Dakar Rally: CS Santosh proves there`s more to India than cricket

Born in Bangalore, among the mangoes of his wealthy family`s plantation, Santosh Chunchunguppe Shivashankar`s interests should naturally have turned towards cricket, the national sport.

AFP| Last Updated: Jan 07, 2015, 10:09 AM IST
Dakar Rally: CS Santosh proves there`s more to India than cricket

Born in Bangalore, among the mangoes of his wealthy family`s plantation, Santosh Chunchunguppe Shivashankar`s interests should naturally have turned towards cricket, the national sport.

But the 31-year-old, better known as CS Santosh, is instead discovering the dangers of fesh-fesh as the first Indian to compete in the gruelling Dakar Rally.

"I tried badminton, golf, tennis, cricket, but I just couldn`t stick to it. And then it was the motorbike, and that was it. For me it`s destiny," CS Santosh told AFP.

Far from his family`s mango and perfume business, CS Santosh has been battling one of the most treacherous traps of the world of rallying -- fesh-fesh -- clay as fine as flour which gets everywhere and suffocates the engine.

He fought through this perilous dust to finish 50th in the second stage in Argentina, described as "torture" by Spanish race leader Joan Barreda Bort, and is now 53rd overall going into Wednesday`s fourth stage through Chile.

CS Santosh had sacrificed everything to follow his passion for motorcycling, giving up his studies and continuing despite a life-threatening accident.

"It was my first rally, in 2012, in Abu Dhabi," he explained. "I was on the floor, gasoline was leaking, and suddenly everything was on fire."

Suffering third degree burns, he was transported by helicopter to hospital and today still bears the scars, largely on his neck.

The accident didn`t calm the triple Indian rallying champion`s passion, and he has competed in the toughest races the sub-continent has to offer.

He raced twice in the Raid De Himalaya, winning in 2012, and won the Desert Storm rally, in Rajasthan in 2014.

Master within his borders, he then competed in the World Cup rally, which had three stages in 2014 -- Morocco, Abu Dhabi and Qatar.

In Abu Dhabi, he made it into the top 10, finishing 9th overall.Competing in the Dakar Rally is however the ultimate dream.

"It`s just a dream for me, the first time I saw those images on TV, I just told myself `you have to do it one day`. It`s like the Everest of rallying.

"At home, we all ride motorbikes, to commute. That`s why my dad bought me one. But I also went on to compete, which is something else."

He continued: "I had never imagined doing the Dakar. Offroad rallies are more than racing so the Dakar is the ultimate adventure.

"What worries me about the Dakar is the uncertainty. I really can`t predict what can happen. The best thing is to try and adapt and try to bring it home every day.

"Nevertheless, my goal is to make it in the Top 20. I hope that the fact I`m the first Indian to do it will open the eyes of many people.

"Rallying is getting bigger in India and there are more and more people riding motorbikes. If I do well, it`ll show that there isn`t only cricket in India."

In the meanwhile, the KTM rider`s short-term goal is simple: "I just want to be back at the bivouac every evening. And I want to see Buenos-Aires again, in eleven days!"