Suzuki plans on introducing the race-spec version of the Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition to the Gixxer Cup from next year. However, they were keen on knowing how the bike performed on the track. So, guess who they reached out to for help...
Suzuki Motorcycle India Limited introduced its premier national two-wheeler racing championship, the Gixxer Cup, in 2015. However, starting last year, folks at Suzuki decided that the penultimate round of the championship should host a bespoke race, in which, media journalists from across the country can have a go at their race machines. While my colleague was fortunate to be a part of this affair last year, I got a chance to be a part of this thrilling experience this time around.
While the broader 'Endurance Race' format remained the same as before, this time though, there was a small change and a BIG change! The overall race duration had been reduced from 60 minutes to just 40 minutes for 2019. This meant that each of the two riders of every team had to ride for a minimum of 13 minutes & a maximum of 20 minutes. Failure to meet either criterion would result in immediate disqualification of the team. So, it all came down to which team had the most effective rider-swap strategy. In the end, the team that could manage the maximum number of laps in the 40-minute time duration would win. The runner-ups would be decided based on the distance covered.
The big change, on the other hand, was the machine that I'd be riding over the two-day race weekend. Last year's competitors rode the same race-spec Gixxer SF 155s that were used in the Gixxer Cup. This year though, the media personnel were invited to test the new race-spec Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP Edition motorcycles. Suzuki intends to introduce these in the Gixxer Cup from next year. And when I say new, I mean fresh-off-the-trailer new! So, as excited & eager all of us were to ride these new bikes, we were equally nervous & anxious as nobody wanted to be the one who crashed a shiny, new bike. Direct instructions from Suzuki officials, to exercise caution, didn't help our case either.
Lined up on the grid basis our qualification results from the previous day, the Le Mans-style start made things all the more exciting. After a brief chat with my partner, I elected to ride in the first half of the race as I felt I could manage the bike on cold tyres better. With the green flag out, we ran to our bikes as our partners held them for us. As I was quite confident after my qualifying run, I did not hesitate to go all-out on the first lap itself. After all, each second was important to maximise the distance covered. However, my outright pace did see me lose balance on two slow corners. But I was able to recover with ease.
Keeping my amateur riding skills aside, the bike was simply terrific to ride on the limit. Despite having no wear on them, the tyres offered sublime levels of grip right from the start and made small work of Kari's technical & narrow corners. On the main straight, most of us were able to breach the 160km/h barrier, thanks to a six-speed gearbox that let us extract the most out of the 249cc oil-cooled motor. A race-spec, free-flow exhaust also ensured satisfying bursts of acceleration. Apart from some down-shifting issues during braking, the bike performed flawlessly & beyond my expectations.
As the final rider crossed the chequered flag, all of us down in the pits stood with bated breaths, waiting for the results to come in. And to my absolute surprise & delight, my partner & I had managed to classify fifth, out of fourteen teams competing. This also happened to be my first-ever crack at the top-five in a two-wheeler track race. Though a podium-finish would have been even more rewarding, I could not help but head back home with a wide smile on my face throughout the journey.