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A race weekend is something that most motorcycle enthusiasts look forward to, and that is exactly what Suzuki gave us earlier this month. Suzuki Motorcycle India hosted the Gixxer Cup Media Endurance Race on the sidelines of the Suzuki Gixxer Cup races. Automotive journalists from media houses around the country were invited to take part in it.
Endurance races have for a long time been hailed as the proving grounds for automotive manufacturers. The races usually last a few hours and involve driver/rider switches, refuelling stops, etc.
These races are unpredictable as there are many elements at play and there is extreme stress on the people and machines involved in it. Iconic endurance races like the 24 Hours of Le Mans are more extreme in nature.
The endurance race we were going to take part in though, was a lot less stressful as it lasted just 40 minutes. However, we did have a Le Mans start and a rider switch and it did give us a taste of what endurance races feel like. Wondering what a Le Mans start is? We shall get to that in just a bit. For now, it is time to turn our attention to the motorcycle we would be racing.
When Suzuki invited us for the Gixxer Cup Endurance race, we assumed that we would be racing on the track-prepped Gixxer SF 150. The Suzuki Gixxer SF 150 is the mainstay of the Suzuki Gixxer Cup.
The Suzuki Gixxer Cup
The Gixxer Cup is organised by Suzuki to promote budding talent in motorsport at the grassroot level. The motorcycle racing series was launched in 2015 to showcase the potential of the Suzuki Gixxer SF and to promote talent among the local racers.
Soon, the Gixxer Cup gained popularity and more riders registered for the series. The 2019 season has four round being organised at Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore and the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida. The media endurance race was scheduled alongside round 3 of the Gixxer Cup and the JK Tyre motorsport championships.
The Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition Race Bike
Suzuki had a pleasant surprise in store for us. We would be among the first to race the new Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition race bikes. This was revealed to us at the track and it was exciting as we had already ridden the stock motorcycle at the Buddh International Circuit when it made its debut in May 2019.
In our review of the Suzuki Gixxer SF 250, you can see that we were really impressed with the 250cc motor and were looking forward to push it further. Well, we did get to see its full potential at the Suzuki Endurance race.
The race bike was launched at the track on the very same day we would be racing it. From a distance, the motorcycle we rode looks just like the MotoGP Edition launched in August. Get closer though and you will start seeing the differences.
The motorcycle has been stripped of all unnecessary parts, thereby making it lighter. The turn signal indicators, mirrors, headlamp, taillamp and rear seat have all been removed. It now features a full-blown race exhaust system that not only sounds brilliant and weighs less, but has also increased the power and torque output of the engine.
Suzuki did not seem too keen on disclosing the exact power output, but said it was nearly 3-4bhp more than the stock engine. The team that built the race motorcycle also claimed that the motorcycle now weighed 25-30 kilograms lesser than the stock bike.
In order to improve handling, changes had been made to the suspension and the handlebar as well. The Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition race bike is suspended on the same telescopic fork up front and monoshock at the rear as the stock motorcycle. They have however, been tuned to be stiffer on the track.
The handlebar has been replaced by a low-placed clip-on unit and the overall steerability angles have been reduced to aid handling out on the track. In case of a tank-slapper, it is now easier to regain control of the motorcycle thanks to this setup.
It also features rear-set footpegs and MRF Revz tyres on the stock motorcycle were replaced by Metzeler M7 tyres. That completes the changes made to the motorcycle for the racetrack.
The Endurance Race Experience
Now that the motorcycles were set up for the racetrack, it was time to head out. As said earlier, this was an endurance race, and we needed to have a partner from another media house. Each of us were assigned a number and a bowl of chits with each of the numbers was placed in front of us.
An FMSCI official was called upon to pick two chits from the bowl and the riders to whom the two chits corresponded became partners. By this method, we were paired with Kumar Sanjay from CNBC Awaaz.
The qualifying and practice sessions were clubbed together and each rider was given a 15-minute stint on the track. While our partner clocked a best lap time of 1:43.786, we managed a best time of 1:26.632. This gave us an average of 1:35.209 and qualified us at 9th position.
The race was held on the next day and it would be a 40-minute race. As per the rules, each rider would have to ride for a minimum of 14 minutes. We decided to let our partner start the race and finish his 14-minute stint and get back into the pits where we would switch and I would then ride till the chequered flag. It was time to start the race and we would have a Le Mans start.
The Le Mans start is an infamous way of starting endurance races, made famous by the well-known 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the Le Mans, the cars are lined up on one side of the racetrack, just before the start/finish point. Upon being flagged off, the drivers run to the cars, start them and set off.
In our case, the Suzuki Gixxers were lined up on the left side of the start/finish straight at the Kari Motor Speedway with the riders starting the race lined up on the right side. Mr. Koichiro Hirao, the MD for Suzuki Motorcycle India waved the green flag and the riders were off.
The fittest rider got to his motorcycle first and hit the starter button. Our partner, Kumar Sanjay was one of the first five to set off on the motorcycle and the Suzuki Gixxer Endurance Race, 2019 was on!
We had the timer on and watched in anxiety as our partner was out on the track. Just past the 12 and a half minute mark, we asked for the ‘02' board to be shown for our motorcycle to come back in.
Sure enough, he came back into the pits just past the 14-minute mark. A quick rider change later, we hit the racetrack with just around 25 minutes of track time left to pull us back from the third-last position.
Minute after minute and lap after lap, we gave it our best and the Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition race bike was one sweet machine. It is among the few forgiving race bikes out there. It is easy to ride fast but even if the rider makes a mistake, it is forgiving enough and easy to regain control.
The lowered handlebar and rear-set footpegs, combined with the stiff suspension setup made it easy to ride. The engine was brilliant and torquey throughout the rev-range. This came to light when we had to resort to shifting early into fourth gear at the last corner since it was redlining in third gear halfway through the corner.
Upon doing so, the motor displayed its sweet, torquey character by pulling us out of the corner in fourth and we could shift into fifth and sixth gears soon after. Just before the start/finish line, we were already in sixth gear and would always do 157km/h on the straight (at redline).
Before we knew it, the chequered flag was waved by Mr. Koichiro Hirao and the race was over. As we entered the pit lane, I could hear myself saying ‘what a bike! What A Bike.' It really was perfect for a tight and technical track like the Kari Motor Speedway.
Turns out, we came in at sixth position and that was quite an improvement from when we switched riders at 10th position. Our best lap time too saw an improvement of 3.530 seconds!
Thoughts On Suzuki Gixxer Endurance Race 2019
Well, it was an awesome weekend of learning and experiencing the Suzuki. The Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition race bike is lovely and was perfectly set up for the Karit Motor Speedway and we were one of the first few lucky ones to experience it on the racetrack.
The endurance race experience was to be honest, very tiring given our fitness levels. But the beauty of it is, we were ready to go back out onto the track just a short while after the race ended. Hence, we're looking forward to more.
The Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition race bike will soon race at the Buddh International Circuit. It will go on to form a premium segment of the Gixxer Cup in which the best riders from the 150 segment will compete. So we have to watch out for that.