Mumbai – 6th July, 2018
I am stuck in slow moving traffic, a usual monsoon evening for Mumbai in the rainy season. While this is normal, I was a little tense because I had a flight to catch. The check-in counters had already shut and the along with the flight, I was also going to miss my second race with ‘TVS MOTORSPORTS’ at the Madras Motor Racing Track in Chennai. Before the horrible thought had sunk in god intervened. The flight had been delayed by 30 minutes. The non-stop rain had made me late and also delayed the flight. Who knew a delayed flight would turn out to be a blessing in disguise. So here I was, with my boarding pass to Chennai and another chance to get on the race track. Having already experienced dread at the airport, I was wondering how this race would be.
Chennai – 6th July, 2018 (mid-night)
TVS had arranged our stay at Fairfield by Marriott at Sriperumbudur near Chennai. We needed a good night’s sleep because the next two days meant a lot of action for us racers.
Chennai – 7th July, 2018
Next morning, I met the other racers and our team coordinators for breakfast, post which we left for the track. We reached MMRT in the morning at around 8:30am. Entering MMRT is quite a different feeling for me. This is the place where we underwent our training with TVS TEAM FACTORY WORKS, the place where I stepped into the adrenaline fueled world of racing. Our free practice session was scheduled at 10:30am. During the practice session we got comfortable with our Apaches flying around track. We are given a half an hour of practice time to feel the track, the curves and also to see how our designated bikes are performing. This was vital because they we could have minor alterations or adjustments done before our qualification round. I was given bike number 10 for this race. After the practice session, I asked the team of mechanics to work on the handlebar as it was a little too tight in right handers, the tyre pressure had to be corrected and one of the foot pegs was replaced due to massive vibrations at higher rpm. Post this at 1pm it was time for our qualifying round. The best lap timings would decide our position on the grid. Having been on this track for our training sessions, most of us were a little more confident being here and as this was going to be a faster track than our previous round at Kari Motor Speedway, which is too technical to race at. The qualification round was a little too tough a competition than expected and everyone was surprised by the results. I finished 8th out of 10 riders with my best lap timing being 2 mins 41 secs. Finishing far behind the guy who finished first, I wasn’t happy with my performance. Maybe it was over confidence that got the best of me. Post this round, we went for a track walk with our mentor, Harry Sylvester. Having walked the entire 3.7kms track, he explained to us our braking points, apex points and suggested what gears we should ideally be using on any particular turn. The track has 12 turns and 3 straights, which make it quick and relentless. We learnt about the track in much more detail and by now all of us in our head knew what mistakes me made during qualification. We were now more prepared for the next day.
Chennai – 8th July, 2018 – Race Day
Even though monsoons were in full swing here, the rain gods were pitiful. Maybe they wanted to see us race. The weather was far better than the last time we were on this track. It was peak summer when we started our training and would feel as if we were wearing body ovens rather than riding suits. But thankfully, it was cloudy and breezy this time and we could definitely maintain our cool. Our race was scheduled at 3pm. The race would last 6 laps that equaled to a total of distance of 23kms. Being positioned at number 8, I was far behind on the grid. Seconds before the signals went off, one of the riders had a false start which confused us all. The race started in complete chaos. To worsen the situation, I too had a bad start and watched the rest of the pack vanish ahead on the first straight and turn into Turn 1 after that. I had a lot to catching up to do. With our instructors tips running through my head and the mental pressure to go faster I started hunting down the pack. Making ever turn as crisp and neat as possible became a mission. I was braking late as possible and hitting every apex at maximum speed. I overtook two riders over the course of 6 laps and another position as a rider had crashed and couldn’t finish his race. Finally all said and done, the final outcome of the race placed me at 7th position with my best lap timing being at 2 minutes 30 seconds. I was glad that I managed to shave off a good 11 seconds off by best time from the qualification round. Maybe it was because of the mental pressure of being last, the track walk or just every rider’s goal to be on pole.
I wasn’t very happy with my performance in this race and had expected better results. But that does not dissuade me, every lap and every race teaches me more and maybe the next race at the Buddh International Circuit would turn out to better. My overall experience with round two of the ‘TVS Young Media Racer Program’ has been great. It is because of their great team, our mentors who support us, a lot of man hours put in by the mechanics, the pit crew and the marshals that something like that has been made possible. Headed back with a certificate of participation in hand and a lot of happiness for my co-racers who finished at the first three positions, it was time to celebrate.
Stay tuned to know more about the next race at the Buddh International Circuit. We are excited for this one. Hoping that the experience of riding on an F1 track would be memorable and much faster.