15th Oct 2018 6:00 am
Accessibility was the theme of our bike track day this year, but boy was there a lot of excitement too.
It’s that time of the year that gets us all giddy with excitement. At this year’s Autocar Track Day, we have an exciting line-up of motorcycles, but with an interesting twist. Every bike here is sporty in its intent and is meant to keep the rider engaged, but you won’t find any exotic machinery that comes at a sky-high price. Instead, the theme this time around was accessible budget, and, to that extent, only two bikes here cost upwards of Rs 10 lakh, with the most expensive one being the Ducati SuperSport S at Rs 13.39 lakh (ex-showroom, India).
So, will these bikes be able to hold their own at the racetrack or do you simply have to spend big money to set a seriously quick lap time? And helping us arrive at the answer is India’s fastest motorcycle racer, Rajini Krishnan. His impressive career has a long list of wins and few of the highlights are winning nine different Indian National Racing championships, capturing the Qatar Superbike Championship in 2012-2013 and winning the Malaysian Superbike Championship in 2015. He’s currently competing in the 2018 Malaysian Superbike Championship and we have no doubt that our bikes are in the right hands!
TVS APACHE RTR 160 4V
Lap Time: 2m23.77s
Track rating: 7/10
A big upgrade over the old RTR 160, especially in terms of engine refinement and handling stability.
The TVS Apache RTR 160 4V was the least powerful bike at the 2018 Autocar Track Day and also the only one priced under Rs 1 lakh. But being blessed with the wonderful chassis of the RTR 200, it felt at home attacking corners. Rajini says that the new bike is much better to ride than its predecessor. It has a more planted feel and he found the refinement of the motor to be a remarkable improvement. However, he said that the bike felt out of breath on the straights and that it’s better suited to smaller and tighter tracks. The RTR was the first bike out on the track and it had to deal with some puddles of water from the previous night’s rain, which affected its lap time. Overall, it still is a fun bike to consider at this price point.
YAMAHA R15 V3.0
Lap Time: 2m16.18s
Track rating: 9/10
Faster than before, better track dynamics and good aerodynamics. The best beginner race bike in India.
The smile on Rajini’s face as he parked the R15 Version 3.0 in the pits revealed just how much he liked the motorcycle. According to the ace racer, the new offering is the most track-focused R15 ever made. Rajini loved the riding position on the track and he also praised the aerodynamics of the new bodywork. The bump in power is noticeable and races have been won this season owing to this advantage, which is partly thanks to the new VVA (Variable Valve Actuation) tech. The new R15 was quick around corners, and despite the India-spec version not getting a USD fork, Rajini liked the improved performance of the wider telescopic unit. The R15’s lap time was also affected by a partly wet circuit although it was clocked on the optional Metzeler rear tyre.
TVS APACHE RR 310
Lap Time: 2m07.22s
Track rating: 7/10
A great sport bike for the road and with good power, but it feels a little heavy on the racetrack
The TVS Apache RR 310 is among the big-ticket launches of 2018. Rajini felt the flagship TVS motorcycle offers adequate power for a single-cylinder motor of this capacity, but a few more horses would have been welcome (racers are always power hungry). Stability through fast corners was impressive but it was clear that the bike would be more at ease on a winding public road than on the racetrack in stock form. This is primarily because the foot pegs grounded easily (despite having the feelers removed) and the rear suspension is too soft for aggressive riding on the track. The RR 310 also weighs quite a lot, which demands more work for directional changes. Good braking performance does round it off as a capable, if not complete, track bike.
TVS APACHE RR 310 RACE BIKE
Lap Time: 2m03.51s
Track rating: 8/10
A good platform for racing, but it should lose more weight and offer higher-spec suspension/tyres.
