C. S. Santosh to feature at Nexa P1 Powerboat race

Asked if he is at home in the waters, similar to his feel for the surfaces on a motorcycle across tough terrain, Santosh explained the varied challenges in P1.

C S Santosh (left) and Gaurav Gill, the two Indian drivers in Nexa P1 Powerboat Racing.   -  Nandakumar Marar

C. S. Santosh, a two-time finisher at the Dakar Rally, will be flying over the waters in a first-time appearance at the Nexa P1 Powerboat race in the sea off Marine Drive.

One of two Indians in the event, nicknamed Grand Prix of the Seas, he is driving for Baleno RS team (navigator Martin Robinson from England).

“Boating is a new experience on a different surface,” said the one-time motorcross ace, shifting to rallying and now chasing an adventure on the seas in a Panther boat. “I have traversed from dirt-track racing to cross-country rallying and now back to a sprint format.”

Santosh and fellow Indian Gaurav Gill (driver for Ultra Sharks in Powerboat racing) got a feel for boats under a former world champion in England.

To race the powerboat, you need to be certified. We trained in Southampton with Neil Holmes (ex-world champion). Me and Gaurav (Gill) passed in less than a week. From there we raced in Florida and understood from those races how different,” said the biker, adding: “I am an adventurer at heart. I could not pass up this opportunity to race powerboats.”

The first Indian to finish the Dakar Rally twice (2015 and 2017), he describes the change in feel from motorcycle to P1.

“Motorcycle is a way of expressing myself. I feel it is one of the most hardest sport to do. It has got three dimensions, balance being the most important part.

“In boat, you take that away. Motorsport is more dynamic, you use body weight. I can sit in the middle of a boat and achieve a good setup. You cannot do that on a motorcycle.”

Asked if he is at home in the waters, similar to his feel for the surfaces on a motorcycle across tough terrain, Santosh explained the varied challenges in P1.

“Going from a handlebar to a steering wheel is a big challenge. The motorcycle offers so much feedback compared to a powerboat. I can feel everything happening on a motorcycle. Staying stationary is really difficult. Some aspects I learnt to adapt. When we set up a boat well, I don’t have to wok that hard, fast lap times are possible.”

Having mastered dirt-track racing and got used to negotiating the shifting sand dunes in cross-country events, he is excited about PI as well.

“In motorcycle racing, you depend on yourself, here there is a team to help me. All the powerboats are same. You need to read the dunes which keep shifting at the Dakar Rally. In the riverbeds, there are rocks you cannot spot at high speeds. I have really good instincts and the most important thing is balance. Balancing the boat I enjoy.”

The Indian’s navigator, Robinson, is an experienced hand in P1, with 12 podium placings and 20 victories as navigator in powerboat racing. The Briton has won the PI overall championship for team Panther, teaming up with Nick Williams in 2015.

Santosh brings to Baleno RS a taste for adventure and winning habit, from Asian Motorsport Championship to the famous Dakar Rally in an exciting career. P1 is the latest adrenaline high for this Indian.