Dakar 2017: The French-Indian partnership is deeper than it seems
The Sherco team have been competing in the Dakar for a very long time; never won it but always have been at the sharp end of the field. The TVS partnership began in 2014 when the boss of TVS Racing Arvind Pangaonkar met with Sherco’s boss Marc Tessier on a visit to Europe and they hit it off famously (they even had the same laptops, the same phones). On their very first meeting, Marc opened up completely to Arvind, showing Sherco’s facilities, engine room, development centre, everything – rather unusual for a first meeting between two racing bosses. The trust was reciprocated from the Indian side and it didn’t take long for the Sherco-TVS partnership to get inked.
And this was never meant to be a mere sticker job.
So what is the TVS Racing involvement? In the very first year of the partnership, 2014, three engineers from TVS Racing were deputed to the Sherco team for the Dakar, learning the rigors and demands of the world’s great and toughest rally raid. Of the three, Prakasam has graduated to be the lead and sole engineer for Aravind KP’s bike, David Casteu the Sherco team manager being very impressed with not just his technical skill but the unflinching dedication and never-say-never attitude. Bike dropped? “No problem saar, will be done.”
Meanwhile at the Sherco factory in Nimes, France TVS Motor Company engineers have been shuttling back and forth with the knowledge transfer being two-way. Sherco have a vast history of off-road racing and making off-road bikes; TVS have vast engineering resources at their disposal, sophisticated CAD/CAM tools and even more advanced manufacturing and prototyping capabilities. TVS have now posted an engineer permanently at Sherco and more are likely to follow. And that’s important not just from a racing perspective but a product engineering one as well, after all every major bike company in the world – Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Ducati, KTM, you name it – blood their best engineers in the heat of motorsport.
How much of TVS is in the Sherco bikes is still under wraps but from the RTR 450 badging on the sides, it’s clear that there has been a fair bit of input from the Indian side. After all TVS are far too proud of their racing and engineering heritage to just slap on their stickers on somebody else’s bike and sit back.
Another thing to note is that Sherco-TVS’s lead rider, Pedrero, is running a new prototype bike with 10 more horsepower, because of which he is running in the top ten. That’s significant because the horsepower has to come while maintaining reliability – a rider is limited to one engine for the entire duration of the rally. The first engine change has a 15 minute penalty, the second 45, the third 60 minutes and so on; if you want to run at the top, you cannot afford a single minute of penalty. And this could be a key area of partnership between Sherco and TVS’s engineers.