Features/ Special-features/ Road to Track | The TVS YMRP Experience

Road to Track | The TVS YMRP Experience

I have been a motorsport fan most of my life. The thrill of speed, the adrenaline rush, and the sense of competition have always attracted me to the sport. However, I have always had the experience of racing from behind a screen. I was a Motorsport Correspondent before, yet I had never tasted the track. But all that changed this month. My whole life turned upside down. A whole other appreciation ignited inside me and I finally put my money where the mouth is as a motorcycle journalist; A P3 finish in my first ever race. 

So to begin with, let me talk about what I was racing with. It was an Apache RTR 200. Most of it was stock apart from the tyres and the free-flow exhaust on it (and I guess the sprocket?). I mean, I was never a fan of that motorcycle if I being honest, but it was the motorcycle that I had to build a relationship with. There wasn’t much difference apart from the stickering, and the speedometer was also disconnected for some reason. Who knows why… But this made it ever so more difficult to understand how fast I was on the track. 

The day started with a practice session that lasted for 30 minutes. This was my first true experience of the track, and I let it rip. I am quite aggressive when it comes to exploration of the limits of the motorcycle. I mean how else will you learn? So, I went out gunning in the straights and braking really late into turns to see how much speed I could carry in them. The more I braked late, the more I trusted the front end of the motorcycle. It was at this point that I realised how late I could brake into technical turns like C2, C3, C8, and C9. However, what I understood was that it wasn’t just about the braking prowess of things. It was more important to not let the revs drop on the motorcycle.

It is a 200cc motorcycle. So power is scarce and the power bandwidth was on the high side of the rev range. So, more than braking late, I could not let the revs drop on the motorcycle. Then came the aspect of finding the optimum speed for each turn, and here is where things took a wild turn. While I was trying to discover the optimum speed for the C6 exit (it is a long left-hander), I ran wide. I realised at the very end of the exit that I wasn’t going to make it. And I had to abort and use the run-off area. And here’s where things got interesting. The run-off area was wet. Not only that, it was muddy with tractor trails in it that made the whole experience a lot more interesting! I nearly lost control while trying to navigate through the ordeal. In all honestly, I was just praying that my front end doesn’t slip anywhere. But I wasn’t done yet. 

On the very next lap, I went out on the same corner trying to find the limit. But this time I was prepared. I stood up, let the suspension do the hard work and I rejoined the track. At the end of the session, I was sitting at 2:17s. That was decent and I was second on the leaderboards. But something happened in qualifying. I got caught in a three-way war with Karan Mathur and Praveen Kumar as we tried to get free space. I was actually trying to trail Karan for the session, (as Marc Marquez does), trying to use him as a reference to get the perfect time. But Praveen was as fast as the two of us. That got in the middle of my plan and I finished the session with a time of 2:18 and P4 as the position. I was really livid. But now it was all about the race day. 

As race day hit, I became calm. I meditated for 45 minutes before the race, in my race gear. That really put a lot of things into perspective and as the race started, I could put all my thoughts behind me and really connect to the race in a spiritual way. As the race went underway, I fell down to 3 places, but I knew that I had the pace. Slowly I made my way through the people and dropped a late overtake on Pratheek Kunder until I was stuck trailing Karan and Praveen for the rest of the race. Finally, I finished P3 and I was really really happy about it. I did a best time of 2:15, but now I think I can do so much more! The average track time by professionals is 2:11 and I think there might be a 2:11 hidden inside me. Just need to be less scared. But for now, I am third in the championship. 

Speaking of being less scared, I  have to thank TVS for partnering up with Alpinestars and giving us inflating air jackets that we wore inside our suits. It was a boon to have such technology make its way into Indian races, especially media races! It was really safe and it worked. I mean, ask the people who fell down *cough Jatin Chhibber* :P

TopGear Magazine July 2024