Riding the Asia OMC-spec TVS Apache RR 310 at Chang International Circuit
I've ridden a race-spec motorcycle on a MotoGP track. Few people can make such a statement! Since enrolling in the 2022 TVS Young Media Racer Program and placing second in the championship, I have been bitten by the track riding bug, and belting it out on a MotoGP circuit has been my wildest dream ever since. To be completely honest, I had never even considered doing it before and never did I expect that dream would turn into reality so quickly.
I turned 23 on November 2, 2022, and that very evening, the Ed sent me the invitation to this riding experience. I was among a limited group of motor noters that TVS had invited to the Chang International Circuit in Thailand to watch the last race of the Asia One Make Championship. But the icing on the cake was that following the race, I would also get to ride the OMC-spec RR 310 race bike on the track! Whoa, what!
At the Asia Road Racing Championship earlier this year, TVS made history by becoming the first Indian manufacturer to ever launch a One Make Championship on a global level. The tricolour was represented by Jagan Kumar, K Y Ahmed and Deepak Ravikumar. But it was Thai chap Vorapong Mahalun who came out on top and won the first-ever TVS Asia One Make Championship. Ahead of the final race, he already had a 126 point lead courtesy of six podiums and two wins.
Vorapong continued to be the fastest in the practice session, followed by K Y Ahmed and another Thai racer Watcharin Tubtimon. In Race 1 of the final round, Watcharin was chasing Vorapong frantically as he swiftly took the lead. But by the final lap, Vorapong was 3 seconds clear of the competition. And that was enough to earn him P1 and the inaugural Asia One Make Championship crown.
The second race started on a similar note with Vorapong charging ahead of the troop at the start. But by the end of the second lap, Japanese rider Fugo Tanaka made his move to P1. Vorapong seemed to have changed his mind at that point since he gently pulled away to P7. Considering his significant victory yesterday as the overall champion, he had nothing to lose. But at the conclusion of the sixth lap, Vorapong showed off his talent by moving up to P2. Insane. In the seventh lap, Vorapong passed Fugo to bag P1 and stayed there till the end dashing towards victory once again.
Because TVS had granted us VIP access to the pits, watching these men compete on the track was a sight to behold. I stood right next to the finish line, behind the fence, and watched the race alongside the crew, getting a glimpse of exactly how fast these motorcycles actually are as they zoomed by. The OMC-spec Apache RR 310 is a single-cylinder motorcycle, so I was genuinely taken aback by how loud it was each time the engine sent a lovely symphony echoing through the grandstand walls.
Come D-Day and before I would head out on the track, B.Selvaraj, the team principal of TVS Racing schooled all of us with all the technical know-how of the motorcycle. This is the most advanced bike TVS makes and that shows, literally. First of all the aerodynamics, this motorcycle looks nothing like its road going counterpart. It gets a full carbonfibre body including the fairing and tail section. The result? An ultralight 110kg kerb weight with fuel, which further drops down by 10kg, if the carbonfibre wheels are slapped on. Staggering. The motorcycle breathes through ram air induction and gets a twin exhaust setup. It deploys the same 312cc oil-cooled engine, but with beefier internals. Titanium valves, forged pistons and better cooling management which give it a 38 per cent power hike. It makes nearly 50bhp now. More bespoke stuff includes a fully-adjustable ARRC-spec Ohlins suspension and aRacer ECU which cleverly adjusts itself with respect to engine conditions to give optimum performance.
The bike also gets launch control, a quickshifter and a bigger 320mm disc brake at the front. This full project was executed in just six months and that is very commendable to say the least. Selvaraj also told us that 95 per cent of the bike is made from the parts supplied by Indian companies.
Finally, the moment I had been waiting for, it was time to head out. The clip-on handlebars and footpegs were set up as per my liking and I hurriedly stuffed myself into the race suit. I swung my leg over the number 5 bike and fired it up. It came to life with a loud roar and started idling at 3000rpm, transferring all the vibrations through my arms giving me goosebumps for ages. The paddock stand was removed and off I went. Right off the starter blocks, the bike astonished me with how light it felt. Even lighter than my long-term TVS Radeon, which is almost 10kg heavier. The short throttle was responsive even with the lightest of inputs and the power delivery was so linear. As soon as I came out of the pits, I gassed it sparing no time, to experience the rev range. This motorcycle has an 11,900rpm redline and it pulls hard right up to it everytime. But the most impressive thing was the brakes. I've never felt such strong stopping power before. The lever feel is absolutely spot on and just the right amount of progressive. There's next to no fade, even after heavy usage. Afterall, this has to be a supreme system, because the racers clock over 200kmph on the main straight at Chang. In fact, the very same weekend K Y Ahmed broke the top speed record of the OMC-spec RR 310, topping out at 211.2kmph and becoming the fastest Indian motorcycle. Impressive for a race bike, but mind blowing for a bike of this class. I managed to push myself to 185kmph which was an occasion in itself.
The bike was shod on Dunlop slicks and those provided immense grip. Surprisingly I got comfortable on the bike very quickly, despite its radical riding posture. What took some time to get used to was the GP-style gear shifting though. The one-up five-down style gear shift pattern, which is the opposite of what's usually present on road bikes. It's one thing to hear this bike ride past you, but a totally another thing experiencing it at full chat from the saddle. This ride experience is something that I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life.
TVS has been racing since 1982. The brand has bought performance to the masses in India with its sporty motorcycles and even commuters. Its entry into the Asia Road Racing Championship has not only given Indian, but also many Asian riders a chance to step up to international racing and that is a matter of pride for Indian motorsport.