Wake Up Call: 2023 TVS Young Media Racer programme qualifier round

    The first taste of a racetrack wasn’t quite what I expected, but it has left me wanting for more.

    Published On May 28, 2023 07:00:00 AM

    7,412 Views

    Every motorcyclist’s first track day is a memorable one. For most, it is a day that inspires them to better themselves and keep returning frequently. In my case, the first taste of riding at the race track would be courtesy of the TVS Young Media Racer Programme (YMRP).

    The TVS YMRP is now in its seventh iteration and as is the case every year, more fresh-faced moto journos like yours truly are given the full racing experience. This includes a race-prepped TVS Apache RTR 200 4V, a set of track-specific riding gear and coaching from TVS’ national level racers.

    What I was attending was the qualifying session for this year’s YMRP. The 31 participants were divided into two groups and our schedule for the day included three classroom sessions, led by TVS Racing’s Harry Sylvester, each followed by an on-track training session. At the end of the day, only the 16 fastest riders would qualify for the full season.

    Despite the straight face, this was quite possibly the most fun classroom I’ve ever been a part of.

    The day of our training programme/qualifier round was an unforgiving one, with ambient temperatures reaching 43-deg Celsius and track temperatures nearing 55-deg. Riding a motorbike in these conditions wearing full leather has really changed my worldview on the harsh reality lurking behind the glitz and glamour of going racing. Needless to say, my respect for the committed racers who bear these unrelenting conditions day in and day out has risen massively.

    To ensure that all of us were well-hydrated throughout the day, TVS had an assortment of electrolyte-boosting drinks and cold water as well as sugary snacks on hand for that quick burst of energy. Believe me when I say that this was no less than manna from heaven on a day as challenging as this.

    The first session was a straightforward one but quite crucial where we would be taught the meaning of the different flags used on track.

    Post each session, we would go back to the classroom and be briefed on what would encapsulate the next session. The second session was all about our lines and we would be coached by seasoned racers such as the likes of Jagan Kumar, KY Ahamed, Manoj Y and Arvind Ganesh.

    When a 10-time national champion like Jagan gives you some advice, you best believe him.

    Right from the moment go, the racers were fully committed to teaching us their craft by pushing us to be fully tucked down, following the markers on the track and showing us the optimum line to be taken for each corner. This session, while thoroughly enjoyable and informative, was the first but not last time, an excruciating cramp materialised in my left foot and meant that the rest of the on-track sessions were spent through gritted teeth.

    The next drill was one I enjoyed thoroughly and was the one where we would learn how to launch the bike and be taught our braking markers. This was great fun and while my launches were pretty decent, I found myself braking too early and that was reinforced by the feedback from the racers as well.

    The end of this drill also meant the end of the learning sessions and after a refreshing lunch break, we would have a 10-minute practice session followed by a qualifying session of a similar duration. To give everyone a better chance, the organizers had even decided to take into account the best lap time across both sessions.

    I was still suffering quite painfully from that aforementioned cramp and as a quick fix I had padded the area in the boot that was causing me discomfort and hoped it would at least tide me over the next 20 minutes.

    For my 5’11, 80kg frame, the Apache is a bit of a squeeze.

    Now came the moment of truth – the timed Free Practice and Qualifying sessions. Despite the discomfort, I decided to go out on track and do my best. What followed was a crash-riddled Free Practice session (not me, thankfully), but unfortunately, my bike wasn’t running perfectly. The number 8 bike I was allotted, for some reason, wouldn’t let me use the second and fifth gears, which meant I was hitting the limiter way too early on the straight and getting passed left and right (also in part due to my 80kg frame).

    After entering the pits and getting a replacement bike, I headed out for Qualifying where the nasty cramp reared its head once again, nearly causing me to run off track. I tried to soldier on, but the severity of the cramp combined with the setting in of the day’s fatigue meant I was fighting an uphill battle. At the end of both these sessions, when the names of the qualifiers were called out, I wasn’t entirely surprised if a little dejected that my name wasn’t on that list.

    Bitter pill swallowed, the biggest limiting factor was me. I simply am not fit enough, but equally so, I need to attend a riding school or two in the future to beat my rough skills into shape. Speaking of getting into shape, I was one of the heavier riders on the grid and shedding a few kilos will also help my cause. Overall, the key takeaway from the YMRP was equal parts fun and educational and I’m thankful I got this wake-up call sooner rather than later.

    Copyright (c) Autocar India. All rights reserved.

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