India Baja 2018: Lorenzo reigns supreme, wins Dakar ticket

Santolino Lorenzo glided past dangerous terrains, dunes, heat and competition to win the Moto category of the India Baja 2018 and clinch his ticket to the coveted 2020 Dakar Rally.

TVS Racing's Santolino Lorenzo competes in the India Baja rally.   -  Special Arrangement

Torrid terrains. Dangerous dunes. Heckling heat. Cutthroat competition. TVS Racing's Santolino Lorenzo glided past all of these obstacles to win the Moto category of the India Baja 2018 and clinch his ticket to the coveted 2020 Dakar Rally.

Lorenzo was followed by veteran Indian racer C. S. Santosh from Hero Motorsports and Abdul Wahid Tanveer completed a double podium finish for TVS Racing by finishing third.

Santosh — who is the only Indian to have participated and completed the Dakar Rally —was constantly breathing down Lorenzo's neck and had seemed to have made a remarkable comeback from a seven-minute deficit to win the event after he finished the last stage in all of 12 minutes.

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However, the 34-year-old was, later, given a 30-minute penalty for failing to follow the route and was demoted to the second position.

Lorenzo said he was glad to finally take home the winner's cheque. “This victory is a very happy moment for me given that I was pretty close to winning the Desert Storm Rally earlier this year in the same terrains, but could not. I think India Baja is a great event. The stages were sandy yet fast. I really enjoyed it,” he said.

He also lauded the introduction of road books at the rally. “The navigational systems that India Baja mandated this year are at par with what is used in the World Rally Cross Country Championship. The introduction of the road books, no gpx tracks, and very few waypoints are some really exciting developments at this event,” he noted.

Independent rider makes it big

In the Xtreme category, independent rider Arindam Sakia along with co-driver J. Jeevarathinam claimed the top honours by staging a stirring performance. The duo began the event as underdogs and pulled off the triumph with a winning margin of over half an hour.

Harjee Motorsport’s Himanshu Arora (co-driver Kunal Kashyap) and Desert Raiders’ Narayan Balan (co-driver Chirag Thakur) finished second and third positions respectively.

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Commenting on the victory, Sakia said, “I’m feeling at the top of the world right now. It was a very hard fought victory. The tracks were awesome; the stages were good, and the entire event was very competitive. I knew that this event was going to be completely about navigation through the desert.

“Before this event, we used to get gpx tracks. But at this particular edition of India Baja, we had to navigate manually through the road book with very fewer waypoints. We had worked hard on our navigational skills and that really worked in our favour.”

Schoolgirl impresses

Sixteen-year-old Tanika Shanbhag showed her mettle by enduring and successfully completing all five stages of the two-day event with great tenacity. That she finished last in the Moto category — the same one that featured the likes of Lorenzo and Santosh —shouldn't be a concern for Tanika, given that this is her first rally of the kind.

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