TVS Young Media Race
Armchair racing is easy. Fighting for eight laps to cross the line is not
We race on the track for a first-hand experience
On a race weekend, if
you are greeted by a pool of water below the bridge that leads to the final corner at the MMRT (Madras Motor Race Track), then it is highly likely that you will not be racing the full loop. Unwelcome showers overnight forced officials to reduce the length of all the races over the weekend. Our five-lap race was now an eight-lap dash around the short loop.
I was in Chennai during the fourth round of the MRF FMSCI Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship to race in the ‘TVS Young Media Racer Programme’. TVS Racing offered automotive journalists like myself the chance to attend a racing school and participate in support races during the racing season. Thus far, I had raced at the Kari Motor Speedway, Coimbatore, and MMRT. The programme has helped me understand the nuances of racing and appreciate what racers go through each time they are out on the track. So when the MMRT beckoned for the third race, I obliged.
I entered the track with a spring in my step. I had done my homework, kept myself in good shape, and had invested in a new helmet; which translates into ‘covered almost everything except actual practice’. Thus far, the first round got cancelled due to rain and I crashed out in the second one. One of my basic goals this time was to see the entire race through.
Ten minutes before the practice session, all of us emerged from the TVS garage fully kitted up; this time with chest and back protectors. The latest track rules state that this extra piece of kit is an absolute essential for racing. I was fortunate enough to escape unscathed from my previous crashes but in retrospect it could have been a painful experience if I had landed on my chest without the protectors.
During the 30-minute-long practice session I focused on getting my lines right. Each lap I braked
later and got on the gas faster. When I asked for tips to improve my lap times, our Ed, Aspi Bhathena, told me that to be fast around any circuit you either have to be on the gas or on the brakes. Every second you spend coasting or braking softly costs you precious seconds. Additionally, your smoothness when feeding in the throttle after braking hard for a corner will make all the difference. Coming out of C12 (the final corner before the main straight), my rear tyre occasionally slipped and slid, reminding me that I needed to work on my throttle input.
Qualifying saw a more satisfying use of my time since I had a better idea of what I needed to do. By the end of the session, I managed to shave off four seconds from my best time during practice. A few months earlier, I had done the same short loop on the same bike in a minute and 19 seconds which meant that I had the potential to go faster if I could figure out my mistakes in time.
The following day we took our places on the grid and waited for the lights to go out. The usual tension that accompanies a race was thick around us as we stood at the starting line revving our engines. Our immediate vicinity seemed to be lost in a time of its own while the world went about its normal business on either side of the tarmac. The moment the lights went out, I pulled a small wheelie and shot forward, taking a couple of positions off the start line. After the first set of corners, a careless mistake saw me lose one position to a fellow racer who was quick to capitalise on the opportunity. The following laps saw me defend my position while trying to chase down the guy in front of me.
I managed to finish the race and also posted my best time for the weekend. Back in the pits, my fellow journalists told me that I was not riding as fast as I used to. For the coming rounds, I am looking forward to increasing my physical fitness and mental focus so I can ride to my full potential.