QUEEN'S ROAD: Chunchunguppe Shivashankar Santosh of Bengaluru made history when he became the first-ever Indian to take part in the Dakar Rally and also finish the world’s toughest cross-country race on his two-wheeler.
Astride his KTM 450 bike, the Red Bull rider finished overall 36th among 79 finishers out of 168 who lined up for the mind-boggling event held on January 5. The Dakar Rally traverses through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia and covers a total of 9,295 km over a fortnight.
Santosh clocked 60 hours, 39 minutes and 20 seconds. After starting in the 85th position, Santosh raced to be 49th by the end of the second special stage. He is believed to have had a few falls, an injured shoulder and a bleeding nose too. He also fractured the big toe on his left foot and had a heavy fall in Stage Six. But the gutsy Santosh completed the 318-km long stage, at the end of which he was placed overall 52nd. He moved up to be 42nd at the end of the 784 km-long Stage 8, during which he carried out repairs on his bike without any support.
Santosh lost precious time in the subsequent stages as he survived a river crossing that flooded the air-box, which he had to drain besides changing the filter. Despite the setbacks, Santosh bounced back to finish a creditable overall 36th, according to reports.
“When I watched the Dakar Rally on TV as a kid, I was fascinated by all the competitors who managed to finish the race. When you start an event like this one, you never know how far you’ll make it. Every day is a challenge, it’s really tough,” Santosh said after the race.
“The sands of Chile were the toughest part but so was the second stage on the Argentinian fesh-fesh in scorching heat. What I enjoyed the most was the last three specials in Argentina. The landscapes were jaw-dropping. I’ve opened the door. I’ve shown that it’s possible, an Indian can do it too. I hope there’ll be more of us in the future,” added Santosh.
A total of 167 bikes, 45 Quads, 137 cars and 63 trucks took the flag but at the finish line, there were only 79 two-wheelers, 18 Quads, 47 cars and 43 trucks. That sums up the tremendous achievement of Santosh.
“The last three days of the Dakar Rally coming back into Argentina were perhaps my best. Snaking through the woods and mountains on 300-km stages was spectacular. I’m happy that I found some speed towards the end of the rally. Already thinking of Dakar 2016,” Santosh posted on his Facebook page.
Santosh is the only rider to have won the 14th Raid De Himalaya Trophy on debut. A four-time Supercross Champion in the national circuit, Santosh has also won a number of races in the Sri Lankan and Asian Championships.
“I’m thrilled to be the first Indian to be at Dakar. From my crash at Abu Dhabi last year, which left me with third degree burns, to standing here right now, it’s been an amazing journey. The past two years have been those of rigorous training for me. With the support of my team at Kini Red Bull, I am moving forward and things look exciting...the real journey starts from here,” Santosh had said when his Dakar entry was announced.
From motocross and super cross to dirt tracks and rallies, Santosh has proved time and again that he is India’s best rider. Dakar 2015 has only confirmed that by miles - 900-plus to be exact.