CS Santosh becomes first Indian to complete Dakar Rally
Buenos Aires, Jan 18: Bangalore-based Chunchunguppe Shivashankar Santosh created history when he became the first Indian ever to not just compete in but also complete the world's toughest cross-country race -- the Dakar Rally.
Riding a KTM 450 bike supported by Red Bull, Santosh finished overall 36th among 79 finishers out of 168 who started the gruelling event here Jan 5. The rally traversed three countries -- Argentina, Chile and Bolivia -- covering 9,295 km over a fortnight, before finishing here Saturday.
The 30-year-old Santosh clocked 60 hours, 39 minutes, 20 seconds while veteran Spaniard Marc Coma, on a factory-prepared and supported KTM, claimed the two-wheeler title with a time of 46:03:49 with a dominating performance that saw him win the last six of the 13 Special Stages.
A stern test of grit and wit
While finishing the rally, Santosh survived some tough moments. After starting in 85th position, Santosh climbed to 49th by the end of the second Special Stage.
Thereon, the going got tough as Santosh survived a few falls, an injured shoulder and a bleeding nose. He then suffered a fracture of the big toe on his left foot following a heavy fall in Stage 6. However, Santosh went on to complete the 318 km long stage at the end of which he was placed overall 52nd.
The Bengalurean moved up to 42nd at the end of the 784 km-long Stage 8 during which he carried out running 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 that he had to drain besides changing the filter. Despite the setbacks, Santosh bounced back to finish a creditable overall 36th.
Every day was a challenge: Santosh
"When I watched the Dakar 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.
"The sands of Chile were the toughest part but so was the second stage on the Argentinean 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," said Santosh, who has won many supercross and cross-country titles in India besides participating in international cross-country events.
The other Dakar 2015 winners were Poland's Rafa, Sonik, on a Yamaha in the Quads category, Nasser Al-Attiyah from Qatar, driving the X-Raid Mini topped among cars for the second time while Russian Ayrat Mardeev emerged champion in the truck category.
In all, 167 bikes, 45 Quads, 137 cars and 63 trucks took the start but not many survived the difficult conditions and terrain through three countries. Crossing the finish line were 79 two-wheelers, 18 Quads, 47 cars and 43 trucks.