Who is CS Santosh and why should you give a fuck?

By | January 16, 2015

“See, another crash! I fell about 10 times in all that slush. What’s the point if I don’t feel good and don’t push it? I am trying to be safe but I must ride in that zone which allows me to retain my own self respect.”

Imagine if there was a boxing match that ran for 14 days straight. Imagine if there was a 2 week football game where you could get off the field only at night. Imagine if you and your motorcycle were let loose for a fortnight in a jungle of rocks and rivers and slush and rain and sand and scalding heat and freezing cold, and you had to find your own way through it all, while trying your best to not die, but also be as fast as possible.

Welcome to Dakar.

Since its inception in 1978, over 60 people have died during the course of this rally-raid. Competitors have to cross anywhere from 200 to 900 kms in a day, on terrains where people like you and me wouldn’t dare to cross 10 kmph. Less than 50% of people who start the rally make it till the end.

“The race originated in December 1978, a year after Thierry Sabine got lost in the Ténéré desert whilst competing in the Abidjan-Nice rally and decided that the desert would be a good location for a regular rally.”

You have to appreciate the sheer amount of madness that has to be flowing through your veins to do something like this. Sabine organized the rally till 1986, which was then taken over by his father after he died in a helicopter crash during the event. This is a race that had to be cancelled in 2008 due to “terrorist threats” in the regions the participants were supposed to go through. This is a race Osama Bin Laden’s son attempted to be a part of. This is a race in which Fabrizio Meoni, who won the race in 2001 and 2002, crashed and died during the 2005 event.

Dakar is not like MotoGP or Formula 1, it’s not a competition that’s welcomed with open arms. The race has been described as “vulgar display of power and wealth in places where men continue to die from hunger and thirst.” and “colonialism that needs to be eradicated”. But people still do it.

Baye Sibi, a 10-year-old Malian girl, was killed by a racer while she crossed a road. A film crew’s vehicle killed a mother and daughter in Mauritania on the last day of the race. Racers were blamed for starting a wildfire that caused a panic on a train running between Dakar and Bamako, where three more people were killed. A five-year-old Senegalese girl was hit and killed by a service lorry after wandering onto a main road. A 10-year-old boy died while crossing the course after being hit by a car driven by Latvian Māris Saukāns. A 12-year-old boy was killed after being hit by a support lorry. A woman watching the Dakar Rally was killed when a vehicle taking part in the race veered off the course and hit her during the opening stage.

Why do people still do it? To answer that question, all you have to ask yourself is “Why does anyone do anything?”. There are people who spend their life in the safety of certainty, each day doing the same things till they die. There are people who like a bit of adventure, but only enough to get their heart racing for a second. Then there are people who spend their life on the edge, one move away from certain death. The last kind may not live long, but they do truly live.

CS Santosh is one of them.

The 31 year old, 6 foot, 72 kg lad from Karnataka has been the lone wolf in the Indian adventure biking scene since the last 10 years. He started participating in international events from 2010, winning India’s toughest rally, the Raid De Himalaya, in an incredible first attempt. He then went on to bag 9th position in the World Cross Country Championship, which is like a proving ground for future Dakar participants.

Riding a number 59 KTM 450 rally bike and supported by Red Bull, CS Santosh became the first Indian to participate in the history of Dakar, which is going on as you read this, through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia on a looping 9,000 km route, ending January 17 2015.

Did he bite more than he could chew?

Out of the 160 riders, he started in 85th position. By the end of stage 2 he had climbed up to 50th. Stages 4 and 5 saw him jump up the order, while he fell multiple times injuring his left shoulder and getting a bleeding nose. 15 kilometers into Stage 6, he had a bad fall while overtaking and got a fracture on the big toe of his left foot. What does he do about that? Three injections, tight taping, and an unbelievable 64th position at the end of the 318 km stretch. And the story doesn’t end there.

Through the 784 kms long treacherous stage 8, which required him to service/repair his bike without any support, he recorded his best finish yet, ending in 32nd position after starting from 65th. In the following stages he would have to jump start his bike, nearly get swept away by a freak river, injure his right shoulder, and spend 30 minutes draining the air box and changing the filter. Once he made it to the destination, he had no energy left, even to get off the bike. Shivering and unable to speak, he was warmed up with a good shower and some traditional Bolivian clothes.

