The recently concluded Round 5 of the One Make Championships at Chennai had one extra dope that was reserved to us auto journalists, not counting the opportunity to meet with the budding legends of the track.
It was the TVS One Make Media Race on the race-prepped Apache RTR 200 4V, at Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) on January 20 and 21, 2017. What better way to test the track-bred version of the all-new Apache, and in the same time get to know what racing really feels like, first hand!
We’ve been watching and reporting about various racing events, but such an opportunity not only gave us a different-dimensional insight into motorcycle racing, but also let us feel the anxiety and adrenaline felt by all the racers on the grid. This has significantly changed our perception of motorcycle races, and has made us realise the importance of a harmonious relationship between the riders and their race machines.
With this, we also learnt how important it is that amateur racers get the right motorcycle to begin their training, and also that by straightaway swinging their legs over the hardcore circuit bikes they do not become experts any faster.
This is where the TVS Apache RTR 200 4V comes into picture. Earlier I had ridden the Apache RTR 180 race bike as part of my TVS Racing training, and it took a long time for me to get comfortable on the thin piece of foam that is passed on for a seat, and the brutally aggressive riding position. By the time I could adapt to the ergonomics, let alone pave my own racing lines on the track and master the corners, the training session was over!
Whereas on the Apache 200 race bike, I was instantly settled, as the bike is made specifically for those who are learning to become racers and not an expert already. It has very few mods compared to the road version sold at showrooms, which makes it easily acquaint-able. Some of those mods included a performance-carburettor, a free flow exhaust system, and not-so-intense weight reduction measures like plugging out the headlamp, tail lamp, turn indicators, rear view mirrors and the like. The said tweaks resulted in a weight-loss of 15 kg, and a power bump of 3 bhp.
Apart from these mods that made the bike more nimble and easier to accelerate, the Apache 200 felt just the same as the stock bike. This underlines the fact that TVS was not kidding about the Apache being really a racing-friendly bike.
Next up was getting into the leathers and strapping up to get on the track.
TVS Racing gave us the exact experience of the One Make Championship, by conducting a Practise Session for us on the previous day, then a Qualifying Round on the morning of the race day, and the main Race in the afternoon.
At the beginning of the practise session, there was an instructor who lead us for a few laps to get us acquainted with the curves and to show us the apex points. Then he exited the track to let us practise freely then on. The weather forecast at Chennai for the weekend was heavy rain; thankfully as a result it was gloomy (not so bright and hot), and there was not a drop on the track yet.
The next day, at the Qualifying Run, the rain gods started blessing us smack in the middle of the session. The Race Officials briefed us on the previous day about the various flags used to communicate with us while on track; so the marshals warned us while it rained and ensured our safety.
On every lap during the practise and the qualifying sessions I felt an improvement in my riding and in my confidence level, which made me realise the meaning of ‘practise makes one perfect.’ At the end of those sessions, I was no longer nervous about the very first track race I was participating. I no longer had the fear of crashing onto another bike, I no longer had the fear of sliding at a corner, I no longer feared that I would dehydrate in the middle of a session. But I surely was aware of the possibility of any of those happening.
At the final race, on the grid, when the time countdown boards were getting switched, when the lights were ready to go green from red, the adrenaline pumping, the anticipation culminating, the throttle ready to be twisted, the clutch ready to be let go; it was too hard to control all the rushing thoughts in my mind and focus just on not making a single little mistake that would jeopardise the launch. That moment was a high in itself with a pinch of fear and a cup of sweat; it was arguably better than the high while crossing the chequered flag after four laps.
Now I know what every racer feels like behind the visor, and this has raised my respect to them and to the team that builds and takes care of the race machines. Thanks to the TVS One Make Championship Media Race.