Shivank goes racing again – this time with TVS Racing – and comes back with more excuses…
“Hey man, what’s the deal with you?” quipped the doctor at the Medical Centre of the Madras racetrack. I was there to clear my fitness test, so that I could participate in the TVS Apache Media race the next day. And the reason why the doctor looked part-baffled and part-amused, and fully concerned, was because my blood pressure was unusually high. For someone my age, that shouldn’t have been the case, he said.
Fortunately, though, after a couple more tests, I was given a green signal. Although the doctor did ask me to ‘’take it easy’’ on the track. I walked out from the medical centre a bit concerned, but also somewhat relieved. You see, this could well be a good excuse if I don’t end up doing well in the race. And given how terribly I did at the Honda Media race roughly a year ago – I finished dead last in two races, just in case you were wondering – I wasn’t exactly feeling too confident this time around.
As it happened, the TVS Media race was a two-day affair. On the first day, we had a 20-minute training session and an interaction with the TVS racing team’s engineers and racers. While they gave us some great insights into motorcycle racing, the main highlight of the day was, of course, the time we got on the track with the race-spec Apache RTR 200 4V.
I’ve always found the RTR to be a great little machine. So, when the new RTR 200 was launched in 2016, I had high expectations from the motorcycle. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t underwhelmed one bit when I first rode it. The RTR 200 is one of those motorcycles that you can ride quickly the moment you swing a leg over it. The race-spec RTR 200, however, takes the performance and handling game up a notch. There aren’t any major revisions to speak of. Some of the key mods are the fact that it gets an aggressive cam profile, bigger carburettor jets, a lightweight free-flow exhaust and a bigger sprocket for better acceleration. TVS says power is up by 3-4bhp in the race-spec version. However, it’s not just the bump in power, but also the weight reduction that makes the race-spec RTR a serious track cool. It’s 15 kilograms lighter than the stock bike since it’s been stripped of all the bits that are deemed unnecessary for the track – indicators, headlamp, stands, rear foot pegs, ORVMs, and other stuff. However, the bike doesn’t have high-set footpegs.
Thanks to these mods, the race-spec version is easier to throw around the tight corners of the Madras track. Between mid-and-high revs, the engine feels the strongest. The gearing was spot-on as well – although the gear ratios are altered for different tracks we’re told. Even the Pirelli tyres on the race bike – which are the same as the road-going version – offer superior grip levels.
Knowing one’s P(l)ace
After getting familiar with the track, as well as the motorcycle on day one, the next morning we had our qualifying. Based on the results, we’d be lining up at the track for the race the same afternoon. However, at one point, it seemed like the rain Gods might throw a spanner in the works – and they did. During the 10-minute qualifying session, all of us only got a single dry lap to clock our best times since it started drizzling midway. I qualified sixth, but was clueless as to where I stood – pace wise that is – in comparison to the other 11 journos.
Lights out, and off we went. I, however, didn’t’ fly off like I had imagined or planned. I botched up the start, as I nearly stalled the bike off the line – meaning that three riders went past before I had even started. Still, within the first lap itself I got the position back. And I have to say that it was quite gratifying. That’s mainly because, while overtaking other riders, I was able to figure out that the problem with them was not the lack of outright speed, but the lines they were taking. Personally, I felt I was taking better lines, which helped me get past those three in no time. And, honestly, I felt there was a definite improvement in me as a rider.
Next, I set my sights on the rider in 5th position. But I have to say he was too quick for my liking around the tricky bits. But he had a weight disadvantage, which meant that I was catching him on the straights. On lap 3, of 4, thanks to the stock ergonomics, I scraped the right foot-peg going too hot into the never-ending double apex corner (T6/T7). I ran out wide, as a result, and the rider in front disappeared into the distance. Luckily, I didn’t crash or lose my position. From then on, though, it was a lonely run to the finish line.
All in all, I was satisfied since I didn’t lose my qualifying position. But, more importantly, I finally got the monkey off my back by not finishing last this time around. For someone who’s out of shape and has high blood pressure that’s quite a feat, wouldn’t you say?
Or, is it? You see, the gent who won the race was nearly 9 seconds a lap quicker than me and was over 10 years older. What’s more, he was also advised to take it easy on the track since his blood pressure was also high – I know this because we got our tests done together on the first day. Next time, I think I need to come up with a better excuse then. Or, perhaps I should work towards becoming a faster and better rider. Yup, that I think is the way to go…