The road to CS Santosh’s third Dakar Rally goes through the expected pre-event prep, but also time spent at Big Rock Motopark, his happy hunting ground.
A lot has changed for CS Santosh since he won the Raid de Himalaya on his debut attempt in 2012. By now his name is well-known as the first Indian to score top-ten finishes in FIM World Cross Country World Championship events and, of course, this year’s Dakar Rally won’t be his first time in motorsport’s toughest crucible.
But it will be the first time that he will be competing in it as a factory rider, the fact that it is with India’s biggest two-wheeler company is a bonus. Hero is as keen to associate its brand with the kind of excellence and prestige that an event like the Dakar represents as Santosh is to take a good crack at the event without having to worry about funding. The association is possibly one of the reasons that the normally calm Santosh looks even more relaxed these days. Or maybe it could just have to do with where autoX caught up with him prior to his grand South American adventure.
Some 85 kilometers from Bengaluru, off the Bengaluru-Tirupathi highway in Shapur, is Santosh’s family farm. Right next to the farm is Big Rock Motopark, a facility set up by him in 2013 with the intention of giving those new to riding on dirt an initiation as well as training himself and working with other riders who happen to go there.
I must stress that one does need to have had some experience of riding regularly to be able to sign up for the weekend courses for beginner dirt riders. Otherwise – as I found out myself – you are likely to get a withering look from the former national supercross champion if you are as green to riding as I am.
“That doesn’t really inspire a lot of confidence!” said Santosh as I told him the last time I rode a two-wheeler other than a scooty was a Luna moped that I crashed some 24 years ago.
Well now how could he blame me? I only honestly answered that I had never ridden on dirt after which Santosh mischievously suggested that I should get at least a tiny fraction of a taste of what he does at a world class level.
Through the process of being able to start the bike, riding off without stalling, going up the gears and being smooth on the throttle, there was of course, plenty of inquiries regarding the real business at hand.
“This year is just for us (Hero) to get a start really,” said Santosh. “The engine of the Speedbrain bike is one of the best out there but it’s an old frame and not all that well suited to what we will encounter in South America. But Dakar 2018, you will see an all-new bike from the frame up.”
Aside from talking about his Dakar chances, I got the sneaking suspicion that Santosh wanted some entertainment at my expense. Which got confirmed later when he confessed to being disappointed at me not falling while riding on his motocross track as he was hoping to take some photos! Santosh meant no malice of course and even got me appreciating the feeling of being one with a bike – a Honda CRF230F – after showing me how to channel the body’s limbs so that a motorcycle becomes an extension of you. It almost made me feel like the bike wasn’t even there. Now I have a tiny reference point that I can magnify a few thousand times over to appreciate what Santosh does for a living. And it is quite incredible.