Satish Gopalkrishnan and Savera D’Souza, the Bangalore husband-wife pair, have redefined teamwork in motorsport by being the only couple to consistently win rallies across the country. Most recently, the duo topped the Rally Ndure (TSD) category at the 12th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm.

While India’s champion TSD rallyists could not find a strong footing at the Desert Storm, they were able to race on a sure pitch from the opening day – this, then, was a triumph based less on flamboyance than on endeavour and strategy. From the first stage of the six-day motorsport marathon, Satish and Savera worked on building up a strong lead and regularly left their competition far behind – by the time the last stage got under way, there was little chance of them getting caught.

Top honours in the Desert Storm made for a welcome change after a string of runner-up finishes in 2013, including in the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, the Mughal Rally, and the Maruti Suzuki Dakshin Dare. So what made the difference in the sands of the Thar Desert? “The X factor,” said Satish, matter-of-factly. “Sometimes it makes you win. Sometimes nothing seems right.”

b'lore duo
Satish Gopalkrishnan and Savera D’Souza, winners of the Rally Ndure category in the 2014 Desert Storm, driving a Grand Vitara for Team Maruti Suzuki

Satish Gopalkrishnan and his navigator Savera D’Souza celebrated yet another victory together when they won the 12th Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm, in a race that upended the formbook, with pre-event favourites Gaurav Gill and Suresh Rana dogged by mechanical problems and unable to complete the race. Meanwhile, India’s top biker, the formidable CS Santosh, maintained his dominance on two wheels.

Driving a Grand Vitara for Team Maruti Suzuki, the Bangalore duo topped the ‘Rally Ndure’ category. Satish, incidentally, is the software guru who is responsible for the ‘TSD Meter’, a development that has changed the face of time-speed-distance rallying in India. Trailing the champs in second place were Pratap Thakur and Dhiraj Arora, and completing the top three were Ashish Budhia and Arindam Ghosh.

The Desert Storm, an annual motorsport marathon that sees four- and two-wheelers tackle the sands of the That Desert, finished in Jaipur after negotiating some 2200km over six days. And it was dominated by the sponsor, with seven out of the nine prizes on offer going to Maruti vehicles.

In the ‘Rally Xtreme’ category, the honours went to Chandigarh’s Sunny Sidhu and his navigator PVS Murthy. Sandeep Sharma (Delhi) and Varun Davessar (Chandigarh) finished runners-up, and occupying third place was the team of Amartej Pal Buwal (Delhi) and Nakul Mendiratta. In the ‘Rally Xplore’ category, Rajesh Chalana and navigator Yogesh Gupta, driving an SX4 for Team Maruti Suzuki, finished ahead of the pack, seeing off Nitin Yadav and Ravi Bansal, driving a Mahindra Scorpio, and Sanjay Takale and Mustafa, driving an SX4 for Team Maruti Suzuki.

On two wheels, there was no stopping CS Santosh of Bangalore, who retained his title in a Suzuki RMX 450. Ranked second in the ‘Rally Moto’ category was Austrian stalwart Helmut Frauwallner, driving a Yamaha WR450F, while third place went to Suresh Babu, who was driving a Suzuki RMS 450Z.

The Dakar Rally, also known as The Dakar (and formerly known as the Paris-Dakar Rally), has achieved legendary status, not just in the world of motor sport but across sport as a whole. This embodiment of endurance is covered and broadcast extensively around the world (in 190 countries!), and followed enthusiastically by armies of motor-heads.

Action from the 2013 Dakar Rally (car category)

The rally was the brainchild of Thierry Sabine. The Frenchman, taking part on a motorbike in the 1977 Abidjan-Nice Rally, found himself hopelessly lost in the sands of the Libyan (Tenere) Desert. He just about managed to return but was left entranced by the beauty of the desert landscape. Sabine then dreamed of a race that would start in Europe and pass through Algiers (Algeria) and Agadez (Niger), before finishing up in Dakar, Senegal. The dream became reality in 1979, and over the years Monsieur Sabine’s vision of adventure has lived up to its promise, and remained true to its motto – “A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.”

Jagmeet Gill and Chandan Das, triumphant in the 2013 Raid De Himalaya (time-speed-distance [TSD] category), proved themselves worthy winners of the inaugural Uttarakhand Adventure Car Rally.

The three-day rally – through which the Uttarakhand Tourism Development Board hopes to raise further resources to assist those affected by the floods that ravaged the Himalayan state in 2013 – saw a close contest among the country’s TSD champions. Gill, leader on day one, slipped to fifth (overall) on day two but, showing his class and experience, made up the deficit significantly on the final day. Clearly, there are few better TSD rallyists than Gill, who was driving for Team Maruti alongside co-driver Das.

Finishing runner-up was the husband-wife duo of Satish Gopalkrishnan and Savera D’Souza, Bangalore’s champion rallyists. Meanwhile, the pair of Ajgar Ali, from Haldia (West Bengal), and M. Mustafa, from Tamil Nadu, finished overall third in the rally, moving up from fourth a day earlier.


B. Purushottam, the Dehradun Deputy Commissioner-cum-District Magistrate, was one of several government officials taking part in the rally. He expressed hope that the UACR would have a positive impact on tourism in the state. “The rally will send out a strong message that infrastructure in the state is normal, and Uttarakhand is back on (track) as a premier tourism destination,” said Purushottam.

The route taken by the rally touched some of Uttarakhand’s favourite adventure and nature destinations, among them Shivpuri (whitewater rafting), Auli (skiing) and Garjiya (on the periphery of the Jim Corbett National Park).