2022 TVS Young Media Racer Program 6.0 Round 1 rundown
Imagine this. You've been wanting to race a motorcycle on the track since forever. GP style. You've been wanting to feel the rush of battling it out with fellow riders in the corners. You've wanted to max out every gear on a long straight before braking hard into a corner and finally the law of attraction has done its magic. This dream of yours is finally becoming a reality. Well, mine actually. Thanks to the good folks at TVS Racing and my very kind Editor, Sirish, I got a chance to get enrolled in the sixth iteration of the TVS Young Media Racer Program and race on a track for the first time.
The first round of the 2022 TVS Young Media Racer Program was held at the Kari Motor Speedway through dates 10 to 12 June and boy what a rollercoaster ride it was. Over a month ago, me and 11 others had qualified at MMRT for the first round and ever since we boarded our return flight, we were waiting for the first race. It was going to be intense, Kari would be a more technical and completely new track, but from what the assistant-ed Aatish had told me, I was going to have a blast and that just added to my excitement. A lot of things were planned. I'll watch Point-Of-View videos of the track to familiarise myself with the layout, hit the gym because I learnt it the hard way last time that racing takes a massive toll on your body and even ask the in-house experts for some advice and a recap of Kari. But the filled-with-shoots life of an auto-jorno intervened and nothing was executed.
Well, more on that later, but just as the days passed, the exhilaration quadrupled. We were flown to Coimbatore on a Friday evening, for it would be a race weekend on Saturday and Sunday. And in true TVS YMRP fashion, we wouldn't be the only ones racing, for it was the weekend of the Indian National Racing Championship too and we were part of the support races. The championship was returning Kari after a three-year hiatus so the environment there was going to be fabulous, full of life and just as I imagined what my first race would be like.
After what seemed like ages, we arrived the next day and were soon gobsmacked by what we saw. It was a typical day for the usual folks, but for a first timer like me? Heaven. A treat for the eyes and every other sense. Teams working on their bikes, the bikes being cold started and warmed with hard revvs, mechanics tweaking suspension settings, the smell of burning oil and a colour palette of liveries unlike any other. It was epic, but after a while it didn't take long to feel normal. After all, I wasn't the audience this time, but one of the participants, so the ego had overshadowed every other feeling.
We were racing in the Apache RTR200 Media category and our first practice was scheduled for 10:45am on Friday. A session of just 25 minutes to get familiar with the track before qualifying that was slated for 5:05pm later in the evening. Finally, it was practice time and I went out on the number 4 race-spec RTR 200 4V. This time around, we'd be riding this bike in the new PETRONAS TVS Racing livery, which you have to agree looks stunning.
Just before we went out, our instructor Harry Sylvester gave us a short brief on the gears that we should use on every corner. But after we went out on the track, everything just went flying off my mind. Because I was both intimidated as well as staggered by the Kari Motor Speedway. Firstly it's layout. This is a technical track in every sense and you get hold of that fact the moment you turn into corner 1, which is a sharp left after a 400m straight. Kari has downhill corners both sharp and banked ones. Although it's only a 2.1km circuit, it takes a toll on your body because you have to keep on moving all the time. Then comes the second part which got me stunned and that's the sheer beauty of this track. There's no lack of jaw dropping backdrops wherever you look. And look I did, which took a toll on my lap times.
It took the full practice stint for me to get an idea of the full circuit and I tried to have a thorough look at every corner, not giving it the beans, to learn the layout. Keep in mind I had never ridden on this track before and there were a few riders who had ridden here multiple times. Practice ended and we were given our time sheets. I was the sixth fastest with a time of 1:39.154 seconds. I then decided to give it all in the qualifying.
Time ticked by, and with it grew our agitation. Why do you ask? Because in the full afternoon we had witnessed the 'real experts' in action! Did I mention ego sometime before? All of it went down the drainhole after watching these men and women ride around Kari. Then it was qualifying time. I tried to be calm and envision the track in my head. That helps a lot according to the experts and it certainly did. I decided to use the first two laps to settle down and then give it all. People passed me, but I wasn't worried because this wasn't a race. All I had to do was focus on my lines and keep in mind everything that Harry had said. Smoother is faster and that is what I aimed to be. The session ended, we took our suits off and rushed to find out the results. P2, that's where I will start my race on Sunday! I was happy with my performance because I took off 4 seconds from my best time in practice. 1:35.684, still three seconds slower than the leader but a bigger improvement than anybody else. I could sleep in peace and that I did.
D-Day came and our race was lined up for 1:30pm. I was sure the people behind me were going to push it and try to excel as much as they could, no matter how many times everyone said 'we're here just to have fun'. Half an hour to the race and all the laughter and giggles vanished out of the Media booth at Kari. Suddenly, everyone became as serious as an owl. We suited up and were on our bikes all focused on the race. The very generous TVS crew fired up our bikes and it was time to go. It would be an 8 lap race. After the formation lap, we lined up at the starting line. The grid was cleared out and countdown boards were shown. 3 minutes, 1 minute, 30 seconds. 5 seconds to start and we revved our bikes to 4000rpm for the launch. It was lights out and in all honesty I screwed up my start. Heading into the very first corner I dropped down to P4 and wasn't happy at all. Two laps in and the three riders ahead of me started pushing and extending the gap between me and them. On the third lap, after seeing the rider ahead of me pulling away I decided to give it all. Braking later and harder, taking the wider line in tighter corners for a faster exit and that's how I closed the gap. In the next three laps I battled hard for P3 changing position numerous times and that was the most fun I've ever had. By the second last lap I was back in P3 and had put on a considerable gap between me and the rider at P4, in fact I was closing the gap between P2 and me. We were flagged for the last lap and after pushing through 75 per cent of the track, I resigned myself to my fate. I was going to be on the podium and I was happy with it. I was making sure the guy behind me stays there but on the third last corner disaster struck. Not for me, but for the rider who was in P1. He crashed, after pushing a bit too much and that led me to gain another position. I crossed the finish line in P2, with the fastest lap time of the day, at 1:32.431. Bagging the podium and clocking the fastest lap of the day in the group? I was as happy as a daisy!
What an experience and what a weekend I just encountered. It was full of a multitude of emotions, excitement, anxiety, nervousness and whatnot, but most importantly it taught me a lot and that reflected in my improvements that led into me bringing home a huge trophy for team evo India and Fast Bikes India! Onto round two that will be held at MMRT in the first week of July now.