Country’s top seeded cross country rallyist Suresh Rana at the wheel and fellow Himachal native Parminder Thakur as the navigator in a Grand Vitara led at end of stage one of the rugged Desert Storm 2013 motor rally.
Out to challenge the supremacy of Rana, Gaurav Gill in a Mahindra XUV 500 suffered two hours of penalty time as his vehicle developed serious mechanical dysfunction during a competitive stage run at night.
The organizers held that Gill was technically still in the race but would be given an hour late start from other competitors on day two, should he decide to continue in the Desert Storm.
Those who have dropped out of the rally at end of day one include two teams from Australia led by Niaz Ali and Gaurav Chiripal of Delhi as part of Aussie Sand Surfers team.
In the Enduro category that runs a time speed distance format, Somdev Chand and K Prasad of Team Maruti were the top two teams at end of Day one.
Raj Singh Rathore of Jaipur, riding the Polaris RZR 800, is leading in the Quad category.
In the Bikers category, Mohan Lal Sharma of Jaipur met with an accident and fractured a leg. Within a few minutes, he was evacuated and taken to a hospital.
The first competitive stage of Xtreme and Ndure category that ran through the night, proved more than a test for even seasoned rallyists for near 50 per cent found themselves stuck in the treacherous desert sands and needed to be pulled out.
Rallyists admitted that the route was tough and despite GPS and the rally road book, they got lost and went around in circles, trying to find their way.
A total of 263 rallyists from all over the country and vying for top honours in what definitely is one of the toughest and most prestigious motorsport events of the country.
The 11th edition of Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm competes on dune country through the Thar Desert out on the wild outback of Bikaner and Jaisalmer countryside and after going logging past 2,200 kilometers treacherous roads ends at Jaipur on February 23.