Drag racing may be considered as one of the easiest disciplines of motorsports. After all you just have to keep the throttle pinned to the max over just a quarter mile (400m). Easy peasy, right? That’s what I thought too. Until reality hit me when I took part in my first ever drag race at the Valley Run 2018. There is so much more to it than just your right wrist that leads to a perfect run.
Like any form of motorsport, you need a fit man and a competent machine. Luckily for us, we had the right motorcycle for the job. Triumph had loaned us the top-of-the-range Street Triple RS for the event. The 765cc engine of the RS is derived from the old Daytona’s 675cc mill. And from 2019 onwards, the same motor will be used for racing in Moto2, the intermediate class of MotoGP. The race engine gets a modified cylinder head for revised intake and exhaust ports, allowing for better fluid dynamics. It gets titanium valves and stiffer valve springs which facilitate higher revs.
There is a low output race alternator kit as well as a race developed slipper clutch, which can be tuned by teams. A taller first gear ratio as well as a Magneti Marelli race ECU are amongst the other changes. As a result, it makes close to 121 horses and 77 Newtons. No wonder it is a bike that won our hearts as well as the Sport Naked Motorcycle of the Year at the 10th Times Auto Awards in association with evo India and Fast Bikes India. On the rider front, we had to settle for yours truly who is most often found gulping down a chocolate freak-shake within seconds. So, far from being fit. Hence the 121bhp would be extremely beneficial to propel the lard-arse aboard the bike.
The Valley Run takes place in the serene dislocated part of Lonavala – Aamby Valley. The run itself is carried out on their airstrip. The mandatory safety check takes place a day prior to the run. You do not need headlights for the event and the mirrors too had to go. With the latest rules being implemented, each and every rider had to don a one-piece leather suit with the only acceptable helmets being ones with a D-ring strap. No micrometer locking mechanism allowed henceforth. Since I had turned up with my textile gear and touring helmet, they kept my entry on hold. I was not going to ride through the ridiculous Mumbai heat and traffic in my leathers. The officials did leave a comment on my entry form, stating that they will allow me to race in case I arrived with the necessary gear on the day of the run, which is what I intended anyway.
There is a remote location on the outskirts of Pune where we use the VBox to test our vehicles. I needed to practice my start procedure and so headed straight off to our testing site, post scrutiny. The start is extremely crucial in a drag run. Match the revs perfectly and you will shoot forward into oblivion. Under revving the engine will either cause you to lose time or worse, stall. Over rev the motor and you will get a great shot for Wheelie Wednesday, not great though for a good quarter-mile run.
“With the engine map and ABS in Track and TC switched off completely I was ready.”
The Street Triple RS comes with a suite of top-notch electronic riding aids. The ride-by-wire throttle makes way for a number of riding modes but the one most suited for the purpose would be Track mode. However, I made use of the Rider mode which allows you to alter the throttle map, ABS and traction control settings to the rider’s liking. With the engine map and ABS in Track and TC switched off completely, I was ready to begin practice.
In my practice runs, I found the sweet spot for getting a perfect launch. With the needle hovering around 7,000rpm, the RS would get a perfect launch. I did find the front wheel taking flight if I tried to launch at higher revs. The clutch action also has to be smooth. You cannot just dump the clutch. You need to release it smoothly which would overcome the bogging down motion otherwise experienced.
“When I checked the VBox, my best quarter mile run was 11.2s.”
I had no worries about wasting time on shifts as the Street Triple RS comes with a factory-fitted quickshifter. The slick shifts allow you to keep the throttle wide open as you move up the cogs, minimising the time lost in the process to a great extent. And with the motor free revving to 12,000rpm, I wouldn’t have to shift as often as well. When I checked the VBox, my best quarter mile run was 11.2s. It was enough to give me a boost for the following day of racing.
The moment of truth
Due to an overwhelming number of entries, each participant would only get two tries at setting their best times. I dropped the rear tyre pressure by a couple of psi, allowing the super sticky Pirelli Supercorsas to have a larger contact patch, translating into better traction. And as always before a good run, one needs to burn some rubber to increase tyre temperatures and bring forth a new layer of fresh grippy rubber.
“The Street Triple RS deserved a lighter rider who could extract the entire potential from the 765cc triple pot mill.”
The organisers had discounted the system of accounting for reaction times for the runs. They would only be used to settle disputes in case two or more individuals ended up with identical times. My runs went better than expected. I did fluff up my shifts on my best run, shortshifting by nearly a thousand revs. This meant my best time of 11.662s would earn me tenth position in my class. I was 0.8s off the class winner, who rode a tuned Triumph Daytona. In fact, there must have been only two or three riders quicker than me who rode on bone-stock motorcycles. So, what have I learnt? The Street Triple RS deserved a lighter rider who could extract the entire potential from the 765cc triple pot mill. Could I become that rider come 2019? Only if I give up my flavourful diet for something that Abhishek consumes – healthy proteins. Wish me luck!