Santosh, riding a KTM 450 rally bike, showed remarkable grit and gumption to finish 36th overall among 79 finishers in the race that began on January 5 with 168 participants split by motorcycles, quad bikes, cars and trucks.

The first Indian at Dakar traversed through tricky terrains across Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, covering 9295 km over two weeks before finishing at Buenos Aires on January 17.

Santosh got emotional recalling his time at the rally.

"The last three days of the Dakar Rally coming back into Argentina were perhaps my best. Full gas snaking through the woods and mountains on 300km stages was spectacular. I'm happy that I found some speed towards the end of the rally," he said.

"The rally is not just about endurance. The speeds that we do — 150 km to 160 km an hour — through forests, wooded areas, and deserts took me by surprise at first. Physically, it is very demanding. If you don’t pay attention to the road or the road-book even for one second, the terrain is waiting to catch you out."

He went on, "For three or four days we had to cross the Andes. It was the most excruciating experience I have had: to do 400 km in sub-zero temperatures. In Chile (stage 6), I smashed my toe and rode the next 300 km in so much pain.

"I know a lot of things I could have done better and in the next three years I think I can be a top 10 guy," said the Bangalore based rider.

What kept him going in tough situations he faced every day of the event?

"I struggled and fought everyday and in this epic race I managed to carve out a name for myself like all the heroes I have read about in history books. A lof of support from back home also kept me going," added Santosh.

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