C.S. Santosh is no stranger to the tough demands of the Dakar Rally, having competed in five editions of the off-road endurance event. But this time around, there is a new challenge to conquer.
After a 10-year stint in South America, the 2020 edition of the rally moves to Saudi Arabia. Santosh and other competitors step into the unknown, with little idea of what to expect.
“Other than the UAE riders, none of the other riders have much of an idea about Saudi Arabia. All we know is that it is desert terrain. The key to success is to learn and adapt as quickly as possible,” Santosh told Sportstar in Bengaluru on Tuesday.
Santosh joked that apart from watching ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ - the cult British movie set in the region - he does not have many other ways to learn about the course. “This may be new, but no matter where you race, all deserts have similar characteristics. So I expect to facethe biggest, baddest desert out there,” Santosh, represented by ITW Consulting, said.
The 36-year-old rider is keen on improving on his Dakar record, which includes three finishes and a personal best of 34th in 2018. “I can confidently say that I want to finish the rally. If I finish, I will get a good result. I have to fulfil my full potential - that is the end goal,” he said.
The Bengalurean will represent Hero MotorSports Team Rally, and will use the specially-designed ‘450 Rally’ motorbike. “In previous years, I’ve struggled to find time to test the bike. But this year, I’ve spent a lot of time in training and testing. We just finished testing in Morocco, and we did two races back-to-back. I have a really good feeling about the bike,” Santosh said.
Santosh is well aware of the risks involved with the Dakar Rally, which has seen its fair share of serious and fatal rashes over the years. Santosh himself flirted with disaster in the 2019 edition, crashing in Stage 5 and retiring.
There is, however, no place for fear once he gets on the bike. “When I crashed, I was out cold for 45 minutes. Since I have no recollection of the crash or the aftermath, I have no fear in my memory. It was probably a good thing that I was knocked out,” he said, “Overall, I’m a pretty safe rider. I’ve always stayed within my limits without taking undue risks. The real struggle for me is to break past this ‘safe’ barrier and reach my speed expectations. At the end of the day, if lady luck is not on your side, there's not much you can do.”
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