The Apex Racing Academy promises to teach you something you will never forget. We find out how well they do so
There is no doubt that the Indian racing and motor sport scenario is improving. It may be happening at a rather slow pace, but it is happening none the less. There are a number of motorcycling enthusiasts who are trying to quicken the pace of the sport’s development and act as catalysts in the process. One such is the Apex Racing Academy (ARA), held at the Kari Motor Speedway, near Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, where I got an opportunity to ride and learn certain things.
Started over a year ago by Bengaluru-based enthusiasts, the ARA aims at two things primarily: transforming a regular street rider into a much safer and skilled rider and providing a strong platform along with experienced guidance for the one who aims at making a name in the racing world. The first objective mentioned here might sound rather funny, but ponder over it awhile and you will realise that as a general street rider, any person has certain ways of riding and responding to tricky situations. Their reflex actions are not necessarily the correct ones. The basic aim of the ARA for the street rider is to improve this and show the safest way to get around in dangerous circumstances.
The second ARA objective is more important and a focused one. A group of three instructors – Sreekumar Gopinadhan (Poncho), Sameer Venugopalan (Killer) and Henna – take care of the coaching part at the ARA. All three have been National Championship racers with laurels aplenty.
The coaching at the academy has been split into three levels. The first one starts with familiarisation with track riding and includes introduction to proper safety gear, track etiquette, flag signals and so on. That is followed by a track walk, which gives the students a very clear idea of their learning environment and introduces them to camber and riding lines at the track.
Real riding begins after this wherein the level one students are directed towards the concept of smooth riding with the help of throttle control drills. While on track, the students are timed in each session and filmed at the beginning and end of the course to record their progress. The lap timings at the beginning of the course and at the end of the level one generally show an improvement of three to five seconds, achieved just by riding smoothly.
As the course progresses to level two, a number of serious skills of going faster are introduced to the students. It all starts with learning how to turn into corners with counter-steering, making the turns quicker, finding the right lines and understanding the concept of outside-inside-outside way of approaching corners and making use of the complete width of the track to open up the corners. This is followed by improving vision while riding and finding reference points for planning your moves on the track. Level two concludes with two very important factors: body position and braking skills.
Level three introduces the rider to the serious elements of racing. It all starts with race launch skills, overtaking skills and tricks and race strategies, etc.
After doing a full weekend at the ARA, I realised that this one is not just a riding school, but also a special one in a number of ways. Firstly, conducting the course are enthusiasts who really want to take the sport to a higher level. They are determined to address each and every rider with personal attention, whatever his/her level. Secondly, all the coaches are extremely experienced with competitive riding and hence know the real deal out there. Thirdly, they are continuously improvising their teachings and course to better the approach of learning and to go into the depths of it. Lastly, they are very open to the idea of an honest feedback from the students so as to improve the overall experience of learning.
Another very interesting aspect of the ARA is that they also run a racing team along with providing end-to-end service. What this means is that the ARA has a model wherein once the student graduates from level three, s/he can buy an annual package from the ARA that will provide him/her with a race-prepped motorcycle, tyres, pit and grid services and, most importantly, a rider coach to guide throughout the season.
The man behind the ARA, Anil Kumar S, has been working hard for a year and has been successful in providing a platform for 118 students so far. What is worth mentioning here is that even the coaches are supportive of Anil S in every possible manner. While Poncho is a businessman over the week, the other two have their jobs to do. All three coaches make it a point to pack up from their work on Friday evening, drive over the night to Coimbatore, start the coaching on Saturday morning, continue all the way till Sunday evening, pack up, drive back to Bengaluru that night and resume their work-a-day life on Monday morning without complaining of exhaustion.
So for all those who have been wondering where to start their racing career, look no further. Get in touch with the ARA, register yourself and kick-start your racing career!
Story: Adhish Alawani
Photography: Aaqhil Hussain and Adhish Alawani