The 2021 Dakar Rally nearly ended in tragedy for CS Santosh when the bike rider crashed into a rock trap in Stage #4, resulting in a diffuse axonal injury that while not fatal has forced him to indefinitely pause his racing career. As he continues his recovery, he has ambitions of challenging the race that almost killed him in 2024.
Santosh hit his head in his 2021 Rally crash, knocking him unconscious and causing his heart to stop before being resuscitated by fellow rider Paul Spierings. He had suffered such severe injuries that he was placed in a medically induced coma for a week. Besides suffering from double vision and needing to re-learn his motor functions, he lost his memory of the accident and even running the race. In addition to the mental gaps, he struggled with depression over the next year as he continued recovery.
“I felt an emptiness inside me because I felt that somebody had died. And that somebody was me,” Santosh told Vaishali Dinakaran in a special for Red Bull, whom the rider has an endorsement with. “The biggest joy was the fact that I discovered myself again after taking anti-depression pills. It was amazing to find CS Santosh again.”
In April, Santosh oversaw the Red Bull Ace of Dirt race in his home country India. The event has been going on since 2020, and evolved into a passion project for Santosh to make up for his inability to race at the time.
But despite his tribulations, he hopes to be back on a bike in time for the 2024 Dakar Rally. He has taken up physical training like cycling and working out to get back in shape. To gauge his racing capabilities post-injury, Santosh is also open to running the Andalucía Rally and Rallye du Maroc, the latter being a leg of the World Rally-Raid Championship like Dakar.
“I want to complete the journey,” Santosh told the Times of India. “Dakar is not a race, it’s a part of my life. Going back in 2024 to complete that journey is my priority.”
Santosh, a multi-time motocross champion, is the first Indian to race at Dakar. He made his début in 2015 with a best overall finish of thirty-fourth in 2018.