web.
The storm will flag off from Delhi/NCR and go onto the first speed stage short of Jaipur. The interesting aspect here is that this will be run at night and will
currently be the second longest night stage run in the Indian motorsport calendar.
Two Motoroids, Manoj Vaidya and Hrishikesh Deshpande too are participating in the rally event. Here is a log of their anticipation and plan for the Desert Storm 2010, as depicted by Hrishkesh Deshpande.
How often does a dream come true? Well, it does, for some. Mine has! I am participating in the prestigious Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm rally,
from 12th Feb to 20th Feb 2010. I will be navigating a Fiat Punto, being
driven by Manoj Vaidya. There will be participants from professional
teams, the Indian Army and the Media among other privateers like us…
Manoj Vaidya is an old hand at rallying. He started off when he was 18 (I am sure he started earlier, just trying to be politically correct here) and participated in motorcycling and scooter rallys, including monsoon rallys.He made his debut in INRC in 92. He has also participated in the Maruti dirt track and won the best novice price, and stood in 2nd position in Zen and Esteem category. When he graduated to a Palio, he moved on to participating in the Raid de Himalaya, but had to retire
due to a breakdown. That is when he approached Fiat and they agreed to support his rallying adventures. From there on, there has been no turning back. In 2006 he won the overall third position and in 2008 he finished second overall. This is his first attempt at the Desert Storm rally.
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To put it simply, my job is to calculate the exact time to reach a particular tulip, and its Manoj’s job to ensure that we arrive at that exact moment. There is a lot of paperwork involved, like getting rally licenses from the FMSCI, certificates from the doctor, indemnity bonds from the lawyer, insurance from the broker….you get the drift.
Paperwork is one thing. The actual challenge will be when driving over sand, water, beaches, dry lake beds, near the POK border, next to an extinct volcano somewhere in Rajasthan. Some of these things are on moonless nights just to make things interesting. Well, we did some amount of beach driving & changing the tyre practice
among other things, but that story I will leave for another day. Just hoping that we don’t face something like that in the real deal, where a tyre is supposed to be changed in 3 minutes.
The Fiat Punto we are driving is the top end edition – Emotion, and is loaded with goodies like ABS, dual Airbags, and the revolutionary Blue & Me system, though we don’t plan on using it much 😉
Itinerary is as below:
12 & 13 February 2010
From: 1000 hrs At the Scrutiny, DLF Place, Saket, New Delhi
14 February 2010
From: 0800 hrs At the Ceremonial Start, DLF Place, Saket, New
Delhi <Rally Starts>
15 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Hotel Laxmi Niwas, Bikaner
16 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Hotel Fort Rajwada, Jaisalmer
17 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Camp, Bhuj
18 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Camp, Bhuj
19 February 2010
From: 1800 hrs At Hotel Radisson Plaza, Udaipur <Rally ends>
20 February 2010
21 February 2010
Drive back from Udaipur to BBY
More details here:https://desertstorm.motorsport.in/
Keep watching for more pictoral updates soon…