In the automobile industry, Royal Enfield is one of the oldest brands globally. The company which has been building bikes since the Internal Combustion Engines and tyres were invented are now a century old. True to its roots, RE has been maintaining a design philosophy that harks back to its original machines. The unmistakable beat of the Royal Enfield has inspired generations as you coast along at 80 kmph on the highways enjoying your weekend ride. Even I went riding to the Himalayas on a Royal Enfield, that is how most of us get acquainted with these metal steeds.
One day we got some incredible news which was music to my ears. The music was that Royal Enfield was going to start a racing championship. It was as much a shock as a pleasant surprise. Racing on an RE was not something we were used to imagining.
We all have seen lightweight motorcycles with their 4-stroke engines flying around the racetracks in India. And here there was Royal Enfield which was going to be racing their GT bikes with twin-cylinder engines, significantly heavier than most race bikes. How would these fly on the race track?
Previously we had heard of the Polo GT Cup, and now we had the Royal Enfield Continental GT Cup! I left with my crew, grinning from ear to ear, wondering what lay in store. RE hosted these races in conjunction with the JK Tyre National Racing Championship. The company representatives understood our curiosity when we arrived at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore. We were going to be riding as well on track!
Royal Enfield had invited all the racers in India to take part in this race. More than 500 racers had sent in their application to race the Continental GT on the track. Everyone who set their eyes on the bike wanted to have a go. There was a selection round to bring down the numbers from 500 to 100. RE then selected 18 racers who were the best amongst them to race in the GT Cup Championship. All races for the first season were held at the Kari Motor Speedway.
ஒட்டுமொத்த விகடனுக்கும் ஒரே ஷார்ட்கட்!
Normally, a Continental GT looks like a street bike. The track-ready bike had minimalistic modifications done to it. But these mods were sufficient to give it a sense of racing purpose. The bike sported a retro fairing, a stiffer suspension setup, steel exhaust and special JK Race tyres, which helped with cornering through the track. The engine though was unchanged, with power figures the same as a stock bike.
It was slightly odd riding a street bike on the track. Even the motorcycle sensed my reluctance and after the first four corners, did the bike started feeling natural to ride. ABS on the bike was switched off so that you could slide through the corners if you wish. That allowed me to get a closer feeling of the braking and the power of the brakes as the brake pads came slamming down on the disc. The engine power could be felt while exiting the corners.
It was a pleasure to ride this retro bike as a race bike. I hit around 130 kmph on the short straight on the Kari track. But it is not the straight line, where it is fun. It is the corners. The bike doesn’t just have good road manners, it also felt complete on the race track as well.
During the race, there were 18 retro bikes racing through the corners and straights. A sight which is difficult to forget. All 18 racers who raced showed their full potential. 27-year-old Anish Damodar Shetty clinched the National Continental GT Cup Championship 2021. Anish had been leading the championship from the very first round and held that lead to the end with 64 points. 24-year-old Allwin Xavier was tough competition as he ended with 61 points.21-year-old Anfal Akdhar ended up in third place, but at his young age, he showed a lot of heart and potential.
The GT Cup was a grand success in its first season. Royal Enfield is planning to bring more races next year. Also, they will be starting a school to help budding racers to understand and learn about racing. Those interested in starting to race at a young age and aspiring to become champions can start with the Royal Enfield Race School.