‘Triumph’ant tycoon

Piyush Sonsale penportrays the man, an avid motorcycle enthusiast himself, who brought the California Superbike School to India

It doesn’t take him long to start calling you, ‘Tiger!’ And it’s the best word to describe his own personality too. You may not know who he is or what he does and you may not find him in a tux, but he still carries the charisma of the beast – fearless and in harmony with his surroundings. Unlike the animal, though, he can be described as anything but intimidating. Tall and well built, with a mop of grey hair like that of a 1970s rock star, he was wearing a one-piece racing suit, ready to ride his 600-cc sports bike alongside riders, some of whom were less than half his age, when I first met him. His name is T T Varadarajan, the man who brought the California Superbike School to India.
TT is a successful businessman from Chennai and owns a company called Maya Appliances Pvt Ltd. His company started manufacturing mixers and grinders back in 1979 under the brand-name ‘Preethi’. Now it boasts of a whole range of home appliances and an annual turnover of Rs 450 crore.

Motorcycles have been TT’s passion and companions since he was 14. “They give you a sense of freedom. You connect with nature, which you can never do cocooned in a car,” he avers. The first bike he owned was a Rajdoot 175 and, over the years, has had many Indian as well as foreign machines parked in his garage, such as the Jawa 250, multi-cylinder Japanese sport bikes like the Kawasaki 250 twins, GPX 750, ZX-12R, Honda 600s and 750s, Suzuki GSX-R600, Yamaha YZF R1 and even a Triumph Daytona 675. TT looks upon the Triumph as the best bike he has owned so far, but his favourite is the Honda VFR 800.

Don’t mistake him for just a rich bike collector, though. TT is as adventurous as they come. For instance, he once bought a brand-new Yamaha YZF R1 in Los Angeles, California, and rode 600 km eastwards without a GPS, a map or any direction aid whatever and reached Glendale, Arizona, only after getting lost in the desert for two hours! He has ridden thousands of kilometres in India and abroad, especially in New Zealand, his favourite riding destination. He has been clocking 4000 km on the trip meter there for the last five years and wants to continue the tradition for as long as he can.

Besides road trips, this Wayne Rainey fan also loves motorsport. He has participated in seven South India rallies back in the late 1960s and ‘70s. His son, Siddharth, too has inherited his father’s passion for motorcycles. Both of them have ridden together around the world and have attended the California Superbike School (CSS) workshops many times in the US and also in New Zealand. CSS is arguably the world’s best motorcycle riding school with a teaching experience of more than three decades. It was established by Keith Code, the famous riding coach and author of the book and documentary, ‘A Twist of the Wrist’.

“CSS has a great bunch of coaches who are passionate, patient and dedicated to provide every student the same kind of attention a world champion would get,” said TT when asked about his fondness for CSS. His passion, however, didn’t end with attending the workshops. TT realised that there was a complete absence of any formal coaching as regards motorcycle riding in India. He wanted to provide a platform for Indian riders to prepare for the world stage. He proposed the idea of conducting a CSS workshop in India to Keith Code in 1995 and, after 15 years of convincing, Keith finally sent the CSS UK team to India last year. The workshop was sponsored entirely by TT and turned out to be a success. Keith was quite impressed by the response and tied up with TT’s company this year again for the workshop conducted in January 2011. Following the overwhelming response, they plan to make it an annual event.

TT and Siddharth attended both the workshops themselves and underwent Level Four training, the highest at CSS. In his passion for motorcycles and the sport of racing them, TT has pioneered the development of Indian racers and yet remains a modest and polite person. He attended the workshop like any other student, waiting for his turn to ride and sharing his lunch table and track time with everybody else. While on the track, even at the age of 59, he was fast enough to give any teenager a run for his money. No mean feat that!

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