It started as early as 8 in the morning when the wifey’s phone started pinging, and it didn’t really come as a surprise. In fact, it happens every single year on the 8th of March, not just in my house but around the country, and indeed the world. On International Women’s Day, people wish the women in their lives. It’s a day that has been set aside out of the 365 on the calendar so that a world caught up in its usual chaos doesn’t forget the contribution of the fairer sex in our lives. Some say it with a simple message on Whatsapp or a less personal message on their social media. Some say it with flowers and chocolates. But none celebrate women’s empowerment like TVS Racing does. When the whole world was out to woo the woman with stereotypical boxes of chocolates, colourful bouquets and lofty messages finishing with #GirlPower, India’s oldest racing outfit actually put women in a position of power.
Oh, we aren’t talking electoral power or legislative power. We are talking about horsepower, for on International Women’s Day, TVS Racing, which was one of the first to start the One Make Race for Women and the first to sign up a woman as a factory rider, threw open the doors to racing yet again to India’s motorcycle riding women by announcing the rider selection programme for this year’s TVS One Make Championship for Women. To be conducted in the IT capital of Bangalore on March 17 and the commercial capital of Mumbai on March 25. So, what does it take for a woman to exercise her right to use the throttle and go racing?
Before the selection
As is the case with men with aspirations to go bike racing, the women too must first apply for a competition licence from the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. This is the first of the eligibility criteria and if you don’t have this then you’re looking at a polite refusal from TVS Racing.
With all racing in India done under the aegis of the FMSCI, which is deemed the national motorcycle federation in India by the FIM, the international regulatory body for all forms of competitive motorcycle riding, TVS Racing’s programme complies with its stringent rules and no rider is exempt from this.
To get hold of a competition licence you can log on to the FMSCI website and apply for a 2W Restricted, which is the new nomenclature for Novice category, licence. This licence will allow you to race on a closed tarmac circuit in the Novice category. The fees for this is `1,180, including GST. Beware, in this world of digitisation if you’re making an offline application then you’ll be charged `250 extra. Armed with this, you’re now ready for the selection process to become a competitor in the TVS One Make Race Championship for Women.
Unlike a normal road going licence, even those under the age of 18 can apply for a competition licence. However, if you are above 18, you will need to have a road going licence to apply. While the physical license may take some time to reach you by courier, the confirmed licence number on the above website would be enough for you to take part in events.
Entry to the free selection process starts with the simple step of registration on the TVS Racing website (see box). You’ll be asked for some basic information like your full name, contact details (including address, phone number and email address) and the venue where you wish to attend the selection process. Click the submit button and you’re in!
Once you’re done with these, all you’ve got to do is turn up on D-Day. It really is that simple and uncomplicated. To get selected for the season’s starting grid, you’ll have to be among the fastest ten riders from all venues combined. This can be a bit tricky, especially if you happen to be in the first lot of the selection process. If you make it to the top ten then you’ll need to pay TVS Racing the registration fees for taking part in the race. So, for the princely sum of `6,000 you’ll be given a motorcycle, all the support you need on track and full motorcycle gear.
The machine – TVS Apache RTR 200 4v
As with the race, the selection is done using the TVS Apache RTR 200 4v, which now also gets an anti-reverse torque slipper clutch for smoother upshifts and to mitigate rear wheel hop during aggressive downshifts. Its 197.75cc single-cylinder engine puts out a healthy 20-plus bee-etch-pees and more than 18Nm of peak torque. This output makes the motorcycle powerful enough to go racing on but not intimidating for first timers and is a great platform to learn race craft on.
The riding gear
It is absolutely mandatory for riders to wear proper motorcycle riding gear. This includes a full face helmet with DOT and ECE certification and a double D ring clasp, leather race suits, proper motorcycle riding gloves – preferably of the gauntlet style that covers the wrists and race spec motorcycle boots that cover not just the ankle but also the shank of the leg.
For those of you who do not have race leathers, TVS Racing does have a limited supply of them available so please do ask early on. Once you’re selected then TVS Racing will provide you with all the riding gear you need. All you’ll need to carry is your helmet.
Training at TVS Racing
With all of this sorted out, you’re now nearly set to go racing. FMSCI however has one more hurdle for you to clear before you line up on the grid.
You will need to be trained in the art of racecraft, which is somewhat different from regular riding on public roads. You will need to know the role of marshals, how to communicate with flags and which flag means what. You will also need to know about racing lines, body position, throttle control, overtaking and more.
To help you get initiated into the heady world of motorcycle racing, TVS Racing runs a wonderful school. Once you’ve gone through all the layers and find yourself at this school, you’ll meet your trainers Harry Sylvester, K Jagan Kumar, K Y Ahmed, S Kannan and Aishwarya Pissay, who all ride for the TVS Racing factory team in various competitive events and are all extremely respected for their accomplishments.
With their extensive experience on the race track, they will guide and teach you how to move your ability to ride fast to the next level so that you can genuinely race another competitor. From the physical act of racing, prepping a bike, dealing with pressure to formulating race strategies, the TVS Racing school will ensure that by the time you line up alongside the nine other candidates on the starting grid of the opening race, you know exactly what constitutes motorcycle racing.
The training however doesn’t stop there. Once the season starts in earnest and you start racing in each round, the trainers will continue to guide you with instructions on how to shave lap times, how to get better. It’s a constant process at TVS Racing where the people involved genuinely believe in complete commitment to the cause of motorcycle racing.
Just like in the case of the men who aspire to go racing, the TVS One Make Racing Championship is the stepping stone for women into the world of motorcycle racing. TVS Motor in fact was one of the first motorcycle manufacturers in the country to introduce the idea of a one make series specifically for women and were also the first to sign up a factory rider.
Divided into Novice and Open categories, the one make series runs alongside the Group B category in the National Championship. If you’re under 23 years old then you’ll be eligible for the Novice category. But if you’re over 23 then you head straight into the Open category.
The one that made it big
Meet 22-year-old Aishwarya Pissay of Bangalore city. An avid motorcycle racing enthusiast, she also started her career as a motorcycle racer by enlisting for the TVS One Make Race Championship for Women. She went on to win three national championships last year. Not content to limit herself to road racing, she is the only rider on the circuit who also does rally riding and has finished both the extremely challenging Raid de Himalaya and the Dakshin Dare.
This extremely promising and talented racer is now a rider for TVS Racing’s factory team with a schedule of 20 races to compete in, in 2018. She was also a jury member at the 10th Times Auto Awards, was conducted in partnership with Fast Bikes India and evo India