“It’s just getting to be crazy. Even in the best physical shape of my life I am so tired that I can hardly stand. The Dakar is excruciating,”

“See, another crash! I fell about 10 times in all that slush. What’s the point if I don’t feel good and don’t push it? I am trying to be safe but I must ride in that zone which allows me to retain my own self respect.”

“It’s all these pills I am popping. I can’t feel any pain. So I am going full pep where I can.”

“It’s ok, I can handle it.”

As we speak, CS Santosh stands at 36th position, with a few more stages to go. You may think “36th only?”, but that would only mean you don’t see the complete picture.

KTM Factory rider and one of the upcoming stars of Dakar Sam Sunderland crashed out of the rally in stage 4. The British rider suffered collarbone and shoulder injuries.  39 year old Polish competitor Michal Hernik died while racing stage 3 of the course, his body was found roughly 300 meters off the course’s path. Tests performed later by doctors suggest that Hernik succumbed to dehydration and hypothermia. He was an experienced rider, but this was his first Dakar outing. CS Santosh shared his spare tyre set with race leader and 4 time Dakar champ Marc Coma, without which he may have lost a lot of time, if not the rally.

Everyone crashes, only some ride again. Which brings us to the second part of this article.

Why should you give a fuck?

You don’t have to. Chunchunguppe Shivashankar Santosh doesn’t care, I don’t care, nobody does. All you have to do is remember that while you drool over Kohli’s advertisements or mourn Dhoni’s retirement or celebrate Ronaldo’s Ballon d’Or, there’s somebody out there representing India, doing something that’s never been done before, without getting much support from the media or sponsors.

CS Santosh is a pioneer in the Indian motorcycling world, what he has achieved is even bigger than winning the Isle of Man TT or the MotoGP world championship in my opinion. Dakar represents the epitome of human lunacy, IOMTT feels like kids playing in the park in front of it. Being part of it is an honor that very few people deserve. I don’t care what position he ends up with, or if he finishes the race at all, I will always respect him for his heavy, hairy, hamburger sized balls.

********************

UPDATE: He did it! CS Santosh has unbelievably completed the Dakar rally in his first attempt, finishing a remarkable 36th!

  • hypnoticman

    Just WOW! This man is a motivation for all.

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  • Harsha

    Make no mistake.. For Santosh, the journey has just started.. Winning is the finish line.. Winning on the world stage..

  • jay

    LOL.. I bet Sunderland’s intend was to get as many stage wins and probably WIN the dakar rather just finish… So no comparison.. sorry.

  • jayan

    A Super Great Achievement by Santosh! Respect…
    But in the article the comparison with Sam Sunderland was not necessary, Sam’s got a stage win on this Dakar and he is all over the news 😛

    • Hehe, that’s why the comparison mate! Even a guy like him couldn’t finish tbe rally.

  • Madhan

    Great going Santosh, you made us proud.

  • Excellent ….Made us all proud…..

  • Massive Respect!here’s wishing that u cross many milestones n make india proud..You’re the man!!
    Excellent write up Akhil..till now was only rooting for Yazeed AlRajhi..:)

    • Thanks Asra! CS Santosh has definitely made India proud 🙂

  • Keerthan

    This is probably the best article describing how proud Santosh has made us. I agree to each and every sentence and word mentioned in the article written by Akhil except for the last one – IOMTT feels like kids playing in the park in front of Dakar…..??

    IOMTT is at a different league, many bikers have lost their lives in this as well. The prize money for TT isn’t very high nor is there fame in it like F1 or Moto GP but its still called as the God of all Races (almost) cz of the sheer thrill risk involved in redlining a litre class bike on streets for hundreds of kilometres with a lot of twisties!

