Faith in god keeps fear at bay, says India’s top biker Santosh

Life on the fast lane is fraught with perils but India’s top endurance biker C S Santosh says he overcomes the fear of not making it back home from a race by keeping faith in god.

C. S. Santosh had finished 36th in 2015, his best so far. He did not finish in 2016 while he was 47th last year.   -  K. MURALI KUMAR

Life on the fast lane is fraught with perils but India’s top endurance biker C S Santosh says he overcomes the fear of not making it back home from a race by keeping faith in god.

The 34-year-old is one of the two Indians competing in the prestigious-but-perilious Dakar Rally, which is considered the world’s toughest off-road race.

He is competing in the bike category for Hero MotoSports team. The other Indian is KP Aravind who is representing TVS Racing.

“In a race like this, nothing is guaranteed. I might start but the first kilometre itself anything can happen. It is not like a tennis match that after the match I am going to go home. For me, I don’t know if I am going to make home everyday. So, I keep a lot of faith in the man upstairs (God),” Santosh said.

“Motorsport is different. You put your life on the line.

I have some belief and faith on the higher power,” he added.

Santosh had a near fatal accident in May 2013 during the third stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, when a fire ignited due to the fuel spilling from his bike left him with third degree burns.

The incident led to a few beliefs that he holds quite close to his heart. He always wears his right boot first and carries his mother’s watch as a lucky charm.

“Yes, I am superstitious but I need to do that. Not only me, all the riders do something or the other like that,” Santosh said.

He also said that he does not speak to his parents and other family members during the rally to avoid distractions.

“I don’t speak to anybody, I am just here myself to do my job and enjoy doing that. Home reminds me of comfort. I want to suffer for two weeks and go back home. Then I will have my whole lot of people to enjoy with but now I need to these focus on these two weeks,” he said.

“Dakar is very tough, especially the sand dunes here (in the Peru part of the rally). In India, I only race in dirt tracks. Here there are no roads. I have never experienced conditions like this,” he said.

The overbearing heat is another factor that Santosh finds challenging.

“The weather is hot. The dunes like over here I have never experienced. They were massive, huge and soft. I don’t think a lot of cars can finish. There were some places in the dunes where there are massive rocks immediately after that,” he said.

“Dakar is such a tough event, the body takes a beating.

One thing is to work but also to work smart and bring your game to the competition. I want to get out of Peru safely.

That is my first priority. Bolivia is going to be hot and wet and that will be a different challenge,” he added.

The 9000-km long rally will enter Bolovia in the next few days and it will end at Cordoba in Argentina on January 20.

Santosh had finished 36th in 2015, his best so far. He did not finish in 2016 while he was 47th last year.

Oriol Mena impresses

With the third stage of the Dakar Rally moving from Pisco to a very windy and dusty San Juan De Marcona, Spanish debutant rider Oriol Mena of Hero MotoSports Team Rally overcame tough navigation to clock-in a fast time and finish the stage at the 13th place.

During the stage, he also stopped for a few minutes to help a fellow competitor who crashed in front of him. This may result in a time refund, which will further improve his rankings. By finishing the stage at 13th place, Mena also broke into the top 20 in overall rankings at the 20th position, pending the time refund decision.

On the other hand, C S Santosh lost a lot of time as he ran out of fuel, 30 km short of finish, due to a loose fuel cap. As a result, he slipped down in the rankings, closing the Stage 3 at 101st position and overall at 57th. With nine more stages pending, he will aim to make up for as much lost time as possible.