Shivashankar Chunchunguppe Santosh - CS Santosh if you're in a hurry - formally announced his participation in the 2015 Dakar Rally that will be held from January 4 to 17 across Argentina, Chile and Bolivia at a press conference in Mumbai today. Santosh will become the first Indian rider to participate at the storied cross-country event.
Santosh's participation will be the second Indian representation at the Dakar Rally with Chennai-based TVS announcing a tie-up with French motorcycle company Sherco earlier this month. Sponsoring Santosh's attempt at the Dakar Rally for the first time ever will be Austrian riding gear manufacturer Kini Red Bull as well as the Pune-based S Balan Group that has been involved in sponsoring motocross events in India.
Santosh will ride a KTM 450 Rally that will be tuned by KTM Austria.
The process of securing a seat with the Austrian manufacturer that has claimed the last 13 Dakar Rally wins was not a straightforward one for the 31-year-old Bangalore-based rider, however.
While speaking to autoX even prior to the TVS announcement, Santosh revealed that he was tasked with raising 100,000 Euros in order to pay for the KTM seat and that finding sponsorship was hard to come by.
Undaunted, Santosh persisted and managed to strike a deal with what he hopes to be a long-term and fruitful partnership with the S Balan Group before Red Bull stepped in later. The Dakar Rally attempt is - in Santosh's mind - a natural progression for the multiple motocross and supercross champion who won the Raid de Himalaya on the first attempt in 2012.
Participation in the 2013 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship followed although a near fatal burn accident in that year's Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge put Santosh out of action for most of the year.
This year Santosh competed in three of the six events of the championship and finished in the top ten in Abu Dhabi and the Sealine Cross-Country Rally in Qatar; he finished an overall eighth in Qatar. He was classified ninth in the championship standings out of a total of 127 classified riders.