Desert Storm: a piece of cake for Santosh

CS Santosh zips his way to victory at the Desert Storm 2015. But we caught up with him.

The name CS Santosh has become synonymous with speed and success. Last 12 months have been uber successful for CS Santosh – the fastest Indian on two wheels. The string of successes started with a win at Desert Storm 2014 which then resulted in his top 10 finish at the World Cross Rallies Championship and he then progressed on to participate at the Dakar. For this very reason, Santosh decided to revisit the Desert.
Not surprisingly, the defending champion notched up another win. But he simply didn’t just win it, he went ahead and annihilated the competition, winning the rally by more than 1 and half hour.
For days after the Dakar Rally, you were still on road to recovery. So, how and when did you manage to prepare for the Desert Storm?
I only trained for 10 days. Basically, I just relied on my Dakar experience. I was used to riding for long stages and hence I knew 10 days of training would be sufficient.
You had already the Desert Storm last year; after the Dakar, shouldn’t you have rested more and be ready for the season opener in March instead of participating at Desert?
Desert Storm and Raid de Himalaya are two of the biggest and most prestigious events in India. The organizers are really nice and were really keen on having me in the event.
Besides, last year, I participated and won the Desert, and my rest of the year went fantastic. Hence, I just wanted to come here once again and start this year on an auspicious note.
But, till the very end you weren’t sure whether you’re going to participate in the event or not. There was a lot of back and forth going on. What exactly was the issue?
Yes, there was a lot of back and forth. Basically, I had ordered parts for my bike from Japan and there was a bit of uncertainty about when they would reach me. I had to get my bike’s gearbox changed and the new one was being shipped from Japan. Fortunately, I got it on time and I was able to confirm my participation for the event.

Which bike did you ride this year?

The same as I rode last year – Suzuki RMX450.
So what’s the difference between this bike (Suzuki RMX450) and the one you rode in Dakar (KTM 450)?
The Suzuki is an endure bike. It’s not as highly modified as the KTM. For example, the Suzuki doesn’t require a very big fuel tank – it’s only 11.5 litres, as compared to the 30 litre tank on the KTM. Also, unlike KTM, on this Suzuki, there are no heavy navigation equipment. It’s a much sober bike compared to the Dakar one, but it does the job for an event like Desert Storm.
Not only were you the defending champion, you were also the most accomplished rider at the event given your Dakar experience. With no stiff competition for you, were you taking things a bit too easy?
Nope. I was pushing myself all the time. You’re right, there wasn’t anyone hot on my heels and hence, I wasn’t required to fight for those few minutes to stay ahead. Having said that, I was going as fast as I possibly could. In fact, the organizers told me that I was the only guy who was flying all along.
To be honest, I am a pretty safe rider and I don’t take undue risks expect for on straight. But at this year’s event, I took a lot of chances on crests and blind corners; I was relying on my gut. I was constantly trying to improve my speed and go even faster than last year. To be honest, it was more like me against myself.
Which was the toughest stage of all (at Desert Storm 2015)?
Though I’m used to most of the stages at the Desert Storm, the day 3 stage was a new introduction. That stage was very technical. Physically demanding, too. It’s pretty similar to the stages at Dakar. I knew I’d nail it but I really liked this new addition.
You’re now one of the most experienced and successful riders in the Indian racing scene. At the event, you must be getting a lot of young riders reaching out to you to learn from your experience.
Yes, I like sharing my knowledge and experience with others. There were a few young guys at the Desert. I gave them tips about composure and balance during long runs. It always feels nice to see enthusiasm of young, budding racers.
Speaking of experience, at the other end of spectrum was Mr. Vijay Parmar – one of the veterans of the industry and the mastermind of Raid de Himalaya – who participate at this year’s Desert Storm. When two experienced racers like you and him meet, what do you discuss?
Yes, Mr. Parmar is a very colourful character. It’s always great catching up with him. He’s much senior and he’s raced in a completely different era. It’s always nice to speak to him and listen to his stories about how rally used to be in his days.
Both of us were there for two totally different objectives. I just wanted to better myself while he was there just to enjoy the rally.
For you, as far as Indian rallies are concerned, you’ve “been there, done that.” There’s nothing more to prove. So would you still come back and participate in Raid de Himalaya and Desert Storm?
Like I said, these two are the biggest and the best events in India. Due to my busy international racing schedule, it surely is difficult to find time and participate in these but whenever I can, I’ll do it. Desert Storm was my lucky charm last year, and I had a fantastic 2014 post my win at the Desert. Now that I’ve won in 2015, I hope the tradition continues this year too. And for this very reason, I will keep coming back.
So what’s next?
I’m off to Dubai to participate at the Baha Rally. It’s a 30 km. race. It’s more like a race than a rally – only difference is that instead of a track, it’s run on a desert and it’s 30 km long.
With the first race of Cross Rallies World Championship just around the corner, why are you going to Dubai?

I don’t get many opportunities to ride in desert. I barely ride for 10-15 days in a year on the desert. Marc Coma and Sam Sanderland are also going to participate. It will be a good exposure for me. Let’s see where I stand at the end of the race.