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Learning The Art Of Motorcycle Racing At TVS' Young Media Rider Program 8.0

After years of daydreaming, I finally got my first taste of the racetrack. Although far from glamorous, some moments there make it all worth it
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By Sidharth Nambiar

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7 mins read

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Published on June 15, 2024

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Highlights

  • The first session of TVS YMRP was all about applying what you learnt in the classroom sessions.
  • The second session is when you learn to 'move' properly on a motorcycle and shift position.
  • Qualifying was all about gunning it and setting the fastest time on track.

It is safe to say that every motorcycle enthusiast out there has dreamt of riding on track. While most of us never admit it, we have at least once visualised ourselves on the racetrack while riding through the streets, regardless of the calibre of machine we own. Thanks to TVS Racing, a bunch of other young journalists and I got their first taste of the racetrack, and that too in the safest way possible at the TVS Young Media Rider Program 8.0. 

 

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A total of 39 members of the media participated in the track day.

 

While the experience was rewarding, I also learned the glamour and glitz of racing we see on television couldn’t be further from the truth and that it is indeed one of the most physically testing sports. But I think I speak for everyone else who attended when I say I would do it all over again.

 

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This was the eighth edition of the TVS YMRP

 

This was the eighth edition of the TVS Young Media Rider Program, which gives members of the media a chance to experience and learn the ins and outs of riding on a racetrack. This edition consisted of two track sessions, each lasting 15 minutes, followed by a final qualifying session, where each rider would race against time to set the fastest lap time possible. With 39 participants, three batches had to be created. At the end of the program, the fastest 16 riders in the qualifying round would be selected to advance to the next round.

 

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The first thing to do on track was go through the registration process

 

My morning started with a light breakfast consisting of 2 slices of bread and a single omelette from the hotel. I didn’t want to stuff myself too much as I knew there would be a lot of physical activity that day. After being ferried to the Madras International Circuit and going through the registration process, Harry Sylvester, a multiple national racing championship title holder, gave us a number of lessons over the course of the day. These included those about racing lines, the importance of riding gear, body positioning, braking, acceleration, timing boards, track signals, and gearing. We were guided by a number of other trainers that day, which included KY Ahmed, who most recently competed in the Moto3 class of the inaugural Bharat MotoGP as a wildcard entry.

 

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The trainers on track included the likes of Harry Sylvester and KY Ahmed

 

TVS Racing did a good job of making sure that the track was safe for all attendees. We were provided FIM-certified race helmets, among the safest helmets there are, and cost anywhere from Rs 40,000 to over Rs 1 lakh. Aside from the usual race suits, gauntlets, and boots, we were also given Alpinestars Tech Air 5 motorcycle airbag vests, which are designed to deploy within 30 milliseconds upon impact. The Tech Air 5 airbag vest is priced at around Rs 65,000, according to Alpinestars’ website.

 

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Track safety is a must, and we were provided with FIM-certified helmets and airbag vests

 

Now over the past few years, I’ve seen the likes of Charles Leclerc and Marc Marquez wearing their race suits and have pondered over how good they look. However, when I did get to don the race suit, it was far less glamorous than I had imagined. Firstly, the suits are heavier than they look, and getting into them is not as easy as it seems like, especially if you’re 6’2” like me. Once you finally manage to squeeze yourself inside, you start sweating bullets, even when you sit under a fan. Of course, it also didn’t help that the temperature that day was around 40 degrees. With the helmet visor down and gloves on, you start to feel even more uncomfortable, especially if you have a tinge of claustrophobia like me. But that only lasts until you go out on track, and once you do, that’s the last thing that’ll be on your mind.

 

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The best way to learn on track was by observing the trainer (astride the red RR 310) in action

 

The first time I went out on track astride the race-spec TVS Apache RTR 200, I was nervous and overwhelmed as I tried to apply everything I learned in the classroom. Our batch rode behind a trainer who would guide us and help us perfect our body movements and positions while approaching corners and straight lines. One could learn by watching the trainer in action on a motorcycle, by noticing the points before corners when he braked and how he shifted his body position while covering the track. That said, I should say the feeling of being on track is something else. The adrenaline while leaning in and approaching corner after corner, faster than you ever have in your life, feels almost poetic.

 

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A photo from the first training session (I was on the Number 7 bike)

 

After the first session, I found myself more exhausted than I had ever been in a while and felt like I was approaching dehydration. Then I found myself wondering if I should go back on track. But I soon realized that opportunities like these only come once in a while and that I should push myself to get through. And frankly, that was the best decision I made that day.

 

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You learn to ‘move’ with the motorcycle over the course of the second session 

 

Towards the second session, you begin to really do things around the track that you initially never expected to at the start. You learn how to ‘move’ with the bike on track. My focus was on learning how to corner effectively and to have fun while at it. There are also moments while cornering when you realise how frightfully close you are to the ground and feel afraid for a moment, only for it to be replaced by a confidence that you’ve taken the turn perfectly and will make it through safely. My best moment of the day came when I almost got my knee down while approaching a corner, something I’d wanted to do since I was a boy. However, the second session also gave me a reality check, when at one point, I went off track into the grass, after failing to approach a corner the way I had visualised.

 

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Lining up on track right before the qualifying round

 

Then came the final practice and qualifying session. Before the session, we were given a small demonstration on when to brake while approaching a corner. Then the qualifying session commenced. During the session, I saw my batchmates really gun it to set the fastest time possible, while I felt like the most laid-back rider on track. I basically ended up trying whatever I was taught before the day came to an end. I did try setting a few lap times in the process, but I knew right then that this would not be enough to get me into the top 16. As I had expected, I didn’t make the cut, finishing in 26th place out of the 39 participants.

 

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I finished 26th out of 39 participants, but it was the last thing on my mind at the end of the day

 

However, returning home that day, I reminisced about everything that unfolded on track, and the slightly disappointing results were the last thing on my mind. I thought about the best parts of the day, which involved sharing my experiences of going out on track with other journalists taking part in the event. There was also the fact that I’d done a few things I always wanted to do in life that day. All in all, TVS YMRP 8.0 was a surreal experience and a great learning opportunity.

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