TVs Young Media Racers
I went around in circles and didn’t regret it. Yes, there was a racetrack involved
We hit the track for a first-hand experience
Ilanded in Chennai for the second round of the ‘TVS Young Media Racer Programme’ and my enthusiasm was slightly dampened after learning that it had rained heavily the previous night. Three hours later, at MMRT, a bunch of motoring journalists, including myself, stood glaring at the sky, trying to avert the sinister grey clouds that loomed in the distance with our displeased faces.
Incredulous as it may seem, it worked! The track dried out, the sweltering heat was back, and we had ideal racing conditions.
The full loop — all of 3.72 km and 12 corners — turned out to be more challenging than I expected. Theoretically, I knew what lines I had to take but, to my utter disappointment, I found out that knowing the lines and taking them consistently lap after lap were two very different things (my respect for racers went a few notches up after this realisation). By the end of the first lap, I had the track figured out until C4. Beyond that point, the never-ending corner and the short arc before it messed up my rhythm. With each lap of practice, I tried to improve my time between C4 and C10 but progress was annoyingly slow; so was I.
Although qualifying was better, I wasn’t fast enough to make the cut — to qualify, the slowest person on the grid should be within 115 per cent of the pole-position timing.
The next day, I was allowed to race; starting right at the back of the grid. The first thing that struck me when we lined up on the grid was the lingering tension in the air. The entire grid was rent with the sound of revving engines, the smell of burnt fuel, and the killer instinct that began creeping into each of us as the ‘fiveminute’ board came out. The energy on the track during a race is pure, unadulterated and borderline insane.
Before the lights came on, we wished each other good luck. Then the camaraderie ended.
As we revved our engines waiting for the lights to go out, I’m sure each of us was thinking the same thing: “Race for the win!” Any hopes I had of clinching a legendary win were crushed in seconds as I watched the leaders take off with perfect launches and swarm into the first corner neckto-neck. However, I did manage to claim a couple of positions at the expense of poor starts by my fellow competitors. Another window of opportunity presented itself when a couple of racers ran wide at the end of the back straight. Having successfully taken advantage and secured a respectable position, I increased my pace and overshot the chicane.
After correcting my line, I tailed the racer who had overtaken me with the intention of slipstreaming past him on the main straight. As we approached the final corner before the straight, he slowed down while I braked late and leaned into the corner aiming for the apex; further shortening his lead. I was off the seat with my knee inches above the tarmac and looking at the exit when I noticed out of the corner of my eye that we were too close to each other. In an effort to tighten my exit, I opened throttle. Perhaps, I judged his speed incorrectly for our lines briefly overlapped. My front wheel clipped his rear wheel, sending him wide. Regrettably, my luck wasn’t as sound as his. I went head-first on to the tarmac and shot off the track with my trusty machine in tow.
After a quick check for any physical discomfort, I was back in the race. I managed to squeeze in one more lap until my gearbox got stuck in second gear. Faced with the choice of riding the remainder of the race in second gear, it was with a heavy heart that I retired to the pits.
Three laps later, the podium was claimed by Rishaad Mody (first), Amar Katkar (second), and Janak Sorap (third).
If you believe you have what it takes, I would recommend signing up for the One-Make Championship next year. When manufacturers like TVS offer you the convenience of racing with everything else (protective gear, motorcycles, and fuel) taken care of except a helmet, it is too good not to consider. If you are young enough, this could be the best start for a career in racing; if you aren’t, it will be an experience you will never forget.
Before the lights came on, we wished each other good luck. Then the camaraderie ended
Aim: To achieve the perfect launch
The rest of us swarm the winners for a picture
Achievement unlocked: Lean like a boss...well, almost