Lorenzo, Mare to fight for lead after Santosh crashes out

India’s top rider C.S. Santosh pulled out of the Desert Storm following his crash in leg three of the cross-country rally.

Santosh still managed to finish the stage fighting through pain and discomfort.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

India’s top rider C.S. Santosh pulled out of the Desert Storm following his crash in leg three of the cross-country rally, giving Aaron Mare and Santolino Lorenzo an opening to fight for the lead going into the remaining two days.

Santosh, representing Hero MotoSports Team Rally, was leading at the end of the first two legs and looked set for his fourth title here until he met with a crash on Wednesday, leaving him with a neck injury.

However, he still managed to finish the stage in second place fighting through pain and discomfort. The team said Santosh did not suffer a major injury and his withdrawal from the event was a precautionary step.

“There was a lot of dust around and the visibility was not good. I could not spot a sand bank that suddenly appeared and I crashed quite hard. There is a sharp pain in my neck and movement is very restricted. We have decided to not risk it further so we are pulling out of the rally now. I am sorry and disappointed that I could not make it to the finish line,” said Santosh.

South African Mare of Angata Racing took the overall lead with a time of five hours 29 minutes and 39 seconds, almost 13 minutes ahead of TVS Racing’s Lorenzo who produced a scorching run in the sand to emerge as the fastest rider in leg three.

Lorenzo, a former World Junior Enduro Champion, now feels victory in his maiden Desert Storm is possible. Lorenzo will start leg four in the second position. The Spaniard was lagging behind in eighth spot after the opening leg but has been getting faster by the day.

The rally coursed through the sand-dunes surrounding Jaisalmer and the riders braved severe heat as well as the unpredictable terrain in the 348 kilometres stretch through Mokul and Asutar. Lorenzo’s counter-part in the Group A (upto 450cc category), Abdul Wahid Tanveer, had a decent day and is fifth in the overall standings.

Commenting on the team’s performance, B Selvaraj, TVS Racing said, “It has been an incredible leg for Lorenzo as he has really upped his game to finish at the top.”

Leg four, which is divided into two parts, will see riders traverse a distance of 452 kilometers in the region of Bhuwana, Asutar and Majid ki Basti.

Rajendra RE and Imran Pasha of TVS Racing had to retire from the event due to technical issues.

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