The second round of this year’s TVS YMRP was held at the Madras Motor Race Track in Chennai.
The TVS YMRP (Young Media Racer Programme) is an initiative by TVS Racing to give us auto journos a first-hand experience of what it's like to actually race – the preparation, the techniques, the mindset. In the first round, I crashed out from the lead, just a few hundred metres from the chequered flag. But this time, I settled the score with a victory.
Practice for the second round was held on Saturday (August 6), and I wasn’t feeling too good after the session. My braking was all over the place, and I couldn’t get my body positioning right and never felt at one with the bike. Thankfully, we had a few hours to kill before our qualifying session, and I used that time well. I spoke to Ananya Awasthi, who races in the Apache RTR200 Girls One Make Championship, and got some tips on how to shave off those vital seconds. In typical racer fashion, most of the ‘tips’ involved the phrase 'full throttle'. So, when the qualifying started, I took her advice and pushed like hell. With a time of 2:21.270, I was 7 seconds faster than in the practice session, and while everyone else had upped their pace too, I was over a second quicker than Daniel Rajkumar B who qualified second.
Starting from pole gave me some comfort, but a lights-to-flag victory is no easy task. I didn’t have to worry about keeping my composure in the lead for too long because a horrible start had me tumble to the fourth position as soon as the lights went out. If I was to win, I’d have to put on a fight, and I wasn’t pulling any punches. I took Daniel (then in third) on the outside of the first corner. Next was Ishan Lee in second. I reeled him in, getting a great exit at turn three and almost out-braking him into turn four, but I wasn't close enough. By some stroke of luck (for me), Mandar Sawant, who was leading the race then, braked too hard into the long sweeping right-hander that is turn seven, which caught Ishan off-guard. He ended up locking his rear and almost collecting Mandar in the process. I could smell the puff of smoke from his rear tyre when I managed to hang a quick left and avoid a three-way crash. With Ishan startled for a moment, I was quick to open the throttle and snatch the second place.
In the span of one lap, I’d gone from first down to fourth and back up to second again. And the race was just getting started. I passed Mandar on the inside of turn four on the second lap and started to settle in the lead. My zen was only interrupted by the hum of another engine right behind me, a couple of laps later. Uh-oh!
Ishan had overtaken Mandar, and I was his next target. What followed was a fierce, fair dogfight that carried all the way to the chequered flag. If he would pass me on the inside, I’d take him on the outside on the next turn, and then he’d have his nose ahead by the next corner. It was a test of determination, skill, composure and talent for both of us. And to be honest, both of us equally deserved that victory. We put on a fantastic show, almost coming together on multiple occasions. But there can be only one winner, and the ecstasy I felt after crossing the finish line was incredible. I’d won my first race. This might be a 'media race', but the feelings were very real.
A big shoutout to TVS Racing, which provides a fantastic platform for us journalists to experience what motorsport is all about. I can’t wait for the third (and final) round!