We got a hold of CS Santosh for a quick chat about what’s he’s up to these days, and how his Dakar preparations are coming along...
Even though you’ve got full factory support, you have a new partner in Favre-Leuba. More sponsors are always a good thing, right?
Having a brand like Favre-Leuba is, of course, exciting because I want to be a person who aligns himself with good brands – people who share the same vision, and can help with what we want to achieve at the Dakar. So, whether it’s Hero or Red Bull or Sidvin or now Favre-Leuba, I believe we all share a similar DNA – one that allows us to push the boundaries, so, it’s fair to say that I’m excited to have them on-board.
On a related note, with Gaurav Gill winning the Arjuna Award, do you think this would boost the morale of racers in the country, including you?
Well, I’d think so because it’s really cool to see extraordinary individuals get recognised for their achievements. And I’m glad that the appreciation has finally come from the government. And I also think that it’s really hard to ignore if you look at the size of the Indian auto industry. We are one of the biggest industries in the world, so, obviously, if you have a sport that revolves around that, it makes perfect sense for the government to recognise it.
You had a horrible crash at the Dakar this year, but it’s good to see you recover and secure 10th position at the Baja Aragon 2019.
Yes, I didn’t have the best Dakar outing this year. But I showed a lot of promise in the beginning and throughout the year, with some speed. It’s fair to say that I’m recovering well, but it takes a lot of time, which is why I took my time with the Desert Storm. And, finally, I was able to go and outperform myself in Spain – you know, I scored a better result than the year before (Santosh finished 16th at the Baja Aragon last year). The whole outlook is to be able to be better than what you were the year before and improve your performance. And I think I did that. Now, we have three months left to go to the Dakar, and it’s exciting.
What’s in store for you this year, before you set off for Dakar 2020?
Next up is Morocco in October. It’s going to be a packed month. It’s also the first time where we bring out the new bike. So, we race on the new bike in Morocco, and the whole team will race together, meaning all four riders will be at the Morocco rally. And pretty much everybody in the world who is competing in the Dakar is going to show up in Morocco. And I think it’s a good testing ground for us towards the final days of the year. Apart from these two races, we’ve got another test lined up in Morocco again in November.
Dakar is going to Saudi Arabia next year. What are your views on this move?
For me, I liked South America a lot. I’ve kind of grown to know and understand a little bit of what the Dakar entails, and it’s all I’ve known in the last five years. So, I’m sad to leave South America, but I think it’s a new challenge for us to go to Saudi Arabia because everyone will be on a level playing field. It’s a clean slate, so I think none of the competitors will have a real advantage in the first year in Saudi Arabia. Also, in Saudi Arabia, the difference in time zones is not that much from India, so the telecast will be on the same day, at the same time, making people in India feel more involved.
On another note, what are your views on the Hero XPulse 200?
I actually like this bike because, when I think about the time I started racing, I had my Suzuki Shaolin. That was a street bike and had no business going off-road! So, if I was able to take that bike and learn all skills that helped me to be who I am today, then I think the XPulse is miles better in terms of an entry-level off-road motorcycle. And since we’re on the topic, I can assure you that there are more things in store for the XPulse.