Racing at the 2019 Suzuki Gixxer Cup – Firsthand Ride Report

Suzuki Motorcycles India has been conducting One-make championship with its race spec Gixxer 150SF since 2015 now, along with that they brought to India, a new kind of race event, the Endurance race. Inspired from the original Le Mans 24 hour endurance race, Suzuki has been conducting this event year after year to give us, the media fraternity a taste of Endurance racing and a platform to try our riding skills on a proper race track with a race-ready bike. We were recently invited to Kari motor speedway by Suzuki India to participate in the Media Endurance on their all new Race-ready Gixxer 250SF. The thought of my first ever race track event did not let me sleep calm till the very moment of the race, and what a race it was, we shall get to that later.

So Suzuki has been conducting the Gixxer Cup along with JK tyres national racing championship since 2015 now, and this was the 5th edition of the race event and Round 3 of the 2019 JK tyres racing championship. Suzuki and JK tyres conduct these events to promote motorsports in India, and since inception has given a platform for many budding young riders from across India to display their talents and pursue a career in racing. The overall experience began with us reaching Coimbatore on a hot humid Saturday afternoon at the Kari Motor speedway track, with the sound of some engines roaring in their pits somehow welcoming us. A walk through the pits towards the Suzuki pits saw us pass by many other car team pits, and the adrenaline in the air was no less than in a formula 1 race pit.

It was like, I was envying each one there, of why wasn’t I born here. The overall atmosphere, setup and experience felt like I was born for this. It’s a completely different experience to see a race, and to actually be on a race track, see some of them best talent in India drive and then to actually race on the exact same track. I was flooded with so many different emotions even before the qualifiers began as I for the first time in life heard & saw a race take place. The JK tyres qualifiers were on, and the 1.2litre Suzuki engines roared their guts out, the racers were all over the place with an overdose of adrenaline mixing in the atmosphere. All pepped up for the qualifiers, Suzuki dropped another bomb, by showcasing to us their all new Race-spec Suzuki GIxxer 250SF MotoGP edition and allowing us to use them in the practice and qualifiers. We shall get back to the race preps, let look at the bike first.

So this ladies and gentlemen is the Race-spec version of the Gixxer250SF, and boy it definitely screams its intent clearly as soon as you whack that throttle. The race ready version has all additional weights taken off, and was running without mirrors, side stand, indicators, stock exhaust, headlight unit, electrical switches, and was upgraded with a light-weight titanium full system exhaust setup to give it that extra bump of power. The overall weight was brought down by a good 20-25kgs and engine tuning was left untouched, just to depict the engines capabilities in a high revving race environment. We had rode the 250SF at BIC and were really impressed, but the Race-spec bike felt like a complete new engine with the power & acceleration of a true race bike. The bikes had their steering angles locked leaving a very little room to turn the bikes. It was done to keep the bike in control in case of a tank slapper, and make it easier for the rider to gain control back easily.

The handlebars were replaced to a clip-on setup and the suspensions were tuned to offer better stability and feedback, with a few degree change in the rake angle. This allows more contact patch between the tyre and ground, giving it a good control and anchoring it better. To make it better, the stock MRFs were replaced with Metzelers M7 tyres with rear set foot pegs, to offer better & an attacking rider stance. The bike is amazingly fast, and maxed out at 163-164kmph during the qualifiers, and I am completely in love with it, though a little tall gearing would have helped, as we ended up redlining the 6th gear as we crossed the podium most of the times.

Back to the qualifiers, so being a endurance race, its conducted a bit differently than the other races. We were randomly put into teams of 2 riders by picking up chits to keep it transparent. So there were 14 teams, with 28 journalists from various media houses across India. I was lucky enough to find a good team mate in Saad Khan, our Indore based friend from BikeAdvice. In the qualifiers, we managed to put up a decent show and ended up with P6 start position on race day. I lapped a best time of 1.29secs during practice which was a few seconds faster than my teammate. How does that matter, you may ask ; being an endurance race, the 2 riders have to complete the 40mins race covering maximum laps, with each rider riding for atleast 15mins. This meant, we had to swap riders in between the race and strategize as per our teams strengths. We decided that I would do the maximum time on track and try to take a decent lead on others for Saad to later take it ahead and see the chequered flag. Speedy aka Varad More lapped the best times of 1.21secs during the qualifiers, and it was just a pleasure seeing him and Vikrant ride. Oh vikrant who? I am speaking of Vikrant Singh, the indimotard guy and CSS coach. Looking at them was like looking at water flow, made me feel more intimidated than motivated. We returned back to the hotel, and I was on a high, in my own world, feeling happy, giggling and lost in those adrenaline filled moments on the track. I was proud of myself for putting up a decent show there, qualifying with the top 10 riders, and qualifying at position 6 on the grid at race day. What a feeling for an underdog, for a first timer participating in an actual race!

The race was to have a Le Mans start, and what’s that you might be wondering. Well, a Le Mans start is where all the vehicles are lined up in line as per qualifying position in one end of the track, and the rider starts the race from the other end of the track by running towards the bike, hopping on, starting the bike and crossing the start line. Well, an actual physical test before the mental one begins. Imagine running around in those tight leathers and putting it all together to get a good start was like baking a cake, you need to be precise at every moment through it. Our race was flagged of by Satoshi Uchida, the managing director of Suzuki motorcycles India with FMSCI officials all ready in their positions to conduct the race.

The very second the race was flagged off, we all ran towards our bikes, sat on it, started the motorcycle and were ready to put it in the first gear. At this very moment, I glanced around to see me the first one all set to ride out, that feeling of happiness, those emotions were just flooding in, when reality struck in, we got off the start line in P1, ahead of all the veterans, this itself had made my day, I was satisfied with how it has begun. Being a rookie, I decided to take it slow and warm up a bit, before I had Varad aka Speedy pass me on C1 at full speed. I lapped around 16 laps in 23 mins before hitting the pits for rider chance. When I hit the pit, our team was in the Top 4, and I was more than satisfied with what I made from those 23 mins on the track, and set loose Saad to get it home.

Riding on the track in a race is very draining, it drains you out of energy completely. First the sun & leathers make it bad, plus the mental task of moving the bike & body to create music to ears and eyes. Finding the lines for high speed corners on roads you have never rode on, riding a new race spec machine pushing it and yourself to hold on to that few seconds lead that would make the difference in the result, and even finishing the race without a fuck up is more than an achievement, its an experience like no other can be. For me, it couldn’t have got better, we finished a respectable 4th overall in the race. Again for an underdog like me, you can just imagine on what a high I would have been. I couldn’t keep my wide smiling face off, and was just letting everything that had happened sink in. A dream I had as an 16 year old, of racing a bike someday on a track was fulfilled, and in what a memorable way. This picture of me crossing the start line first shall always stay stuck in on one of the halls at my home. Thank you Suzuki India for this opportunity and letting me prove myself to myself for all the choices I have made to reach here.

If you too feel that connect with a machine, and want to let your inner Rossi loose, head out there and get yourself enrolled for a track racing academy. Its never too late to go out there try. Its much better than racing on public roads and endangering others, rather go try your hands here, and you might just get lucky, if you are that talented and really believe in you, go and gear up for this.

Race Report – Suraj Sawant

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