Rajini was visibly more impressed with the race bike and it was quicker than the stock motorcycle by nearly 4sec. However, it must be noted that the bike provided to us was running on Metzeler M5 Sportecs as opposed to the standard Michelin Pilot Streets (TVS says it’s working on this option). The race RR 310 is not a big departure from the road bike and Rajini says the biggest advantage comes from the increased cornering clearance through the rear-set foot pegs. He liked the benefits of the free-flow exhaust and the quick throttle but added that the race bike needed to be lighter and could do with higher-spec suspension components. Perhaps with more track time, the RR will evolve into a more hardcore race machine.
DUCATI SUPERSPORT S
Lap Time: 1m58.68s
Track rating: 7/10
Heavy steering, and torquey engine runs out of revs quickly. Good suspension, brakes and electronics.
The SuperSport is a road-biased sports bike and we came away from our first ride experience convinced that this is one of the nicest Ducatis for the road. However, at the MMRT, Rajini felt that the Ducati was too heavy and demanded a lot of effort at the steering. While the L-twin motor offers a good amount of grunt, the torque delivery at the low end is very strong and this made modulating the throttle quite challenging. Compounding his difficulties was the low redline – compared to the three- and four-cylinder bikes – which meant that he was hitting the limiter on corner exits. However, he did appreciate the sharp Brembo brakes and felt that the handling could be improved by spending time to fine-tune the adjustable, high-spec Ohlin’s suspension at either end.
Lap Time: 1m57.37s
Track rating: 8/10
Fast and friendly, and quite capable. Could use better rear suspension and more cornering clearance.
This Suzuki streetfighter surprised us by setting the second-fastest lap time this year. Rajini specifically liked the smooth and linear power delivery offered by the inline-four motor, which makes this a friendly bike to ride. Despite being the heaviest motorcycle of this lot, the GSX-S750 felt neutral and predictable on the track. He also added that the stock tyres and brakes performed ably, but the rear suspension was too soft and the foot peg feelers were too long, restricting cornering speed. Having said that, the three-level traction control will be appreciated by the lesser experienced. Rajini says the GSX-S750 is a good option for a street rider who also plans to do track days occasionally, especially considering the strong power and great value it offers.
TRIUMPH STREET TRIPLE RS
Lap Time: 1m52.40s
Track rating: 10/10
I would change almost nothing. At this price, track performance is incredible, and it’s usable on the road too.
And, finally, we come to the fastest bike at the 2018 Autocar Track Day – the mega Triumph Street Triple RS. Having ridden this bike on the road and track previously, we had no doubt that this would be the fastest bike this year. However, in Rajini’s hands, the British streetfighter set a shocking lap time that has upset the times set by bikes that cost twice as much. In just two fast laps, Rajini set the third-fastest time ever recorded at the Autocar Track Day since we began testing bikes in 2010. Such was its pace that it even humbled the recently-timed mighty litre-bikes like the Suzuki GSX-R1000R (the tyres weren’t in great condition) and the MV Agusta F4.
Of course, the layout of the MMRT helps, as there are no massive straights to fully unleash a litre bike, and the lightweight Triumph simply slices through the corners. What makes the bike even more impressive is the fact that Triumph sent it to us with a set of Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa tyres instead of the track-focused Supercorsa SPs that come as standard. Given OEM rubber, Rajini says the Street Triple RS could have lapped the circuit
about 1-1.5sec faster!
The Street Triple RS shines thanks to its combination of a hard-charging engine, sharp-handling dynamics, and a very communicative chassis. The RS’ low weight also works in its favour and it allows the high-end adjustable suspension to shine bright. Rajini also loved the Brembo M50 radial monobloc calipers that were easily the best brakes he experienced of the lot. When we pushed him to reveal something he would change, Rajini mentioned that the steering gets light and is prone to head shakes when the bike is pushed hard, and he would add a steering damper for frequent track use.
There are many fast motorcycles out there, but what makes the Street Triple RS so special is that this is a bike that can shred up the racetrack, head back home in comfort, and even handle daily commuting without stress. The RS sets a benchmark, and until the Daytona 765 or a full-spec 600cc supersport arrives in India, there’s nothing that goes faster around a racetrack at this price point. We’re blown away.