Clear skies, a freshly resurfaced race track and the Royal Enfield Continental GT 650’s all-new race twin at my disposal…REtro mode on!
About a month ago, Royal Enfield took everyone by surprise when it announced its foray into track racing in India with the inaugural Continental GT Cup. Now, as exciting as it may sound, I wasn’t entirely convinced by the prospect of seeing a motorcycle as heavy as a Royal Enfield lugging its weight around on a race track! However, soon after I had the official press release in front of me that contained detailed information about the race bike that would be used in the championship, I knew my initial thoughts were about to go for a toss!
One look was all that it took for me to be simply charmed by the race bike that the folks at RE had prepped for this new one-make championship – the GT-R650. At this point though, I must make it clear that I am by no means a Royal Enfield fan! Or at least I wasn’t up until I got to experience the GT-R650 myself! Well, how did I manage to swing that? Keep reading to find out…
The first edition of the RE Continental GT Cup debuted alongside JK Tyre’s National Racing Championship at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. So, as far as the environment and mood of the race weekend were concerned, you can’t really go wrong with JK’s national championship – it’s an absolute mecca of speed and adrenaline! But by now you must be thinking how did I manage to get a piece of the action? Well, an opportune call from Royal Enfield led to me being invited for a media experience round wherein select motoring journalists from across the country would get a chance to ride and test RE’s latest race machine at the newly-refurbished Kari Motor Speedway.
But before I proceed further, let me give you an insight into what was waiting for me when I reached the track. The GT-R650 is essentially a track-modified version of RE's standard Continental GT 650 road bike. The race bike features a stiffer race-tuned suspension, both at the front and rear, along with lowered race clip-on handlebars and rear-set footpegs. Plus, the stock exhaust has been replaced by a bespoke stainless-steel unit, which is tuned to offer up to 12% more power. On the aerodynamic front, the GT-R650 gets a specially designed fairing and belly pan for better wind-shearing capabilities. For optimum handling, the race bike has also shed an incredible 24kgs of weight.
So, with more power, significantly less weight and a super-tight riding posture, the GT-R650 was truly as hardcore to ride as it looked on the track. Even though the engine had been left untouched, the GT-R650 felt as though it was running on a motor that’s meant for track use. That just goes to show what an absolute gem the Continental GT’s oil-cooled 650cc parallel twin is! And it wasn’t just the motor that impressed me! The race-tuned suspension, although still quite soft according to the feedback received from most riders, did pretty well in terms of giving the GT-R650 that ability to change direction in a small and effortless flick and the soft-compound tyres offered appreciable levels of grip although they began to wear out much sooner than expected.
In the end though, despite a lot of scope for improvement, the RE GT-R650 spoke volumes about the effort that’s been put in by RE’s race engineers to make it a thoroughbred retro racer. And even though I got just 15 minutes to experience the bike on the track, I felt it was enough time to give me a proper glimpse into RE’s true motorsport potential!
Let’s just hope I make it into one of the championship rounds as a wild-card entrant…