National Supercross champion C.S. Santosh talks about his win in the tough Himalaya rally

Four-time national Supercross champion C.S. Santosh has raced all over Asia, but his maiden competition in the Himalayas recently proved to be a one-of-a-kind experience. The racer not only won the gruelling Maruti Suzuki Raid De Himalaya rally, he also got the opportunity to compete in locations, which seemed straight out of a postcard. The Raid travelled through Lahaul, Spiti, Ladakh and Zanskar, some of the highest motorable passes in the world.

“The Himalayas is like another planet. The mountain ranges changed colour as I rode along, because of the different minerals present there. It would start with orange, then turn to green etc. It was all so beautiful, just like paintings. We raced through valleys, rivers beds, and all along it reminded us about how insignificant we are,” an excited Santosh says.

The beautiful background, however, came with a peril hard to ignore - a narrow dirt road on a mountain with nothing to prevent a fall. “In the first stage, I came to a dirt road, about six feet wide. The road has no railings, and you can actually see the one kilometre drop on the side. There’s nothing to save you from falling off the cliff, not even trees. The dangers sunk in only then. It is so extreme with its inhospitable terrain.”

Another challenge

After negotiating this challenge successfully, it was time for another, though this threat was not as obvious. “As you climb up the mountain, you get more ice on the track. In Bangalore or wherever else, we don’t understand what ice on the road even means. On the second day, I was trailing the leader and defending champion Helly Frauwallner by 30 seconds. I wanted to get the lead in this stage, because the next stage was a steep climb which reduced my chances of gaining time.

“I came around a corner, and the road was glistening. I thought ‘Okay, maybe this is ice’. I didn’t do anything too different, just rode a little more cautious than usual. And before I knew it, I was on flat on my back. You see, when ice is formed, you need to ride on the lowest possible point on the tyre tracks the other riders have already made. If you ride on the top portion of the track, the ice will make you slide down and crash. You learn these intricate details only when you experience these conditions.”

Santosh dusted himself off, got back on the bike and gained the lead at the end of the stage. Frauwallner crashed here during his attempt as well; he sustained a bloody nose and lost valuable time. The Bangalorean, riding for TVS Racing, maintained his lead, and achieved his maiden rally victory.

Santosh talks at length about the bike he used. “My friend Aldrin, who works in Dubai, helped me put together a Honda CRF 450 RR for the Raid. A rally bike needs navigation, so we mounted one in the front of the bike. It had two fuel tanks, nine litres in the front, and a four-litre tank at the back. We installed off-road tyres with mousse because the sharp edged rocks and boulders there were bound to rip the tyres, and mousse quickly seals the tyres back. The bike had an after-market exhaust and electricals.”

The racer has begun his transition from Supercross to rallies with a big win, and plans to compete in the World Cross Country Rally championship in Abu Dhabi after the Maruti Suzuki Desert Storm through the Thar desert in February next year.

Supercross champion C.S. Santosh talks about his win in the Himalaya rally