The good folks at TVS are proud of their racing heritage, which began way back in 1983-84. And TVS firmly believes in the act that its learning on the racing arena should trickle down into its everyday motorcycles. Hence, the RTR or Racing Throttle Response came into being with TVS' Apache range of motorcycles. This particular motorcycle has always been exciting be it the 150cc, 160cc, 180cc or the latest 200cc iteration of the Apache. It was just a matter of time before TVS entered the One Make Championship fray with its Apache RTR 200 4V and to give a taste of the same, TVS invited a few journalists for a media race that was held at MMRT, Chennai.
A quick briefing session and a product presentation later, the practice laps awaited us on a Friday evening leading to the qualifying session on Saturday morning and the race in the evening. "That's it! Almost done... Almost there." Getting into a racing suit is always a struggle but getting into one that is a size smaller, well, let's not even get there. As usual, the heat was stifling in Chennai and the racing suits did not help matters either. But there was a sense of excitement in the air. This was my first time, participating in a motorcycle race on the hallowed Madras Motor Race Track, also known as MMRT. I was hardly able to walk normally, let alone get astride on a motorcycle. But all the discomfort went out of the window once we headed on to the racetrack. Now, the MMRT is 3.717km long with 12 corners and 3 straight stretches that makes for a total of almost 1.5km of straights. We had a 30 minute practice session wherein I was getting to know the racetrack for almost all of it. The MMRT is a good mix of technical and free-flowing corners which really test your skill be it riding or driving.
The machines allotted to us were the race spec Apache RTR 200 which sees a few changes of course. The crank is all new and lightweight, the engine is re-tuned to produce around 3-4bhp of extra power over and above the production motorcycle along with giving more grunt towards the top end of the rev range for quicker acceleration and a higher top speed. Also, the stock exhaust makes way for a K&N free flow exhaust that of course, is much louder and gives that extra power boost. Also, the race spec Apache 200 is approximately 10-12kg lighter than the stock motorcycle too, which means better power-to-weight ratio.
Now coming to the experience itself! It was phenomenal. I could see the faster riders ahead of me taking the racing lines on the MMRT and I was trying my level best to cram that into my head. After 7-8 odd laps or so, I finally began getting the hang of the track and the motorcycle as well. While I surely wasn't the fastest, I wasn't the slowest either. The race spec Apache 200 is nimble and graceful. The motorcycle itself inspires so much confidence that for a rank novice like me was pushing harder with each and every lap.
The chassis is stiff and so likeable that flicking the Apache from corner-to-corner was easier done than said. Cleanly and effortlessly is how the race spec Apache pulls as you open up the throttle. The grip from the Pirelli Angel GT tyres at the rear and the Sport Demon on the front was absolutely great, but there was a difference in the level of grip the front and rear tyres offered, which rolled back on the confidence by a teensy bit (Sheer nitpicking). In real world, the Pirelli tyres feel superb on the stock motorcycle.
While it would have been great to take a podium step in my first ever motorcycle race, but the very thought was umm... farfetched, in all honesty. What I can say is that, I was able to shave off 5 full seconds from my qualifying time of 2:36:343 minutes to my best lap time around the MMRT of 2:31:579 minutes. It was way away from the winning lap time of 2:13:742.
While I finished second from last, I was happy that there was solid progress from my qualifying time to the best lap time. More than the standings and the timings, it was the learning on the racetrack which I took home with me and which will help me become a faster rider on a racetrack.