The art of cornering
Many people can ride fast in a straight line (including me), but can you carry that same speed through a corner? Well I wanted to find out if I could manage that. To be honest, I had never ridden a race-spec motorcycle or even ridden around a track. And here my Ed sends me to participate in a media race and also cover the Honda One Make race and the final round of the National Racing championship in Chennai.
What is the Ten10 racing academy
According to FMSCI rules, one needs to attend a certified riding school to actually be allowed to ride on the track. And this is how the Ten10 Racing Academy came into the picture. Ten10 Racing Academy is a school for motorcycle riders, which trains, teaches and promotes young riders to follow their passion of motorcycle racing. Honda Motorcycles partnered with Ramji Govindarajan, ex-racer himself and co-founder of Ten10 racing, to devise a programme through which they have trained over 200 young riders yet.
After a brief introduction, it was time for the first lesson — getting into our racing suits. Given my generous proportions, finding a suit size was difficult and getting into the suit was even more difficult. With a little help from my friends I managed to just about squeeze myself into the suit.
The first riding lesson of the day was about braking. Where to brake before turning into a corner, how to brake, and at what distance one should start braking was taught to us with the help of a presentation and various videos. Once we finished with our theory class, it was time we put what we had learnt into action. We made our way to the pit lane, where 15, race-spec Honda CBR 250s were waiting for us. One by one we left the pit with roaring exhausts and headed out onto the track. For the first two laps we were told to go slow, get a feel of the bike, the track and warm the tyres. Once we were given the go signal, upon entering the first corner I had slowed down so much that I did not even have to lean in to the corner. The next few corners I managed to pick up some pace, but I was still braking relatively early. It was only after about 5 laps that I kind of got the hang of it and started braking a little late. A few more laps and we were signalled to enter into the pits and I got off the bike with a smile plastered across my face.
After hydrating ourselves, we made our way to the second theory class, which was all about the art of cornering. It was here I was first introduced to the concept of counter-steering. What is it? Well, in simple terms if you wish to lean the bike right, push the right side of the handle-bar outwards and the bike will fall to the right and vice-versa for the left. I sat there with a confused face wondering how this could possibly work. So to test the theory we headed back on to the track, with me mentally mapping my braking and turning points. The first turn itself I ran wide into the grass; well, lesson learnt. Do not look at the bike in front of you. The next few laps I slowed down a little and consciously followed all that I had learnt, soon enough I felt myself picking up some pace and taking corners much faster than before. Yes! Yes! I got the hang of it finally.
Time for lunch, I got myself out of the suit and finally I could stand straight again and breathe. A quick bite, I wrestled my suit back on and we went for our third and final lesson. You will not believe this, but they actually taught us how to fall or rather what to do when you fall. So what do you do? When you fall go with the flow, this will help minimise injury. If you try to fight it, in the process you will hurt yourself more. I was such a diligent student, I decided to put this lesson to the test as well.
With one day’s training and track time I was excited to get back on the track. After the participants finished their qualifying rounds, it was our turn. My first time participating in a motorcycle race and I was thrilled but still a wee bit nervous. I think it was just the fear of falling. Anyway time to go. We left the pit for the warm up lap. Once again I mapped my markers along the way and as I approached the start finish straight I saw the green flag waving, which meant the race is on. I downshifted, cracked open the throttle and went for it. Two laps done and I finished fifth on the grid with my fastest lap time being 2:35:348.
We had two races scheduled for the day – one in the morning and one after lunch. Finishing fifth during qualifying I was super pumped and ready for the final race. A quick picture with the paddock girls (now that I seem to remember, I was smiling a lot the entire weekend) and the countdown began.
Starting with a wheelie (I did not get a good start) I was pretty much at the end of the pack. I really did not want to finish last, so I went for it. The next two laps I pushed myself and managed to overtake a few colleagues. The third lap and riding high on my confidence I managed to get my knee down (yes! I did it) and that’s when the tables turned. With one more lap to go, I made the most stupid decision which was to go flat out through corners, so that I could make up time. It was the fourth lap and I was at the third last corner – a tightening left hander – a slow speed corner. I entered the corner really fast and kept powering my way through. I hung off the bike as much as I possibly could, scraping my knee on the apex and I do not know whether I lost my front or the back, but the next thing I felt was my shoulder bouncing off the tarmac. I let go off the bike and rolled a few times ending up in the grass. I think I blacked out for a moment there because all that I can remember now was the marshal’s voice, but I cannot recollect what he was saying. It took me a minute or two to get myself together and walk to the marshal’s post. Everything was okay except my shoulder. I could not move my arm. An ambulance carried me to the medical centre where they deemed me unfit to race because they diagnosed I may have a fractured collarbone. So that was the end of my race weekend. Like I had mentioned earlier, I even practiced falling and trust me the advice to let go did help.
The only way I can sum up my first experience riding a race-spec motorcycle on a track and participating in a race is that I was swept off my feet. I can’t wait to get back on the track and finish the race without breaking my bones