Honda was kind enough to invite us to take part in the 4th round of their One Make Championship. So, we headed to Coimbatore to ride against India’s best, where thrills and spills were aplenty.
The high-octane world of motorsports is revving up in India. And thanks to companies like Honda, the professional racing scene in the country is progressing rapidly. Since 2008, Honda has been holding its One Make Race Championship. The obvious reason for the Japanese major to hold such an event is to strengthen its brand image, but by doing so they are also promoting a fun biking culture, increasing awareness of the sport, as well as nurturing and developing local talent.
The One Make race consists of the 150cc Novice category and the 250cc Open category, and it’s in the latter where you’ll find some of India’s brightest riders competing against each other.
So, when I was invited to compete in the fourth round of the 2014 Championship, my feelings were a mix of excitement and fear – although this was not my first tryst with the Honda One Make Championship. Way back in 2011, I had tried to qualify for a race, but that was on the 110cc CB Twister. My track experience has significantly improved since then, and this time I was competing in the much more competitive 250cc Open category.
I would be riding a much more powerful, fully race-spec CBR250R. I am no stranger to the stock CBR250R, but the bike I was introduced to at the Coimbatore racetrack was a far more menacing machine. The race-spec version, with a top speed of 155km/h gets a free flowing racing exhaust, soft compound tyres, a re-programmed ECU, racing clip-on bars, and an electronic quick shifter. The bike is also stripped of cosmetic parts, and uses lightweight sprockets to reduce the overall weight by 8 kilograms.
After meeting some of the teams and riders, it was time for our first practice session. I geared up and waited anxiously for the track to open. The riding position is not the best for a tall rider like me, but I had to get comfortable quickly – because, once I was on the track, there would be no fooling around. The throttle response on the bike is significantly more than the stock engine, and you can also feel a surge in the power output. This was my first time on this track, so I had to familiarize myself quickly by following the other riders. It was no surprise that they were much faster than me – and that’s putting it mildly! One would think that these riders could complete the circuit with their eyes closed if they wanted to.
Competing at this level is physically very demanding, and despite being a fitness freak, I wasn’t in my best shape – and my riding skill level was nowhere close to any of the other racers. They were younger, fitter, more agile, and much more daring than me. There were a couple of close calls and lots of crashes, which served as a reminder that you needed to be totally focused at all times.
I was in for a very rude awakening. After two practice sessions, I was a bit more relaxed on the track – but I was still 20 seconds behind the last rider. The next day was qualifying, and although my confidence was up, I knew that it would be impossible to lower my time by 15 seconds – which is what I needed for a place on the grid. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t qualify for the race.
But, thanks to Honda, I got to rub shoulders with India’s best and get a taste of the action.