TVS has a long racing pedigree in India. This heritage had started way back in the early 80’s, when most of the riders who race their bikes today weren’t even born. This racing history makes TVS a special motorcycle manufacturer and one who is always pushing itself deliver the best they can. The company believes that racing gives them the edge to make their bikes more competitive and reliable, something that their customers can be proud of. The TVS One Make Championship with their Apache RTR 200 4V, began recently. We were at the track for the ‘media race’ involving select journalists and were thrilled to be a part of it.
The media race of the TVS One Make Championship 2016 was earlier supposed to be held in the month of December 2016. However, owing to the destructive cyclone in Tamil Nadu that month, the event was postponed and was finally held in the month of January 2017. For me, it was the first time to compete on a race track, with a motorcycle. I have ridden a few times earlier on track, for purely testing purpose, however, competing was a different ball game altogether. Also, it was unlike the fun street racing or going out full throttle on open highways, at speeds in excess of 150km/h, which we do pretty often. The bikes we were going to race were the race-spec Apache RTR 200 4V. The race-spec versions had a few upgrades as compared the stock motorcycles. This included a free flow exhaust, a lighter crank, that gives it better acceleration and top speed. Needless to say that the bikes were devoid of any lamps and mirrors. The free flow exhaust had a deep and loud roar.
On the first day, at the MMRT (Madras Motor Race Track) near Chennai, we got a briefing about the track and the rules of racing, which included signaling by different flags and what they meant. Then there was a practice session for a few laps to understand the racing line one needs to follow and getting a hang of the track. We all got suited up in racing leathers. Getting into a racing suit is also quite a task especially if you are not as slim as a racer. For a novice like me, the practice session was not enough to get myself accustomed to the finer details, unlike most of my competitors who were used to track riding and were were much younger as well. However, it gave something to chew upon for that night, in order to improvise. Some tips from a fellow racer helped a great deal.
The next day we had the qualifying session. The weather was lovely due to overcast conditions and the cool breeze, but there was a forecast of rain. We were praying to the rain Gods to hold themselves just a wee bit, till we finish the race. During the qualifying session, I found myself wanting. Clearly, the more experienced guys were way ahead of me in no time. It gets one to realize (in real) that racing is not all about going fast, but making the right moves so that you don’t lose time. Ok, we all have learnt that on our PlayStations, but real racing involves a lot more! The second curve on the track was quite tricky (a place where I lost most of my time) and it took a while to master it. There was some drizzle on the track, which made me more cautious and away from risking myself on bends. I was happy to qualify, that too not last, which gave me some more confidence. A few more practice laps would have placed me much higher up the order, for sure.
Afternoon was when we had the race. We took up our positions. Its feels awesome being in front of the red lights and revving your engines to get into the groove. When the red lights went off, the next thing I saw was my front wheel in the air. The race had begun and we all dashed into the first curve. This was when I realized that there’s more work to do, when most of them raced much ahead. The Apache RTR 200 felt good on the track. It was very agile and had decent grip as well. One can feel the difference from a stock bike, in the way speed builds up. I managed to scrape my foot a couple of times on bends. The foot pegs were not that far behind on this bike. It was easy to maintain around 80km/h while taking curves.
It was after the first two laps that I actually started doing better. Confidence was much higher and I was leaning much lower, which resulted in me being much faster and overtaking a couple of bikes too. I was getting the body position right as well. Yeah, I was doing it! Unfortunately, the race was concluded after just four laps and I had to enter the pit and see that many of them had completed the race ahead of me. But I was glad that there were still some after me. Also derived some solace that I was only a few seconds slower to the ones ahead of me. The prize distribution ceremony was held thereafter. The TVS One Make Championship was a great experience which involved a lot of learning. Looking forward to the next season now.