Beginning Of A Fast-Paced Love Affair
I had always wanted to ride on a racetrack and this is how I ended up doing it on my Honda CBR250R.
Did you know that you can lose up to 4 kg after a track day? This is exactly what motivated me to hit the track on my motorcycle. Of course, I’m kidding. Track days sure can be tiring, but we’ll get to that part later.
I had been a keen follower of MotoGP from the age of 13 and seeing riders reach such high lean angles and drag their knees, as well as elbows on the ground, always fascinated me.
When my father got me a motorcycle, a spanking red Honda CBR250R, thanks to my excellent result in the 12th grade, it was the first step in bringing my dream of riding on track to reality. But it wasn’t coming easily.
The only proper racetrack or circuit accessible to Delhiites is the Buddh International Circuit, commonly known as BIC. BIC is an F1-grade racetrack that has hosted international championships like ARRC and F1 itself.
People acknowledge it as the best racetrack of India and it was even in talks with MotoGP stewards at one point. But, as they say, “Greater the track, bigger the hole in your pocket”.
I first thought of attending an open track day, which let inexperienced riders like myself have a taste of the track. But there was a big price for it, literally. The fee was Rs. 6000/- for 40 minutes of track time in addition to the rent of riding gears and that would cost me a total of around Rs. 9000/-.
Luckily, BIC officials posted a flyer of an upcoming open track day the following week. They had divided the day into 4 sessions of 25 minutes each and each session was around Rs. 3000/-. It was time for a long-awaited hole in my pocket. As the date came closer, anxiety and excitement rose.
I started indulging myself in videos about track riding, blogs, and even books related to track riding. One thing I found written everywhere was “Always look where you want to go, and you shall end up there”. As a road rider, I had faced none of such situations where this line made sense. Little did I know then.
The night before the big day came and I couldn’t sleep as anxiety was at its peak. I spent the night thinking about how it could go wrong and how badly it could go wrong for me. Amidst the anxiety, I dozed off for an hour before my alarm beeped its life out. Thanks to the amazing sleep (sarcasm intended), I woke up tired, but the adrenaline took over. I got into my gears and started the 70 kms ride.
I rented the suit from a motorcycle store and they would meet me at the circuit with it and borrowed the boots from a friend. BIC was no new place for me as I had visited as a photographer in the past. Having drooled over how it must’ve felt to ride there, I had always dreamt of coming here as a rider. The day had finally come.
Allow me to take you through the process before you actually get to ride on the circuit. You’re requested to go to the reception where you select your sessions and pay for the number of sessions you want, two in my case. I put the session stickers on my motorcycle and entered the pit lane.
As I stepped into the pits, I stood there in awe. With around 20 superbikes, all getting warmed up for the first session, my Sunday had just got a lot better. I had the smallest capacity bike in the whole line-up, but I didn’t let it affect me in any manner.
As I waited for my session to start, I started gearing up only to find out how hard it was to get into a leather suit. It took me roughly 15 minutes to get in it and this was with external help. As I saw my reflection in the window, it felt so great. It was happening. Finally.
About 15 minutes before the session, they called us in for a track safety briefing where they gave us information about the do’s and don’ts on a track. I had only seen this place in photos until today and I thought to myself, “Is this really happening?”
Soon afterward the clock struck 11, and it was time to go. I switched on the bike, stretched a little, prayed to my guardian angel, and waited for the marshal to show the green flag. The green flag waved, and it was go-time. I released the clutch and started riding out of the pit lane with butterflies in my belly and an enormous grin inside the helmet.
The pit lane ended and I went into Turn 1. It was no cakewalk. The tarmac differed completely from anything I had ever experienced. It felt as if the track was telling you to pin the throttle and drop the bike in the corner (figuratively). But it wasn’t as easy as it sounds.
I wasn’t familiar with such lean angles or such behaviour of the bike. I wasn’t comfortable on my own motorcycle. But the adrenaline took over, and I was pushing from the get-go. As I overshot a few sharp turns, I told myself to calm down or it could all go from fun to fu.. in milliseconds.
I pulled myself together and planned to learn the track one corner at a time. This strategy worked, and I was getting a hold of it. Just as I was getting comfortable, the lights went red. The session had ended. 25 minutes never felt shorter. I came back in, sipped some juice, and sat down to contemplate what had happened. In roughly 15 minutes, it was time for round two.
I went with a plan this time, to take it easy. I started the session and got into a rhythm, a slow rhythm but I was improving every lap. It was the 4th lap, and I was beginning to push.
As I reached the most confusing turn of BIC, the Parabola, thanks to the confidence from the previous session, I kept the throttle open for a few extra milliseconds and looked at the grass on the edge of the track. Milliseconds later, I was riding in the gravel trap at roughly 90 km/hr and was decelerating fast.
I stayed upright somehow, but it shook me. The most confusing turn had caught another prey. As I stood there waiting for the marshals to get me out, I replayed it all in my head. Suddenly the text “Look where you want to go……” made sense.
I got out of the 4-feet deep gravel trap (Kudos to the F1-graded safety) and rolled into the pits for a breather which cost me around 2 fast laps. After a quick pep talk with myself, I got back out for the final 2 laps.
As I reached Turn 1 on my flying lap, I couldn’t dip it in because the tires weren’t clean from my brief gravel excursion. Not the start I wanted to my 2 laps, but I told myself to take it easy, so the tires were clean for the last lap.
As the last lap began, I pushed but didn’t over-do it. I could feel I was faster. I reached the parabola but kept it pinned. As I turned in, I kept my eyes on the exit of the corner, and I managed to keep the bike on the grey part. “I cracked it (sort of)”, I said to myself. The last lap was the fastest of the day for me and it was faster than a few people who were on better and faster motorcycles.
I was hooked, to say the least. As I rode back, all I could think about was the next time I would come here. I decided that a percentage of my pocket money will be kept aside every month to pursue this passion and I’ve been saving it ever since, as I wait patiently for another opportunity to beat my lap time.