We get muddy in Bhopal
Apart from the regular coverage of the national road racing events that take place at our Indian racetracks, this month saw us at a very different race weekend as we travelled to Bhopal to witness scooters going sideways at the Gulf Monsoon Scooter Autocross. There is one name that has consistently been putting riders on the podium across several disciplines of motorcycle racing, including road racing, rally and autocross, and they invited us to Bhopal to watch the autocross and experience their rally-spec factory scooter. The team I am referring to are none other than the stalwarts of Indian motorcycle competition, TVS Racing, who have been racing two-wheelers for over three decades, and the scooter I am referring to is the formidable TVS SXR 150 rally scooter.
The event was organised by Sportscraft and held at the Bittan Market Dussehra Ground in the heart of Bhopal. Being held within the city, the event attracted hordes of spectators who came to enjoy the fun and support the local contenders, who did not let them down. Local racer and two-time National Rally Champion Syed Asif Ali was the star of the day, and dominated the premier up to 210 cc class with a flawless run to bag the Fastest Rider of the Day trophy in addition to first place. Second and third place went to Ali’s team-mates, Imran Pasha of Hosur and Aakash Satpute of Aurangabad respectively, making it a clean sweep for TVS Racing and the SXR 150.
In the 110 to 160 cc class, local lad and privateer Muzaffar Ali beat Aprilia Racing’s Pinkesh Thakkar from Pune and Mumbai’s Venkatesh Shetty, riding for the Lorraine’s Racing Team. All three were riding Aprilia SR 150s. Muzaffar also triumphed in the 110 to 160 cc Geared Scoters class astride an old LML Select. Second and third places went to local boys, with Jaskaran Singh and Mohammed Anwar giving the crowd even more to cheer about.
The under 110 cc class saw Venkatesh Shetty take first place for Lorraine’s Racing, riding a Honda Dio, closely followed by the local duo of Yasir Ishaq on a Honda Activa and Naseer Ahmed on a TVS Jupiter. A scooter rally in India won’t be complete without Kinetic Hondas taking part, and Pune’s Pinkesh Thakkar rode his to victory in the two-stroke class, beating local competition in the process.
Well-known woman rider and top lady rider at the gruelling Gulf Monsoon Scooter Rally for the last four years, Nidhi Shukla won both Ladies classes, riding a TVS Wego in the up to 210 cc class and an Aprilia SR 150 in the up to 160 cc class. Hence she was also presented with
the Fastest Lady Rider of the Day trophy.
Once the racing was done, a few of us lucky journalists got a chance to take a couple of laps of the 800-metre course astride the race-spec TVS SXR 150, and it was quite an experience. The scooter shares a few body-panels with the TVS Wego, but under the skin it’s a whole different animal. The 150-cc air-cooled four-stroke motor produces a claimed
18 PS, and this power is transmitted to the loose surface via Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres mounted on 12-inch steel wheels. The suspension features race-tuned compression and rebound damping valving to make short work of any terrain. The engine breathes through a performance pod-type air-filter bolted directly to the carburettor, and TVS have also given the bike a race-only, upswept free-flow exhaust. Disc brakes take care of stopping duties at both ends, and the CVT is tuned to provide fierce acceleration to the 90-kilogram scooter when you twist the go grip.
The SXR got off the line sedately at first, and then took off in a burst of acceleration towards the first corner, fishtailing ever so slightly as I tried to figure out how much brake pressure I could use without washing out. The tyres gripped surprisingly well under braking, and I made my way around the course as I tried to wrap my head around, sliding the rear wheel around the tight corners on the course. Although the commentator had announced that the racing was over and that the people riding around the track were just auto journalists getting a taste of the action, the enthusiastic crowd still cheered us on wholeheartedly, adding to the experience.
By my second lap, I was starting to get comfortable on the scooter. There is no tank to grip with your knees and no footpegs to stand on; you need to move your weight from floorboard to seat and back as the scooter squirms around under you. I was very impressed by the amount of mechanical grip available on the loose mud, grass and gravel, and was soon quite comfortable with the rear spinning through the corners, confident that it wouldn’t get away from me. I had such a good time riding in the dirt, something that I have hardly done before, that I am now fantasising about getting a motorcycle to do just that. We can dream, can’t we?
Many thanks to TVS Racing for inviting us out to play in the mud.