Hero MotoSports rider CS Santosh says he will take an aggressive approach in Dakar next month as he aims for a top 20 result in the world’s toughest rally.
Santosh remains the only Indian rider to finish Dakar, having done so thrice during the last four years - including two in a row for current employer Hero.
He secured a best finish of 35th in the 2018 event early this year, and believes he needs to take “more risk” to improve on that result on his fifth attempt.
“I need to push my limits a little more”, Santosh told reporters including Motorsport.com India. “I would say I ride a notch less lower than I could ride.
“This year I want to stick to my plan of doing the best I could on the stage and take a little bit more risk trying to achieve that.
He added: “Last year I had plans to be more competitive. But I ran into some problems and usually in Dakar when you have one problem, it leads to another problem and another problem.
“So I had two big crashes, plus the fuel issue. The whole time I spent trying to dig myself out of a hole.
“And this Dakar I think for that I want to be able to have a better race, manage the race better and I think I will end up surprising myself.
“We can put together 10 days of consistent racing. It doesn’t have to be really really high or really really low. Consistent performance and I think I’ll be able to get a good result.”
Asked what kind of results he is looking for, Santosh insisted that his target has always been to finish among the first 20 riders.
“Like I’ve always said from the time I finished my first Dakar, I want to be competitive,” Santosh said.
“I think I’ve achieved a top 35 finish but in the world I’d like to be a top 20 guy. That’s the first step to improving. If I can achieve that that will be really really happy.”
#49 Hero MotoSports Team Rally: CS Santosh
Photo by: Hero MotoSports Team Rally
The 2019 Dakar rally, which is scheduled from January 6-17, will run entirely in Peru, with 70% of the terrain comprising sand.
Santosh and the entire Hero team has devoted much of this year’s preparation on mastering sand dunes and the 35-year-old says it is already reflecting in his performance.
“Sand dunes is really, really fun for anyone who rides a motorcycle and it’s a surface that’s always changing and moving and it’s a very difficult surface to ride,” he explained.
“But I find the challenge really rewarding because when you are able to ride really well you feel a kick about it.
“And sure it’s not as dangerous as racing down a fast track with stones even though it’s not there, it’s still very difficult to read the dunes in Peru. So I enjoy the challenge.
“I’m not much of a sand rider because in India I never grew up racing sand but I'm trying to adapt to it and I like the challenge.”
“I think I’m faster in the sand this year.”