Royal Enfield GT Cup 2021: My selection round experience

To an outsider, it might have looked like sitting around all day for just 7 minutes on track. But what a rush, once on the bike senses heightened and everything was a blur.

BHPian deepfreak15 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

neil.jericho: REGTCUP2021. Pretty short notice really (18th/19th Oct). Deepak saar, signing up?

Me: No saar... I am way too old for competitive racing.

neil.jericho: I think Ill register. No harm in trying and seeing what happens.

Me: Then I'm doing it too.

And so the seed was sown. RE's process was pretty simple, open up a registration portal with the only criteria being applicants should be 18+ years of age with either certified track day/school experience or a valid race license. There was no information as to how they would select the 100, but later we found out they went with the first 100 out of the 400 who applied. True to RE's nature, the registration portal was released with a few glitches, and it took me around 3 hours to finally complete the process. All we knew was we had to wait till the 1st of October, and if shortlisted, we would have to make a payment of Rs. 2500/- + GST to confirm our participation. The blurb said selection would be based on fitness and lap times, but that was it. No more information on the format or if there were any classifications because in my mind I was hoping they were not considering measuring professional riders against riders like me. RE clearly stated all expenses need to be borne by the participants and that they would provide the bikes, racing leathers and food.

Was thrilled to find out both Neil's and my application had been accepted but when the rider list was announced it brought us back to reality. I saw a lot of familiar names, the usual suspects who feature on the top spots of national level competitions so we decided that, if we had a good time, we would consider it a win and a bonus would be if we could learn more about the 650 twins by talking to a few officials.

The bikes:

What a beauty! Very tasteful modifications, but I don't think they are factory mods because all queries about them were directed towards Aspi Bathena and his engineers. This was more of his baby than RE's:

Picture credit; RE website:

That exhaust note was to die for. Sadly, it can never be used on public roads without incurring the wrath of the law:

Picture credit; RE website:

My hopes for an OEM rear set were dashed. The riding position is truly brilliant with this modification. Unfortunately it requires an angle grinder and a welding machine:

Picture credit; RE website:

The fairing was functional down the straights but sadly cant be used on the road bike:

Picture credit; RE website:

Picture credit; RE website:

The clip-ons also seem to be locally sourced, though I was still struggling to get used to them before my time was up (more on this later):

Picture credit; RE website: NOT REALLY!

I am not sure what the intention was, if JK couldn't get the tyres ready in time or what, but for the selection rounds the bikes came with the OE Pirellis, while they had imported a bunch of Metzler Racetech RRs for the races. JK techs literally were burning rubber by removing the serial numbers and branding:

The selection process:

Pretty straight forward. 5 riders at a time on track spaced out by some seconds and you get 5 laps (including the sighting lap). Best lap time would be taken into account and if you crash you are automatically disqualified. As per the schedule, this was supposed to happen over two days, but since the weather was fickle they rushed through the process on day 1 itself. Credit to RE, they leaned on JK Tyres and another track school (CRA) to organize this and it went smoothly. Some bikes went down heavily, and riders returned with scuffed leathers, the ambulance came into play a couple of times, but thankfully no serious injuries and no coming together for any riders.

It wasn't easy for anyone, even the professionals complained 5 laps were not enough to get to terms with the bike and set any times, in spite of them having years of experience on the same track. Also the 650 motor is unlike any they are used too. Everyone kept hitting the rev limiter galore.

During the briefing, someone asked what a reference time was and we were told this was the first time the bike is going around Kari and no one knows, but they had the RC 390 as a reference at some sub 1:25(or was it 21- I forgot) seconds. Credit to the rider and RE because the fastest recorded time was 1:22:6, this time will only go down once the riders get used to the bike post practice sessions and with sticky rubber.

My "Five" laps:

To an outsider it might have looked like sitting around all day for just 7 minutes on track. But what a rush, once on the bike senses heightened and everything was a blur. I forgot most of what happened on the track but this is what stood out in my mind:

  • I was keenly aware I didn't stitch a single perfect lap.
  • I got most corners right, but always goofed up somewhere.
  • The bike felt brilliant to throw around compared the stock road version.
  • I could not get to grips with the clip-ons in 5 laps.
  • The rear suspension was set at the softest setting and kept moving around.

I was having fun until one of the professional riders blew past me like I was standing still, and that's when I realized how woefully off the pace I was (not that I didn't know that going in). So none of the above points mattered until I had the skill to stitch a perfect lap and then be able to do it consistently.

Neil will have a good laugh and tell you how I was taking myself way too seriously.

My takeaway:

In spite of being a good 12 seconds off the pace, the event for me personally was a roaring success for a whole lot of reasons, I will try to list them out and not in any order

Always a pleasure to meet fellow BHPians and Neil is very good company. He seemed to be having a better time than me and was more relaxed. Also got to meet krishsreedharan:

I got to meet a legend (Aspi Bathena), and what a very nice person to chat with. Very friendly and down to earth. It was nice to pick his brains about the bike and listen to his exploits:

What a privilege to spend time with the voice of Indian motorcycling. I have been following his reviews since his Business Standard Motoring days, and resonate with his point of view with motorcycling in general and to meet him in person was got even better:

Being interviewed by the man himself:

But the best part was once I had completed my laps, he walked up to me and said "You looked very good on the bike, lot of riders were struggling with C1 but you flowed through it". I vaguely remember blabbering something while giggling like a 5 year old school girl. Coming from him, that was the highlight of my entire motorcycling journey so far:

 Now waiting for Neil to pull the trigger and buy one of these:

I know a lot of memes already exist, but if you are looking for one with "When you lie on your resume and get the job..." feel free to use this picture. This was no place for a 40 year old with just a couple of track school training sessions:

No clue I would get this opportunity when this picture was taken a few years ago:

That's a mighty lot of merchandise to give away, but more than that, extremely grateful to RE for conducting this and opening it up for general public. Would have been brilliant if they had kept two separate categories, one for the amateurs and another for the professionals. Though one thing is for sure, I will get all the practice I can and try to get as close as possible to the lap times of the fast riders:

The stay:

Kari Motor Speedway is in a remote place, and no good places to stay near the track, so your options are only 12 to 14 kms away. This was the first time I was pleased with the stay. Had selected Zone by the Park. Not too expensive, and the rooms were good. But do note their parking is a bit cramped ,so if you plan on driving down in a pick up truck you might have to look elsewhere.

Good luck to the shortlisted riders, and looking forward to the track school which RE said will launch eventually.

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Power to the people