Our resident track junkie’s foray into racing throws up a few challenges, but enthuses his fighting spirit as well
TVS’ Young Media Racer programme has been designed by the brand to give mere mortals like us a chance to have a go on their race-prepped machines. And with almost four decades of racing pedigree, it’s a foregone conclusion that their bikes would be scalpel-sharp when it comes to the single-minded purpose with which they were conceived.
But before we go ahead, an intro is in order, I believe. I’ve ridden bikes for the better part of two decades, and have clocked serious miles on (and owned) quite a bit of exotic machinery, even taken a few sojourns on track (strictly during track schools, though). Hence, when the Ed told me I’ll be flying the Fast Bikes India flag at the TVS Young Media Race, I was beside myself with joy, as not only would it mean I’ll finally be a part of a proper race, but will also get a chance to sample the race-spec TVS Apache RTR 200 4V.
The enormity of the situation hit me later, when I realised that the competitors already had an advantage over me, owing to the fact I’m joining the programme after one round has already been concluded. I milked this bank of mixed emotions, hoping it’ll keep me on my toes during the race weekend. So off I jetted to Chennai, for my debut performance at the Madras Motor Race Track, a venue that has played host to many of my previous track sessions.
Friday was when the practice sessions for the race were held, and right off the bat, I felt just a little drained. But that was less due to the heat and more due to my uneasiness of never having been on a factory-built race-focussed motorcycle. However, watching the ease with which the others stitched the corners together gave me a glimpse of the true potential of the bike and I felt at once relaxed and enthused.
My enthusiasm carried me to the qualifying day, however as soon as the lights went off, the frantic pace caught me just a bit off guard. My competitors, who I was following the day prior, trying to glean some pointers from, were now going full tilt, and keeping pace with them proved just how much sharper the TVS RTR 200 4V is than I had previously anticipated. Not to be outdone, I too started pushing bit by bit, qualifying at seventh place on a thirteen-man grid.
In retrospect, I could have taken it easy, breaking down all the techniques accrued from my diverse track school experiences into bite-sized chunks that would have been simpler to implement, but then again, hindsight is always 20-20 they say. Ah well, seventh isn’t too bad… and tomorrow’s another day.
The day of the race dawned early, with the media race as the first event scheduled. There was an uneasy calm all through the pits, as every racer was in their zone, going through their last minute strategies on how to approach every corner, straight and undulation of the 3.7km track. For my part, I was in my own frame of mind and thought it better to take it step by step. Yes I wanted to push, but at the same time considered it prudent to stay within my limits and carefully apply all that I had picked up in the prior sessions, and implement it thoroughly, rather than taking unnecessary chances. However, this is at odds with the very proposition of racing, where battling for every millisecond is not only expected from the competitors, but even encouraged.
Hence, I kept all my thoughts in mind and ensured my lines were as I had envisioned. My vision, too, felt on par with what I had expected and hence I was able to anticipate and ward off aggressive manoeuvres from some of my opponents. This also helped me make up a place in the race, with me finishing sixth.
Now, though it sounds like wishful thinking, I felt more and more at ease on the bike as the laps progressed, chiefly because I was taking just that much longer to completely transition from a relaxed classroom atmosphere to the uber-competitive racing element. All in all, I feel confident of my performance in the race, and also feel more at ease with the bike.