CS Santosh: India's Rally Champ Gets Ready for Dakar 2016
Modified On Jan 7, 2016 By Sachin Sen
CS Santosh, the only Indian to have raced in Dakar Rally and complete it successfully, is getting prepared for its next installment in January 2016. Santosh has won multiple national and international Motocross and Supercross championships. He has also won 2012 Raid de Himalaya and 2014 and 2015 Desert Storm.
He started his career with TVS Racing and stayed with them for 9 years developing his skills and gaining extensive experience for Supercross during the time. His time at TVS Racing led him to win 4 National Supercross Championships. Since 2006, Santosh has participated in many national and international Motocross, Supercross and Rally championships that he has either won or finished successfully. In 2013, he suffered a major accident receiving 3rd-degree burns in his debut at World Cross Country Rally Championship. Santosh, however, came back strong and won the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm in 2014.
In January 2015, Santosh became the first Indian to race in Dakar Rally and finished 36th overall out of nearly 180 participants covering over 9000 kilometers in 13 days. He will be riding the Suzuki RMX450 Rally for the 2016 season.
Dakar Rally is considered to be the world’s toughest off-road race that spans over 13-14 days and distances of over 9000 km across two countries. It started in 1978 from Paris, France to Dakar, Senegal. However, from 2009 onwards, the Dakar Rally is run in South America across Argentina and Chile. Off-road is just an understatement in this case as riders encounter sections like sand dunes, mud, camel grass, rocks and erg (broad and flat area of desert covered with wind-swept sand with almost no vegetation) throughout the course. The conditions are extremely challenging for riders of all skill levels and that combined with the longevity of the whole event makes for the hardest off-road rally in the world.
Interaction With CS Santosh
It was quite a low profile rendezvous with a relatively small group of people comprising of auto-journalists (and bikers). A projector screen continuously played a promotional video on Santosh showing glimpses of his various off-roading triumphs. While there was a general Q & A with Santosh, we also got a chance to do a one-on-one discussion with him.
Q: Congratulations on successfully finishing the 2015 Dakar Rally. You started your career with TVS Racing. How much did it help you in developing skills and experience for Motocross?
Santosh: I wouldn’t have been here if it wasn’t for TVS Racing. I learned all the basics and honed my skills in Supercross with TVS Racing. Having won several Supercross championships helped me in getting exposure and confidence.
Q: You had a major accident in 2013 where you received 3rd-degree burns, and then you won the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm in 2014. How did you manage this transition of recovering from such an injury to winning the Desert Storm?
Santosh: For one, you don’t really have to think about it (the injury). I took it as part of life and a learning experience. I kept myself motivated to come back and carry on.
Q: Given your skills and experience in off-roading and rallying, how else do you prepare yourself physically for an event like Dakar Rally?
Santosh: Cardiovascular exercises are most important because you need lots of stamina and muscle strength to handle a motorcycle over a long distance, so cycling and running are very important. Then are there regular exercises that I do in a gym and have to increase their frequency.
Q: RedBull was your only sponsor last time for the Dakar Rally. So given all your talent, credentials and an invite to Dakar Rally, how difficult is it to get Sponsors?
Santosh: Ideally, I should not have to go to Sponsors and work hard to get them, they should come and support me. It’s just that it gets difficult to have them convinced to be supportive for such events. This time, though, I have more sponsors now that I have been in Dakar Rally once. Also, this time, I have some experience of the rally and I know what mistakes I did last time that have to be avoided this time like better clothing and riding gear. It’s cold out there and you are doing high speeds consistently so your gear should be absolutely appropriate.
I also trained for two months in Spain practicing with the Suzuki team.
Q: How’s Indian motorsport scene is different from the international scene in your experience?
Santosh: I have been a part of many international rallies in the country and outside, the amount of exposure and adrenaline I got in Dakar Rally is unmatchable. Safety is paramount in Dakar Rally as well, for example, we have GPS systems for the rider and machine, so if you have an accident then within 15 minutes you’ll be picked up by a chopper which is great.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said here. Raid de Himalaya is quite popular and many international riders also participate in it now, but the riders are more or less left on their own.
Q: Going into Dakar Rally 2016, you are with Suzuki. What made you switch from KTM who are apparently the masters of Dakar for some years now?
Santosh: KTM is established and one of the most successful companies in Dakar Rally, so they want riders who are more or less equally established as well. I’m pretty new and growing and this is the same with Suzuki as well, they want to grow as well. So, I believe we will be good together.
Our interactions with CS Santosh was quite fruitful as we got a very small glimpse into his life and career while he is making himself and the country proud at such a level. We need more people like him and hope that motorcycle racing sports in various forms get more exposure in India.