Indian motocross rider CS Santosh accomplished an unprecedented feat by winning the gruelling Raid de Himalaya on his first-ever attempt.
The Bangalore rider, who has been a part of the TVS factory team competing in national and international supercross /motocross competitions, clinched the top spot in the two-wheeler extreme category astride a Honda 450F.
He managed to outpace the 2011 winner and Dakar finisher Helly Frauwallner from Austria in a straight fight over six days through one of the most inhospitable competitive terrain in the world.
The feat was made even more impressive by the fact that this was Santosh's first full-fleged rally, as he is used to competing in shorter, sprint-based supercross and motocross formats. Before this year’s Raid, his rallying experience was limited to crashing out of the opening stage of the K1000 back in 2003.
"This is by far my most cherished memory because not many people believed that a rider like me would be able to finish , let alone win the Raid in the first attempt", remarked Santosh.
Things didn't kick off on an ominous note though as he crashed on the very first transport stage thanks to a civilian rider who was on the wrong side of the road.
"I thought right there my rally was over even before it began but I picked up the bike and apart from some broken plastic luckily everything else was in order."
However, once on the competitive stages, he didn’t let the incident deter him from riding right to the ragged edge (literally!) despite knowing that a single error could be fatal. Standard raid issue sub-zero temperatures didn’t help and considering the fact that he was leading since day three, he was always the first on the road to face the uncertainty of the hostile terrain including the bikers’ worst enemy – black ice.
“The cold was unbearable day two onwards. It just eats at you and drains you out because you have to constantly fight it from taking over you.
“Being the first bike on the road didn’t help either; I ended up hitting ice on the stage and found myself on my head very quickly!”
Six days later though, all efforts paid off as he finished at the top of the two-wheeler/motoquad standings and commendably, finished almost an hour ahead of Suresh Rana’s Raid-winning Vitara.
“It is by far the most painful, physically and mentally demanding rally in this part of the world and I'm just glad that I have survived this battle and happy to be back home in the sunshine”, he signs off.