    • Hey Keerthan, yep IOMTT is a different league, I used it as a figure of speech to try and explain how prestigious Dakar really is 🙂

  • I first met C.S. Santosh in Hyderabad in Oct 2013 when he told me he was setting up Big Rock. In Mar 2014 I went for a 2 day off road course to Big Rock and have been a fan of Santosh ever since. I am 54 now and while useful on a bike I typically ride cautiously and sometimes don’t trust the bike. Over those two days in March, Santosh personally trained me. He was patient, he was attentive, never dismissive. The facilities at Big Rock were superb and I felt right at home. In every aspect Santosh demonstrated professionalism and when the guests were taken care of he went for his workout. I had driven my bike down from Hyderabad to Big Rock. When I rode from there to Chennai via Blr I was doing 140 and feeling much more in control than when I was doing 110 before the training. Yes, I took the off road course because I suspected that knowing what to do in those conditions would help on road driving, but it was Santosh that helped me overcome 20 year mind-block related to Motorcycling.
    It is my hope that Santosh’s success leads to two-wheeler riders in India not being so rash in their driving. For all Santosh does on his bike he does not endanger others and takes every precaution to not endanger himself.
    Good on him.
    Vishnu

    • Thanks for sharing your experience Vishnu! Dirt riding always helps with road riding 🙂

  • Deepak Naidu

    What a moment for CS! And the motor cycling enthusiasts in India! Good article too. Kudos to Akil. I was looking for some news about CS in the newspapers but dint notice anything!
    Its time the nation ups the ante about supporting motor sports and encourage talents like CS. This could help create awareness about the beauty of Motorsport which will help create many more stars like CS!
    Cheers
    Deepak Naidu

    • True man, and God knows we need more stars in motorsports!

      I think he has been occasionally mentioned in newspapers, but nowhere near the front page. Things need to change and fast.

  • Manjunath Rajam

    Respect! I got goose bumps reading the article. Truly a icon and making India proud. Sadly as you mentioned not much of media or recognition just because he doesn’t endorse any products?
    Very well written. Cheers to Santosh. And thanks for the wonderful write up Akhil 🙂

    • It’s the other way around, he doesn’t endorse any products becaue he doesn’t get much media attention 🙂 I’m sure things will change.

      Glad you liked the article!

  • Shame on me to not have known about a guy like this and still call myself a biker buff, Santosh is an inspiration to the country’s thousands of passionate bike riders. This unimaginable feat is godly and a gift to every biker of India. May God shower you with all the prosperity you rightfully deserve. Helmets Off!!

  • Amazing feat I suppose only a motor sport(rally) enthusiasts will understand.
    You made us proud Css.
    Thanks Akhil for penning this.
    Shekar. Bangalore.

    • True, most people don’t even know what Dakar is!

  • lovely article, and very well written Akhil,..hats off to Santosh CS,..legend in the making!

    • Thanks Ashish! I’d say he already is one 🙂

  • Shrirang

    We all are proud to have him. Now I hope the MEDIA will take a note of this remarkable performance rather than concentrating on Cricket only. We all in motor sports fraternity of India salute him for his achievement.

  • george

    Respect..

  • Dilip Prashanth

    The best part is he makes it look so easy. Determination and that brutal aggression to take on such a challenge is nicely harnessed.
    Once again awesome write up!

    • He really did make it look very easy! Thanks 🙂

  • Purujit

    Very well written….man of steel indeed….wishing him well for the future……very well done CS….proud & respect

    • He’s going places for sure Purujit 🙂

  • Jacob

    Hats off Mr. C.S.Santhosh. Feeling proud of you. Best wishes.

  • Aldrin Samuel

    No words ,just tears rolling down as his personal mechanic and as well his well wisher, we started together and will be forever…thnx guys for all your support..just waiting in the finish line of glory to welcome our own Indian tiger while reading this article!!!!!

    • So nice to hear from someone who’s part of the action Aldrin! He couldn’t have done it without you 🙂

      Please tell him we understand the magnitude of his achievement. He’s a champion and a hero!

  • Dilip Anjaria

    What an achievement this will be, an Indian finishing the Dakar rally! Nothing less than a world championship or an Olympic medal. Nice write up Akhil, Cheers.

    • True Dilip, it’s an amazing feat of endurance!

  • Neville

    It’s now the #sharpend you’ve left #thebestforlast! Improving by 1/2 a dozen places with each completed stage. Just like you, every competitor left in the race is nursing an injury & a weary body, the equipment is fatigued, participants are running out of serviceable spares, you show magnamity by offering up your condition spare to the race leader so he may push on, you keep the focus & persist as others stagger & falter from the #tollofthedakar, you have earned the recognition & respect of this elite group of athletes, in a race that is as much #atestofcharacter as a test of ability, cause you’re made from #thestuffofchampions.

