While journalists always remain on the other side of the pit wall, this time, things were the other way around. Here’s how the action unfolded…
Speed! Thrill! Adrenaline! These are the terms usually associated with motorsports, right? Well, they were certainly the ones occupying my thoughts as I hauled myself to Chennai for the TVS Young Media Racer Programme 2019. TVS Racing School had invited a group of 18 enthusiastic (or zany, perhaps) motoring journalists from across the country for the event’s third edition (first launched in 2017) to try their hands on some tricked-out Apache RTR 200 motorcycles at the famed Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT).
The agenda was simple – to undergo a few training and practice rounds before setting timed laps. In the end, top fifteen journos with the fastest lap times were to be selected for the 2019 championship, which will be held across the year. Sounds simple and straight. One might even assume that all that was needed to be done was to go berserk on the motorcycle and blitz the track as fiercely as possible. Well, while this thought might underline the overall sentiment, it’s clearly a one-way ticket to end into the barriers if adopted as a strategy to go about the day. It was only after the day had ended that I realised the abundance of technical knowledge that I had gained with just a day’s training – all my preconceptions about track riding went out the window.
Proceedings began with an early morning briefing session, conducted by TVS Racing veteran Harry Sylvester, which introduced us to the world of track racing. The Level 1 Training covered some basics pertaining to riding technique such as racing lines, braking, body posture while riding and communicating through signals with track marshals. Armed with the new-found knowledge of track mannerisms, it was time to hit the track.
With our suits and fancy helmets on, all of us were itching to go out and put our skills to the test. But, before we could do that, we were divided into two batches of nine riders each – something that was maintained throughout the sessions of the day. At the helms of the batches were TVS riders K Y Ahmad and Jagan Kumar – our on-track instructors for the day. The first practice session began, and we were asked to familiarise ourselves with the track in a rather unexpected way – without using brakes! While it sounded daunting at first, it soon became clear that the drill was intended to help us get into a rhythm of sorts, eliminating twitchy moves while negotiating corners.
Even though I grew up watching MotoGP races, the spectacle of watching a motorcycle lean to the extent of nearly hugging the tarmac still amazes me. Now, veterans make it look all so easy, but the reality of performing the feat is completely different – I didn’t have the slightest clue as to how much dedication and fearlessness it takes to make the motorcycle lean to such ridiculous angles.
By the end of the final practice session, most of us had imbibed every bit of information imparted to us throughout the day and were ready for our timed laps. While the lap times set by the class of 2019 were indeed impressive, I could’ve certainly done much better. However, the important thing was that I managed to crack the top fifteen and became a participant of this year’s championship. Over the next few months, we’ll head to the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, MMRT in Chennai and Buddh International Circuit in Noida for the multiple rounds of the championship. Fingers crossed!