One would assume that a brand as old as Royal Enfield would always be associated with motorsports, wouldn’t you? Well, you are partially right and partially wrong. Royal Enfield never took part in any form of racing, but there were quite a few gallant racers from the 1960s and onwards who have straddled a Royal Enfield powered motorcycle past the checkered flag and tasted winners champagne bottles. Furthermore, it is hard to believe that a motorcycle brand such as Royal Enfield does not endorse a one-make racing series at all. Seems like the folks at Royal Enfield were certainly overhearing this conversation as, for the first time since this iconic brand first originated, Royal Enfield is organizing an all-new format of racing, and they have named it – The Royal Enfield Continental GT Cup.
As the same suggests, what RE are kitting up for the races are their Continental GT 650 motorcycles that were first launched back in 2018. Okay, let me point out the elephant in the room while I am at it; these Conti GT 650 that you see in the pictures aren’t entirely stock! Visually you must have already spotted the retro-designed front cowl with the round headlight. But, that is not all; other visual upgrades include a shorter rear subframe that excludes the pillion seat (#causeracebike), lower clip-on handlebars, and higher footpegs, which is tuned to offer the best riding position to the racer on the track.
In terms of the mechanics of the GT 650, no tweaks to the engine were made, but the stock exhaust setup of the Conti GT 650 is replaced with a fully tuned-length stainless steel exhaust which not only reduces the weight of the motorcycle by 20 odd kilos, it also bumps the power output of the GT 650 by around 4bhp. Furthermore, these bikes were creations of Mr Aspi Bhathena and his brother Mr Sheri Bhathena who are known to be legends in the Indian biker scene, so they were bound to be extremely capable, to begin with.
But imagine the excitement I had when Mr Aspi handed over the keys to these race-spec Conti GT 650 and requested everyone to experience what this bike had to offer at the Kari Motor Speedway! So naturally, I immediately donned on a pair of race leathers and gunned the throttle past the pit lanes onto the empty Kari Motor Speedway.
In the twenty minutes I spent on the racetrack, I realized how good the stock continental GT 650 was, to begin with. The engine offers an incredible torque band no matter what gear you are in. In addition, all the tweaks to the riding ergonomics of the motorcycle certainly made me feel a lot more confident while taking corners around the Kari. But that being said, the moment the adrenaline rush wore off and my twenty minutes came to an end, I realized how difficult it is to keep pushing the motorcycle around the racetrack. Not because the Conti GT-R 650 (that is what the race bike is called) was causing issues, but more or less my body had taken a bashing out on the track.
The instant I entered the pit lane and jumped off the GT-R 650, I peeled that race suit off my body and headed over towards the media lounge to enjoy the rest of the weekend watching the professionals do their thing out on the race track. Speaking of which, racers from all across India had gathered at Kari Motor Speedway weeks before to prove their mantle. Royal Enfield spent three days segregating from 100 racers who participated and then selected the top 20 racers who qualified for the race weekend. During the race weekend, Anish Damodara Shetty dominated the maiden round of the series, beating Allwin Xavier to win the races. The second race, in particular, saw Shetty lead from the start, followed by Allwin Xavier and Jayanth Prathipati finishing the first-ever Royal Enfield Continental GT Cup.
As the race weekend drew to a close, it became clear that even though this is Royal Enfield’s first stint at a stand-alone manufacturer racing series, they have come all guns blazing! The Royal Enfield Continental GT Cup not only showcases the potential of the stock Continental GT 650, but it also allows the brand to set a platform for budding and avid racers across India to use this championship as a platform to showcase their skills and to also build on their racing experience. This, in my book, is undoubtedly a good direction for automakers to head to, and I wish more automakers in India work on making such one-make championships.