Against some heavily stacked odds, India’s Dakar Rally pioneer is off again to fly the flag at the epic trans-continental event.
Unseen to many, CS Santosh’s 36th place finish at the 2015 Dakar Rally left the 32-year-old from Bangalore more than just a little worse for wear. He had rustled up the money required to pay for a KTM privateer ride almost entirely out of his own pocket, which left him financially hurting and unable to compete in any rounds of the 2015 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Cup.
Participation in events on the 2014 calendar had been a crucial part of getting ready for the most gruelling rally on the planet. Gruelling not only on account of the physical strain it takes someone riding a motorcycle to cover 9,000km in timed and transport stages across the harsh wilds of South America. But also due to a big difference in the way cross country rallies in India are held in comparison to the Dakar.
Navigation takes a lot out of riders on account of there being no GPS to help them from point A to B. All they have to their disposal is a roadbook.
Above anything else, Santosh says that it is a skill that requires – first and foremost – trust. One needs to trust what is on the roadbook that is prepared by the organizers who have recced the event beforehand. Trust is something Santosh admits to have had issues with before, but he feels he is ready to be more forthcoming this time around.
Not just for the sake of doing better at the Dakar, but also because he has a reason to be in a more positive state of mind going into the event this time around. While making it clear that another campaign with KTM in the near future is out of the question, Santosh has found a manufacturer who he claims is as interested in his growth as an international rider as he is.
A massive personnel shake-up within Suzuki India has led to the rise of people who appreciate Santosh’s efforts as well as that of cross-country riders in general. This is aligned to the impending growth of the off-road motorcycle segment in India, which Suzuki wants to be a part of.
A key component of the plan is a rider as accomplished as Santosh riding and testing their bikes to help with product development. It is one of the reasons why Suzuki, along with CEAT and Red Bull considered it worthwhile to help Santosh train for two months in Spain as well as in Rajasthan just before the Dakar in order to prepare.
Hopefully backing like that will instill the trust that Santosh feels he needs in order to step things up a notch this time around.