CS Santosh can’t be the first Indian to compete and finish in the Dakar this year - he already did that last year. So, this year the determined, well-spoken and grounded Santosh is aiming for something else, something higher, something, even more challenging. CS Santosh wants to finish in the top 20 in Dakar 2016. And though it might not seem like such a big ask on the outset, believe us, if Santosh manages to achieve this, it will be nothing short of a miraculous feat.
So, how will he do it? Who better to ask than the man himself! According to Santosh, who finished a respectable 36th in spite of injuries and broken bones last year, preparation is key. And he believes, he is much better prepared this time round. He also doesn’t need to do the kind of running around he did last year – for the sponsorship to the motorcycle to the equipment – leaving him to concentrate on the task at hand, which is to ride the Dakar.
CS Santosh will be riding a modified Suzuki 450cc motorcycle this year with support from Suzuki Spain. For once the motorcycle won’t be completely new to Santosh. He did win the Desert Storm this year on the Suzuki 450, after all. So, his confidence level is a lot higher this year than last; a must really for any motorcycle racer. According to Santosh, the Suzuki 450 might not have proven itself at the Dakar yet, but he is confident about building a motorcycle with Suzuki Spain that will take him to the top in due course.
Dust is a big challenge at the Dakar. There are times when one can’t see or breathe through a dust cloud relying only on yourself and fate to make it to the other side. Having the right gear here helps immensely. Santosh says he has made headway on this count as well. Thanks to brands like Red Bull and CEAT Tyres supporting him, procuring equipment for such cases and more, has been easier.
The Dakar is a race. But, going flat out all the time doesn’t work when the race is this long, this unpredictable, and this challenging. According to Santosh going flat out tires out both the rider and the machine resulting in avoidable crashes and mechanical failures. Raids like the Dakar are more about consistency of pace and strategically planning one’s attacks to gain positions to climb towards the podium. Santosh, thanks to the support at hand, has managed to strategise better than he did last year. And, this strategy is all about having the ability to change tactics on the fly to account for changing weather, terrain, and man-machine interface.
With last years’ experience under his belt, Santosh plans to carry a steady pace from the beginning and increase his pace as the rally progresses. The gist, he says, is not to get carried away when having a good run and capitalise on the sections where you get to attack.
As our interview draws to a close, CS Santosh mentions how happy he is to have received such a warm response from the Indian motorsport fraternity, enthusiasts and fans. He said he would be happy to guide racers who dream of participating in the Dakar rally in the future. But, what really surprised us was when he mentioned his ultimate dream was to DRIVE in the Dakar!
It’s a big thing for us motorcycle and motorsport fans that CS Santosh is attempting the Dakar once again, especially since he has little to prove to his critics. But that’s the thing with racers, no matter how much they achieve, they are always hard on themselves. So, here’s a big cheer to CS Santosh for Dakar 2016. And if you are a fan, stay tuned to BikeWale as we cover the Indian ace’s progress.