In conversation with CS Santosh at the Merzouga Rally

Q: How has your riding improved you think?
CS Santosh: The more time you spend on a motorcycle, the more training you do, the more understanding you get of the motorcycle. I think the speeds are clearly faster in the nationalised stages, the terrain changes a lot. We have to anticipate quickly, just by looking at the road book, I think I have managed to improve. That is why I am able to go faster. I think, to break it down, people read the road book and then they understand the limitations. I am still trying to understand, like I said, if you have confidence in navigation, it gives you confidence in riding. Your mind is not thinking all the time whether you are going the correct way or no. Again, navigation is really important when you are riding.

Q: For a lay person, everyone thinks you have to ride as fast as you can but it is not true right? You also have to navigate? So what is more important?
CS: For now I think, for me, it is important to navigate. For a lay person, you won’t understand the basics. During a car rally, the driver always gets a navigator. The guy sitting next to you does all the computing. For me, you have to even ride and navigate at the same time. You have to switch off from riding for a while and then again come back to navigating; it is an extremely difficult task because it is not like there are roads and signs everywhere. There is a lot to take in in the road book. That is an important aspect. This is a new program, so I am trying to learn a lot. People think it is only about riding, but it is clearly not.

Q: Where would you rate yourself as a rider in the current crop?
CS: Somewhere in the mid pack right now. I can progress a bit more but I need more confidence in my navigation. My riding is fine.

Q: How did you prepare for the rally?
CS: You are aware about my neck injury. The Doc said it is thanks to pre-existing injuries, a build-up of lot of injuries. I think my neuro pathway is well connected right now. Maybe I was not computing stuff well. I said to myself, ‘This can’t be true. You can’t be so bad at navigation’. All the time I was getting lost.

Q: You spent a lot of time here riding before the rally?
CS: No, we were just here for 2 days.

Q: Now, the preparation for Dakar starts…
CS: Yes. This is all a build-up to the Dakar.

Q: is the bike different as compared to the Dakar bike?
CS: The suspension is much better, I can watch my team mate’s bike moving ahead and it is extremely stable. I would have loved to push more. The bike is much better for sure.

Q: When you look down and remember the road…
CS: When you are riding and engaged, the motorcycle is basically in auto pilot mode. Your mind if focused on the road book also. I will tell you how it pays off by the end of the year.

Q: About nutrition, how has you die helped you focus?
CS: Yes, I think, I always thought that I did not need to be on a diet but I understand the signs a lot more than I did previously. You really need to eat at certain time a day because it works well. And Dakar is an endurance race so all these guys basically are fuelled by fats. The diet is rich in fats. So that I can access my fat cells for energy. That does not mean I should be fat.

Q: Mental conditioning as well?
CS: mental is the most important part because confidence does add volumes to the performance and I have always doubted myself for navigation but every time I go out I learn something new.

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