Royal Enfield, famous for the leisure riding culture it has promoted over the years, has now forayed into track racing (one of the most competitive formats of motor racing, track racing is the farthest one can get from leisure riding).
The company will hold the Continental GT Cup 2021 this month. Presented by JK Tyre Motorsport and organised under the aegis of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India, the GT Cup will debut at the JK National Racing Championship 2021. It will have four rounds – first three will be held in October, November and December at the Kari Motor Speedway, Coimbatore, followed by the final in January 2022 at the Buddh International Circuit, Greater Noida.
What led to the GT Cup?
Adrian Sellers, custom programme lead & manager, Product Strategy & Industrial Design at Royal Enfield, told FE that the race track is the natural extension of the Continental GT, which is a café racer (a kind of motorcycle used for quick rides over short distances).
“Two separate but related activities led to the Continental GT Cup,” Sellers said. “One was Siddhartha Lal (MD of Eicher Motors Ltd) riding the Continental GT with our head of product strategy Mark Wells and Aspi Bhathena (an automotive journalist) at the Isle of Man in 2019. In parallel, we started working with our subsidiary Harris Performance in the UK on a couple of race bikes. These somehow led us to the GT Cup exploration. We are also involved in other forms of racing such as flat track and slide school, and the GT Cup is an extension of those activities as well.”
The pandemic, Sellers said, was used to develop the bike and all the related things needed for the Continental GT Cup.
The track-spec Continental GT-R650 has purpose-built performance modifications. It gets a stiffer race-tuned suspension for better handling at high speeds, lowered race clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs, a fairing, bespoke exhaust pipe, 12% more power, and has been made lighter by 24 kg (by keeping only the essentials required for racing). It rides on soft compound race tyres by JK Tyre.
The modifications read minimalistic, but these took a lot of time and effort. “Turning a road-legal bike into a track-spec machine can be just as time-consuming as producing a new bike from scratch; you just have a different set of constraints and requirements,” Sellers said.
While modifications don’t take much time, tweaking and testing these to the best of their performance is where the real effort lies. “Mechanical modification can happen in a month. Testing, adjusting and remaking take many more months, and then producing dozens of such motorcycles, with exactly similar performance levels, takes even longer,” he said.
Future product development
For decades, many motorcycle companies have used the learning set developed from the race track for developing new products. While Royal Enfield isn’t reportedly getting into the sports bikes sub-segment, members of the company’s R&D team will be present at these races.
“On a racetrack, the rider is the most important diagnostic tool, who can provide unbiased opinion about the machine. If there are 20 different riders telling you how the bike behaves on different race tracks and on hundreds of corners, you get humongous amount of data (which can be used for future product development),” Sellers said.
He, however, added that the aim of the Continental GT Cup is to help make track racing more accessible. “We want to open up racing to more people, in a safe environment. We wish to tell them that racing isn’t only about speed, but more about the spirit of competition. To enjoy an extraordinary racing experience you don’t need a 200 horse-power super sport motorcycle; it’s all about you and the guy next to you and the guy next to him crossing the finishing line within split seconds of each other.”
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