C.S. Santosh returns to the track with all cylinders blazing after a horrific accident

How far will you go to follow a lifetime’s passion? Most would throw in the towel when their lives are on the line. Despite a frightening accident at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge earlier this year, C.S. Santosh is set to pursue his love for motorbike racing. The Bangalorean, who suffered third-degree burns in a fire mishap in the middle of the desert, had to undergo two skin graft procedures to treat his injuries.

The multiple national motocross and supercross champion says he is “doing fine now”, and is fit and ready to attempt another dangerous challenge — the Raid De Himalaya. The Raid — it travels through some of the highest motorable passes in the Himalayas — is notorious for bringing down the best. As the defending champion, Santosh is well aware of the perils.

“I have ignored the advice of all the doctors. I do not have a death wish; I know I can do it,” he says, ahead of the rally. Santosh, however, did consider giving it all up after the incident at Abu Dhabi. Two operations to fix his face — the second procedure carried out after his skin started to peel off all over again — and months at the hospital certainly took its toll. “When I was lying in hospital at Abu Dhabi, I was convinced that I was done with racing. I wanted nothing to do with the sport. But as I got better, I felt the urge to get on the bike again,” he says.

When he did get back on the saddle, things began to fall in place. Santosh won the Gajaba Supercross in Sri Lanka in early September. A few days before the Raid begins, he enters a supercross event at Ahmedabad as favourite. The pièce de résistance will come next year, when Santosh returns to the Desert Challenge. “I want to go back. Everything was going along smoothly until the incident (his fuel tank caught fire),” he says, with a reassuring measure of self-confidence. Come October 5, Santosh will get his opportunity to win back-to-back titles when the Raid is flagged off at Shimla.