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TVS Young Media Race Program Round 2: Absolution


From finishing fifth in the first round to bagging a podium in the second, it was a big learning curve

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“ What’s the worst that’ll happen? You will fall, but you will be more content that you pushed” were our News Editor Arun Nadar’s words right before the first race. But somehow, I didn’t push, and what followed the next few days after the race was heavy regret. But then again, no use crying over spilt milk, right?

A month later, I was back astride the same race-spec TVS Apache RTR 200 4V, at the Madras Motor Race Track, competing with the same auto journalists who obliterated my podium dreams in the first round. But this time, things were different. I wasn’t just competing with my peers, but with my inner self, which was too embarrassed to crash out in a race, and burdened by the thought of not being able to give his publication its third consecutive championship trophy.


 

As I perched on my bike, ready to roll out for the practice session, everything but my head slowed down. A drop of cold sweat ran down my brow, as HK Pradeep’s words rang in my ears, “The only limitation of a good race bike is its rider.” As much as it stung, it was true. I wasn’t letting down this bike, or myself, this time around.

Post the twenty-minute practice session, I was content despite not having seen my timings. Pradeep’s lesson of going back to basics had done wonders already, and cementing that was the fact that my lap time now was four seconds faster than my best lap in the first race. A quick call after the session with the 2019 TVS Young Media Race Program winner Jehan Darukhanawala provided good assurance that I could push further. With that, I clocked 2:20.122 in the qualifiers, a second quicker than my practice session. This put me second on the grid, and 1.417 seconds behind the polesitter.

It was race day, and I was desperate to walk away with the trophy, and not to wake up every morning with the regret of not having given my best. As the lights went out, we bolted on, and I managed to retain my position, with the championship contender, Bikewale’s Ajinkya Lad, on my tail, facing the heat from evo India’s Karan Ramgopal. Call it overconfidence, or my desperation to clinch the top spot, the racers behind me were the least of my worries. For me, it was all about closing the gap with Autocar India’s Soham Thakur, and in my desperation, I pushed myself and the motorcycle to the best of my abilities.

This time, I wasn’t afraid of falling, and even with the rear tyre squirming through the corners, I remained unfazed, determined to get faster. Throughout the race, I managed to retain my position, but couldn’t close my gap with the lead. I crossed the chequered flag in second place, with a fastest lap time of 2:18.787, a whole seven seconds faster than before. So what changed in the one month between these races?

The basics. First, it was trusting the machine. The skinny 110-section tyres didn’t bother me anymore, which made it easier to focus on the next important aspect -- Vision. My only focus this time around was on the racing lines, and not the skid marks on the track. With each lap, my vision only got better, and something as basic as “look where you want to go” instilled more confidence to push myself further.

Body position played a vital role in clocking faster times. There’s no going around the fact that the better your body position is, the more speed you’ll be able to carry through the corners. Lastly, it was the launch, and perfecting it is the key to asserting your domination in the race. This time, not only did I launch the bike perfectly, but my reaction time too was a lot better. All our acceleration runs during testing finally paid off.

As happy as I am with my progress, there are some areas that still need to be worked on. For starters, I am yet to figure out a quicker line to dart out at C3 and through C7, which is where I am losing time. Another area of improvement is my fitness regime. The demanding nature of the sport and the harsh weather of Chennai had me drained in no time. Retrospectively, there were moments where I could have gone a bit harder and later on the brakes, and could have shaved off a couple of seconds through the race.

With the third and the final round of the fifth season of the TVS Young Media Race Program scheduled for February, it leaves me with plenty of time to improve. While I do sleep more peacefully with a trophy at home now, the desperation to cut down a few more seconds and to win the biggest trophy of them all has grown even stronger.

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