“Racing improves the breed,” so said Soichiro Honda, the Japanese engineer and industrialist who established Honda Motor in 1948. Since those days, Honda has played an important role in motorsports, believing it to be the springboard for technological advancement.
“Racing improves the breed,” when I repeat this to Sarath Kumar—the young racer who won the finals of the Honda One Make Race Round 2 CBR 250R championship last week—he says, “I have a long way to go.”
At the Irungattukottai race track in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, Sarath Kumar finished the CBR 250R race with the best lap time of 2:01.981, while closely competing with Sumit Toppo and Mathana Kumar, who won the second and third positions, respectively.
Since 2008, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India (HMSI) has been taking part in the Indian National Motorcycle Racing Championship (INMRC) and is conducting the Honda One Make Race annually.
INMRC is the national championship for two-wheeler racing and is approved by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India.
The participant companies are HMSI, India Yamaha Motor, TVS Motor and Suzuki Motorcycle India. INMRC is held on all the three fully-functional tracks the country has—Kari Motor Speedway (Coimbatore), Irungattukottai Race Track (Sriperumbudur) and Buddh International Circuit (Greater Noida).
Prabhu Nagaraj, vice-president, Customer Service, HMSI, said that for 8 years Honda has been successfully promoting motorsports in India. “Since 2008, the One Make Race continues to grow in scale and prestige.
Last year it drew a total of 319 entries from biking enthusiasts converging from as far as Mizoram, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry. This year the number of entries is set to increase,” he said.
While Indian racers are getting better race by race, can any of them compete globally? Nagaraj feels they can. “Asia Dream Cup is the brainchild of Honda Motor Company, Japan.
Through this racing activity, Honda gives Indian riders a platform to develop racing skills comparable to the best in Asia. From India, Honda has sponsored three riders—Sethu Rajiv, Hari Krishnan and Sarath Kumar.
In fact, three rounds have already been conducted—in Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan. This year, for the second time, participants were asked to train at the famous Suzuka Racing School (Suzuka Circuit, Japan) for taking part in the Asia Dream Endurance Race,” he said.
For developing young talent within the country, HMSI has signed an MoU with Ten10 Racing Academy. “Six sessions for professional racing training have been held, where over 150 riders above 15 years of age participated. Encouraged by the response, we will hold the next racing academy from August 22-23 in Bhubaneswar,” Nagaraj added.
The participant companies too benefit in various ways.
TVS Motor says that racing can do wonders for the company as it has been proven that racing helps in both product development and building a long-term image of the company.
HMSI claims that, globally, technologies from the track are incorporated in everyday vehicles in numerous ways. They are tested, refined and proven under the trying conditions in the races, and then adapted in the vehicles, so that even two-wheelers like Activa can benefit from such technologies. “In the near future, even our local R&D may start benefiting from INMRC,” added Nagaraj.
While Nagaraj didn’t disclose how much HMSI annually spends on motorsports, he added that it is quite a lot. “We provide dozens of motorcycles for these races. Then we also supply a lot of spares, safety gear, fuel, logistics and so much more,” he said.