TVS Apache One Make Race 2016
A staple complain that people have about Chennai is the high level of humidity and temperature. It's 36 degrees centigrade right now with humidity levels close to 80 percent. Cladded in racing gear from head to toe, I am marinating in my own sweat parked at the racing grid. The afternoon sun is unforgiving and there are five more minutes for the race to begin. These are the longest five minutes I have ever experienced. It's not the heat that's suffocating anymore, it's the anxiety of the red lights going off and the race starting.
I am at the Madras Motor Race Track, Sriperumbudur for the TVS Apache One Make Race 2016. My steed for today is TVS's latest Apache RTR 200. As this is an open category, the 200 (carburetted version) has gone through minimum modifications for track use. It now gets a free flow exhaust along with camshaft and carburettor tuning. These slight modifications add a few more horses to the already peppy machine. As this is a track bike, the headlight and other electronic bits have also been removed, shaving the weight by another 10kgs. For the rest of it, this is still your regular RTR 200 that you can buy at a dealership.
Back to the racing grid, the pit crew is clearing up as last minute checks are done on the bike and every thing seems good to go. I slot the bike into gear and wait for the lights to go off and the race to start. I have been on the track many a times, but a one make race? Well I have to say this is my first. Not helping matters much is the penalty I was slapped with during qualifying, putting excess pressure on me. With adrenalin pumping high, and the noise of the free flow exhaust roaring through the grid, the red lights go off and the race begins.
Opening the throttle in first gear there's oodles of torque going to the rear wheel. There's a short wheelie for a few feet before the front wheel touches the ground. In my mind there cannot be a more picture perfect start than this. Sadly, the rest of the bikers have managed to keep the front wheel to the ground, so the rider at the front is already four bikes length ahead of me.
Slotting the bike into third gear I am already hitting triple digit speeds in to turn one. What's noticeable about this RTR 200 is that it feels better at higher revs than the stock bike. Quickly coming out of turn one I close the gap between me and the bike ahead. I can feel the high that a racer gets as he makes a split second decision to move up a position.
Given the familiarity of the track I make up for some good time as I come close to overtaking the bike ahead. Sadly on the second lap my concentration falters and I carry too much speed while cornering. I overshoot the corner and end up in the gravel ahead. After moving up a position, I am pushed back to 10th. Not to mention, my confidence gets dented in the middle of the race.
Counting my lucky stars I manage to get the bike started and get back into the race. Sadly there's already a fair distance between me and the bike ahead. I brake later and corner harder. I realise at this point that the front brakes need a bit more bite. Though they are adequate for road use, you don't get the instantaneous feedback that you expect on track. Same can be said about the foot pegs that scrape while taking hard corners. Rear-set foot pegs would have worked better for a track bike like this one.
Making my way on to the straight, I open the throttle and crouch for maximum speed. Given the speed this bike can achieve, the handle bar could have been placed lower for better feedback. The next lap goes in playing catch up and finally when I come close enough to the rider ahead, I can see the chequered flag. This marks the end of the race as we take one more lap and head to the pit lane. This has to be the longest and fastest 10 minutes of my life. The adrenalin rush, the speed. Thinking about it as I park the bike in the pit lane, this was one hell of an experience.
TVS has been in racing for three and a half decades now. What started out to be a research and development project with a humble 50cc moped has turned into a full-fledged racing team. The track-spec Apache RTR 200 that we rode today is to encourage fresh talent into motorsport. All you need is a Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) license and a participation fee of Rs 2,500. The motorcycle and maintenance support will be handled by TVS. If the company feels that a particular rider has the potential to make it big, he will be picked up by them for participating in national and international race events.