‘Racing’ isn’t by any means new to the folks at Royal Enfield. They’ve been
building motorcycles since 1901 for God’s sake. Enfield has built wartime
motorcycles during the first and second World War. The year 1948, Enfield
pioneered the popular Bullet 350 and 500 motorcycles, giving birth to the
‘Bullet’ fad in India.
occur to any of us that Royal Enfield supplied motorcycles with Twins during
the war and also built some for the crowd in the 50’s, the most noteworthy
being the 700cc Twin Cylinder Constellation. 1965 marked the birth of the
Continental GT moniker with Enfield building a very special 250cc version with
a fibreglass fuel tank, clip-ons, rear-set footpegs, upswept exhaust pipes and
was available with a flyscreen or a now-retro race fairing for added
Now, this is
all firangi talk to be
honest. All this happened yes. But outside our motherland. You see, Indians are
no slow-coaches when it comes to motorsport. Back in the day, the one circuit
that had all the action was at the Sholavaram Race Track in Chennai, set on a
vast space of a defunct Airfield. It was quite literally the biggest
celebration of Motorsport in India with over 60,000 spectators flocking in to
watch the races every February!
notable, legendary name comes to mind when thinking about the Indian motorcycle
racing scene – ‘Bullet Bose’. In
the few years I have covered motorsport, I’ve heard this name plenty of times
and seen the legend only twice during race weekends as he comes to witness the
is a sobriquet that Chennai-based Shubhash Chandra Bose earned as a motorcycle racer.
between 1968 and 1994. In this period, he managed 15 godly wins at Sholavaram
Race Meet that too on a tuned 350cc Bullet which topped out at 160kmph battling
international motorcycles of yesteryear. Now Royal Enfield has managed to cook
up a motorcycle that will take you right back, back to the days of Retro
Racing is back at Kari
motorsport heritage and yet the motorsport team at Royal Enfield was so damn
excited about their new baby – The Continental GT Cup. It’s a one-make race
series that is held alongside the JK Tyre National Racing Championship and
features track-focused versions of the highly popular Continental GT 650 which
was launched back in 2018. The production motorcycle is a brilliant slate for
building a track-spec motorcycle. It has a potent, sturdy frame, a powerful
47bhp parallel-twin motor which has tremendous potential for more power output!
Royal Enfield Motorsports wanted to build a bike that was a notch above the
production with only the most vital power and handling upgrades for
track-readiness. Royal Enfield called it the Continental GT-R650 where R stands
for Racing or Racier. It is essentially a GT 650 underneath with a retro race fairing
and mods to boost power and improve grip and handling.
With the 2021
Continental GT Cup, Royal Enfield aims at making track racing more accessible
to new talent and also experienced racing talent. The maiden round saw seasoned
motorcycle racers such as Anish Damodar Shetty taking to the start grid along
with Allwin Xavier. The engineers were be able to gauge the potential of the GT
Cup bike by how much the riders were able to push the limit on the new Kari
layout. Veteran racer, Anish Shetty was able to clock in the range of 1 minute
18 seconds which is quick! A feather in the cap really for the wrench team at
RE and the riders.
Continental GT-R650 Build
Man, when I
first saw the images of this motorcycle, I went bonkers. It has such a retro-cool
vibe to it. The day I reached the track, I spent 15mins just walking around the
motorcycle, wondering what all was cut, boosted and prepped for racing. The
motorcycles were developed by seasoned motorcycle racers Aspi and Sheri
Bathena. The idea was to keep it as simple and retro as possible. The stock
Continental GT 650 was used as a base and the first things to be taken off were
the round headlamps, the factory clip-ons and the stock exhaust system. The
subframe was chopped off a few inches for “Just the racy look” is what Sheri said.
The front end
was fitted with the most retro element of this motorcycle – The nosecone cowl
with a windshield and space for a racing number instead of a round headlight.
In my opinion, these cowls still have more street-cred than aero fairings with
wings and winglets of today. The seat and the seat cowl was straight out of the
Royal Enfield Accessory list – Black Touring Rider Seat and Rocking Red Single
Seat Cowl. The stock clip-ons were swapped for a lower custom-made set of
clip-ons to allow for a more aggressive riding position. The ergonomics were
made even more aggressive with rear set foot pegs which had my thighs cramping
to glory. Because Racebike.
suspension was tweaked for better handling, but only just enough. The front
forks were tweaked, re-valved for stiffer compression and rebound and can be
adjusted for pre-load. The rear shock absorbers had a linear rate to provide a
slightly stiffer yet confident ride through the corners. The brake callipers
and discs on both ends were untouched. The key piece of the puzzle was the soft
compound tyres by JK Tyre. Even though these were not racing slicks, they
provided immense confidence on the newly layered tarmac at Kari. Not to mention
that this was my first time on the new layout and I was as sceptical as dear in
thing remaining is the engine! There were no mods done to the engine. No high
comp pistons or all that jazz. Just a fine-tuned, stainless-steel exhaust
system that was said to extract close to 12% more power from the parallel-twin
motor. What it also managed to do was unlock some top-end grunt.
hell breaks loose
Boy oh boy
was it a racket on track. It was fast and properly nimble for a 180kg bike,
even though it required a bit of hustling on chicanes. Every rider would hit
the rev limiter and the motor didn’t break a sweat. The only thing that broke
two sweats was yours truly. It took me 5 laps to figure the new track, another
two to get my position right and the rest to figure out where to look to hit
that apex (Which I did only twice). On just my fourth lap, I managed to
overshoot C1 due to some overconfidence and lack of engine braking. It took me
a while to get used to the straight and the entry into C1 and the sync between
using the brakes and engine braking at the same time. The most fun part for me
was the kink after C6 which got me opening the throttle letting all those 55
odd horses loose while I tried to tuck in as hard as I could. The pièce de
résistance was the throaty rumble of the exhaust, letting out the raw symphony
of the 650cc parallel twin motor.
Thank God no
one recorded my lap times, dead sure it would be past the two-minute mark.
Honestly, this isn’t even the first time I was reminded about the lack of form,
but watching a couple of other seasoned riders push this bike as they did has
changed my mind forever now. I won't even mention anything about the racers.
the champ that he is, took both the race wins in the first round with Allwin
right on his tail for second. Judging by the feedback from the pro riders and
even the Industry experts, the maiden GT Cup event was a huge success. We hope to
see more tweaks on the GT-R650 in the coming rounds and even more hope that the
Coimbatore weather is more pleasant during the second round. A big shoutout to
the team at Royal Enfield Motorsports for making this happen and to let us
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