  • Peter Trinidad aka SenhorPedro

    Bravo! Maybe I can sponsor him a set of tyres mate. I am serious in a funny way because this article makes me stand up and sound a clap to the guy. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

    • Hey Peter, I think the best we can do now is to give him some media attention, sponsorships will follow soon 🙂

  • DEM_C

    WHAT A WRITE UP!!! DAMN!!! MUCH RESPECT BROTHER 🙂

    I pity those who are addicted to those puny games and never know whats happening with real sports in India. And real talents like CS Santhosh, Sarath Kumar, Karun, Ashwin, Narain, KP Aravind and many others who are struggling in this field and achieving so much in International level without minimal support from the so called “Sports” Authority of India or the Govt. and the shameless media which is more worried about who sleeps with who and who ran away with whom…

    Kudos to all of you people out there supporting the most neglected sport in India!!!

    Shared.

    • True mate, we are too obsessed with too few sports, not to mention the bureaucracy and the corruption. Hope things change for the better soon!

  • Manwinder Singh Gill

    We should be proud of him. I am proud of him,,,,, representing Paris dakar itself is an achievement, hats off to u,,

    • True Manwinder, it’s an honor in itself!

  • Dhawal Makwana

    I am happy that atleast one website is taking a stand for CS Santosh who is unknown to most of us Indians. In a country where motorsport is termed as dangerous and almost illegal, there is one guy proving everybody else wrong and making us proud.
    Yes motorsport is dangerous, but if done the right way with proper schooling and training and dedication it isn’t as dangerous as sitting in front of a television with your hands down your pants.

    As for IOMTT, I really wish it was broadcasted here in India. People would know that MotoGP and F1 is like a walk in the park holding your mommy and daddy’s hands. I am not saying that MotoGP and F1 arent dangerous, they are , and they should be for the love of motorsport. But the IOMTT is about a million times more passion and aggression than most road races. Not just the IOMTT, the Macau GP, Ulster GP, Northwest 200, Dakar Rally.. This is where men are separated from the boys. Surf youtube for any video of the above GP’s and get out of your house to stand under your building in the bylane and imagine a motorcycle fly-bying at an average of 136mph on the same width of the road. I am not saying Dakar is not as good. But all road races are a testament to the sheer amount of passion every road racer has.

    Once again, Thank you for the appreciation you have shown in your article.

    DM

    • I wish all of these races were known to the Indian janta too Dhawal! They are dangerous in their own way, and require the same level of dedication as Dakar does. My aim was not to belittle IOMTT or MotoGP in any way, but just use them as a known parameter in a figure of speech 🙂

      • Dhawal Makwana

        Of course, No offense at all. In fact I am happy that some one took the pains of highlighting the motorcycle demigods and not just write an article about how ugly the new Hero Karizma is.

        • LOL, I’ve done that too, but this one was too important to miss!

  • Superbly written article, hope the media will sit up and take notice of his achievement. Hats off CS, 3 cheers.

  • Ayush Chauhan

    to inspire respect for someone, you don’t have to point out the flaws in others. Loved the article but for the last 2 paragraphs.

    • Hehe, it was meant as a comparison my friend! Glad you loved at least some part of it 🙂

  • Fantastic article !!!! No words can explain this achievement . Truly incredible and has outdone himself and everyone’s expectations . Hats off

  • Sats Kommana

    Brilliant show, CS Santosh! You now remain the ‘Unsung Hero’ as this vast nation just slept through your representation in the Dakar 2015 and stamping India’s mark in the event 1st time ever! 3-Cheers and Good-Luck for the next Dakar in 2016 in advance!

    • There’s still time, hope people notice!

  • Dev

    Amazing write up!

  • vishal

    3-Cheers to CS Santosh…

  • gaurav

    Great work Akhil lovely article ….he needs our support n respect .. Glad to see Indian right up there participating …

    • Thanks man! He could definitely use some media attention 🙂

  • Respect to CS Santosh! Have been following him ever since. He’s a winner already by just participating for the event.

    As far as the write-up goes, you’ve did it again. (Y)

  • Swas

    Good write up mate …! (Y)

    • Thanks! He deserves this and much more 🙂

      • Dr.Kumar Pabbathi

        Thrilled to see an Indian with such great achievement. Kudos to Santosh.