Racing a motorcycle around the beautiful Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) is something that every Indian rider dream of. Myself, as a racer has ridden before on MMRT many times and participated in several national events. But after September 2015, I didn't ride on any racing track.
But, TVS Motor Company gave me an opportunity to participate in the TVS Media Race which was held on January 20 and 21, 2017. The event was a support race for the National championship rounds held on the same dates especially Round 5 of the 2016 TVS One Make Championship.
For the race, TVS invited motoring journalists from different media houses across the country. The motorcycles which were provided for the event are slightly tweaked race-ready Apache RTR 200 4Vs (a motorcycle which I've never ridden before).
Speaking about TVS, it was the first manufacturer in India to start the One Make Championship back in 1994. The manufacturer also came up with its thoroughbred Apache RTR 160 in 2007. Each model of the RTR family is developed from the valuable data and inputs given by professional racers of the TVS family. The Apache RTR 200 4V is also developed at the race track to provide good handling and unmatchable performance on road.
The race machines which were given to us had a free flow exhaust system, slightly tuned cams for better track performance and tuned carb. TVS also weeded out headlamps, taillamps, mirrors, indicators, etc, which are not useful for attacking the race track.
Having all these adjustments and tweakings, the Apache RTR 200 4V produced 3bhp more and 15 kg lighter than the stock motorcycle. The motorcycle provided a good mid-range power, exactly from 6,000rpm to 8,500rpm and I wish that it had more top-end power to clock 135km/h+ on the back straight.
On the first day, before going out and crashing into each other without knowing which flags are for what, we got a briefing from Race Steward. As a former national rider, I recognised all the flags and why each flag will be waved during the session.
After that, it was time to suit up for the practice session and I was so excited to swing a leg over the TVS Apache 200 4V. First few laps were very slow because there was an on-track instructor for us [journalists] to show the racing line around the track. Then, it was time for us to ride and learn the track layout for the next day's qualification and race.
After the practice session, I wasn't even remotely confident because I've lost the touch. I couldn't figure out braking markers, my old racing line (when I used to race), etc, etc, etc. For a moment I thought it's done, my days on track is over, I've lost my panache. But, eventually, I came to realise that without practice nothing can be done (practice makes perfect).
The next day, we were the first to go out on the track for qualification session. Even though I was depressed, I decided to regain the prowess that I had before. But after two laps, I saw few droplets of water on my helmet visor. Thanks to the rain god, the track was wet and I slid three times, eventually deciding to slow down. I was fourth fastest in the session.
Afternoon, it was race time. I went out, took my position on the grid and I was waiting for the red lights to go out. In my all life and in every race I participated, I always get a good launch and this time too. I managed to get the holeshot and I was leading the race into the second corner.
After that, I completely missed the third corner and three fellow journalists overtook me. But I managed to get behind them and was trying to retain my position. Suddenly I found that my Apache had a small mechanical issue, that I was not able to shift the motorcycle into fifth gear. Having only four gears for the entire race at a big race track like MMRT is a disaster.
I finished the race in fourth place. But as a racer, I was not happy with my performance even though I improved a lot when compared to the day before. I do have some great memories at that beautiful race track in 2015 by claiming some podiums and at the start of this year, thanks to TVS for giving me an opportunity to ignite the fire which I had before. I have a lot to learn and lot to do on track in the coming years and already I'm waiting for the next TVS One Make Championship race.
Catch all the action from Round 5 of the TVS One Make Championship held at Madras Motor Race Track and see how hard the journalists are trying to put their knees on the ground.