CS Santosh, the sole Indian rider in Dakar 2016, is out of the rally after stage 4 when an electrical fault on his Suzuki’s navigation tower eventually affected the whole bike, bringing it to an unceremonious halt.
Last year, in his first Dakar appearance, Santosh made headlines by finishing 36th overall out of 79 finishers, riding his KTM machine with an injured shoulder and a broken toe. He was the only Indian to participate in the Daker rally and finished it as well.
How was the Dakar experience for you this year?
Not so good. I started off full of optimism as it was my second Dakar and I did pretty well in the first one, finishing 36th, but right from day one I had problems. My roadbook didn’t work on the superspecial, and then I got water in the engine, and then finally, in Bolivia, the navigation tower broke and that messed up the electrics of the whole bike, so that was that. Physically this Dakar was a lot easier than last year as I was better prepared but in all other respects it was a bit of a disaster.
How does it feel to have an entire subcontinent cheering you, as the only Indian competitor in the Dakar?
After I came to the Dakar for the first time I didn’t actually think people would be that interested, but now it’s huge. I’ve had loads of media requests and it’s great that people are getting behind it. Bike racing in general in India is getting a big following: we have these dirt bike races in stadiums that regularly attract 15,000 people. And now everyone loves Dakar too.
Why is motorsport becoming so popular in India?
There’s the Force India Formula One team, but I think the main reason is that India actually is the third or fourth largest manufacturers of cars and bikes in the world. I think in time we’ll see a lot more motorsport coming out of India – this is just the beginning.
India is famous for motorbikes of course, with the classic Royal Enfields still made there. Have you ridden one?
Of course! Everyone loves the Enfields in India; they are perfect for the crazy traffic. The Enfield is a bike with a lot of character but you wouldn’t want to do any competitions on it! My dad had a similar old bike and we all grow up around motorbikes in India, dodging traffic. That’s where it all starts really. Even the people who don’t race bikes ride around with pretty good skills. I’m sure that’s got a lot to do with it.
Did you always want to race in the Dakar?
Not until quite recently. I don’t come from a motorsports background at all; I just discovered bikes as a way of getting around when I was 17. But I loved it straight away. Then I raced supercross and motocross at different levels in India for 10 years and after that I found my way into Cross Country rallying.
What’s the plan for the future?
I’m going to do at least three rounds of the Cross Country World Championship this year, and I think now I have the speed to be maybe in the top 20 in the Dakar. I want to realise that dream: that’s the future for me.
But your day job is quite different, isn’t it?
Very much so! We have a company that makes essential oils. There’s a herb that grows only in India, and it’s used in a lot of men’s fragrances. So if you’re smelling good, I’m sure we had something to do with it.
The only problem with that assumption is, by the second week of the Dakar, absolutely nobody is smelling good at all.
source : redbull.com