TVS Racing has taken upon itself to popularise motorsports in the country by not just educating the young and thriving riders but also giving them a platform to present their skills. We had the opportunity to go for the fifth edition of the Young Media Racer Programme hosted by the TVS Racing Training Academy where we were taught the nitty-gritty of track racing and cherry on top, we also got to ride the race-spec Apache RTR 200 4V on Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT), Chennai.
The TVS Young Media Racer Programme has been set up for journalists across the country to get a chance to not only train under TVS Racing’s star racers but also experience racing firsthand with a full-blown race season. Before the racing begins, all the journalists who are invited to the TVS YMRP have to attend TVS’ Racing Training Academy. The TVS Racing Training Academy was set up in 2017 in an attempt to increase the adoption of motorsport in India and to give everyone a platform to experience the thrills of racing, firsthand. The training is broken down into two levels – Level 1 and Level 2. On graduating from the Racing Academy, you can apply for the ‘One Make Championship’ and begin your racing career with TVS.
Level 1 is meant for a complete beginner, the only thing you are expected to know when you show up for Level 1 training is how to operate a motorcycle. Training begins with a brief about TVS’s heritage in racing and how most of their products are fine-tuned at the racetrack by TVS Racing factory riders. You will be trained under the extremely capable multiple national championship title holders Harry Sylvester, Jagan Kumar and other veterans such as K Y Ahamed, Deepak Ravikumar and Aishwarya Pissay. When I attended Level 1 training under the TVS Young Media Racer Programme, Harry led the classroom sessions while K Y and Jagan handled all the drills out on track. Level 1 training is a 50:50 split between classroom training sessions and track riding.
The classroom sessions involve the understanding of various topics including the different flags, importance of riding gear, pit lane discipline, general track ethics, race lines and why they are important, body positioning and the importance of looking where you want to go. Then on the track, participants are taken for a sighting lap to get a feel for the layout of the track and are also shown the locations of the marshall boxes in the process. All the concepts explained in the classroom such as race lines are then demonstrated by K Y and Jagan, and riders are instructed to follow their lines while holding the same gear throughout the lap.
Once riders are comfortable with the layout and are familiar with racing lines, the pace is picked up and concepts such as downshifting and braking are introduced to the mix. When to downshift, when to brake, when to let off the throttle, when to get back on, all these nuances are explained over the course of multiple laps around the track. Level 1 training also covers race starts and what the different colours on the start/finish signal mean. Upon completing Level 1 training, you are eligible for an FMSCI race licence under the two-wheeler road racing category.
Level 2 is a more involved training procedure that assumes you are already at a certain level of track riding and want to further enhance your skills as a racer. The training involves more complex drills such as cornering, reference point marking, quick turning, advanced body positioning and more. The training course is extremely crucial before attending a race weekend not just because it is mandatory, but also because it holistically prepares you mentally, physically and emotionally to be a safe, competent, fast and efficient racer.
This process is fairly simple and you can register yourself on the TVS Racing website when the registrations open. Speaking of which, the TVS Racing Training academy is held once in roughly two months and it is open to everyone. Apache owners get a certain discount while applying for level 1 and level 2 training. The entire training programme is a very well organised one as all you have to do is show up with a proper ECE 22.05 or DOT certified helmet with a Double D ring fastener and the rest is all provided to you. This includes racing leathers, full gauntlet gloves, boots and best of all even the OMC (One Make Championship bike), which is the race-spec TVS Apache RTR 200 4V.
For those who wish to take their riding experience beyond just training, and get into the big leagues, i.e. racing, there are a few conditions you need to meet. To participate in the rookie class of the One Make Championship, riders must be under the age of 19 and must have a level 1 certificate and a total of 12 riders will be selected. The OMC Women’s category will have a selection round in Bangalore and Mumbai culminating in a final selection round in Chennai in which 16 riders will be selected for the race season. Then there is the OMC RR310 cup which requires the rider to have one podium finish in their racing career to be entered into the selection round after which 12 riders will be selected. So TVS not only trains you to race but also provides a platform to put those learnings to use on the national stage.
Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to ride on the track and possibly even race bikes for a living, and when I got the chance to do so with TVS’s Young Media Racer Programme (YMRP), I was over the moon. In fact, I started to build up the occasion in my head so much that I was worried I was setting unrealistic expectations for my first track day and that it might not be all that I envisioned in my head. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Riding on track has to be one of the best experiences of my life. The freedom of going flat out in a controlled manner without the worry of oncoming traffic is an ethereal experience in itself.
You also realise how wrong your technique has been all along after spending a day with the pros. Personally, where I struggled the most and where I also improved the most was with gripping the bike with my lower body. This is something I was always aware of theoretically, but never properly applied to my riding. But out on track after consciously doing so and feeling the difference in the way the bike responds to your input was an eye-opener. Speaking of the bike, we journos were riding race-spec TVS Apache RTR 200 4Vs and I was extremely excited to ride these bikes considering I own a BS4 Apache RTR 200 4V. But these bikes were a revelation! So easy to ride, the engine is so free-revving and the handling is almost telepathic. The race-spec Apache RTR 200 4V gets a mild cam lift which bumps the power up, a rorty free flow exhaust, stiffer suspension, steel-braided brake lines and weighs less courtesy of the removal of the mirrors, rear mudguards and the stands. These changes sound minor but the difference between the stock bike and the race-spec one is night and day. The road-going bike is no slouch either, it has consistently been our pick in the 200cc naked bike segment and this race-spec Apache RTR 200 4V is just a class apart.
TVS has been hosting the Young Media Racing Programme since 2017, allowing journalists to not only experience the race-spec Apache RTR 200 4V, but also properly race them in a full-fledged race season spanning three races across the year. This year, I was the lucky one in the office and already got to go for the first round of training and qualifying. Training has been an absolute revelation for me and it’s safe to say that I have become properly besotted with riding on the track and riding on the streets is never going to feel the same again. Us journos, 15 to be specific had only one goal from the qualifying weekend – learn and absorb as much as you can from the classroom and track time with the pro racers and try to ride as hard and fast as possible to put in the best time. Rules dictate that only 12 get selected for the race season and I’m extremely happy to report that I managed to qualify a humble fifth. What this now means is that I get to apply for my race licence and go racing come August. Dreams do come true!
TVS Racing Training Academy prices — Level one for Apache owners costs Rs 10,000 and for non-Apache owners it costs Rs 13,000. For level two the cost for Apache owners is Rs 20,000 and for non-Apache owners, it costs Rs 23,000.