With this article we hope to set youngsters in the right direction if they are thinking about entering the world of professional racing.
The most important thing about setting up a long-term career in professional racing is to start early in life. To make it into international levels of racing, it is key that you start young. The more time a kid spends riding a motorcycle, the more it becomes second nature to them. Most of the skills that you and I are trying to perfect even now will become reflexes for them, leaving them room to focus on racecraft and sheer speed. Most of the MotoGP and WSBK stars we admire today began racing/riding from as young as five years old; ripping around local events on minibikes. If putting a five-year-old on a motorcycle is too much of a stretch, then have them on one at least when they hit their early teens, in closed conditions, of course. That said, we do not mean to discourage any aspirants who may be beyond this age group but if you choose to get into this sport you must understand that you will always have to work harder than the rest of your competition. Younger talent will get a lot of opportunities in terms of factory contracts, sponsorship deals and invites to bigger motorsport events. So, if you are on the ripe side in terms of age, prepare to choose from a thinner spectrum of opportunities.
Before delving into the world of professional racing in India, here are some of the basic things that you need to be aware about.
- The Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) is the governing body that regulates all national-level motorsport in the country.
- To race competitively in India, you need to be issued a valid FMSCI racing license. Details and specifics about the procedure is available on the FMSCI website.
- The minimum age to secure a racing license is 13 years. However, sometimes exceptions will be made to accommodate talented racers who can prove that they have the required skill and experience to handle the level of competition.
- As a parent or a rider be prepared for a few crashes now and then. It is common in the learning process and is why you should invest in good riding gear.
- There is no glamour in motor sport, at least in our country. Not yet, anyway. So make sure you are adequately motivated by your passion for racing and reasonably well-funded.
- Like any other sport, racing also requires the highest levels of physical and mental fitness which only comes from a disciplined lifestyle.
With the basic paperwork sorted out, it is time to decide which class of professional racing is for you. It is best for first-timers to start off in the Novice category because the level of competition will be similar and not too intimidating. Your choice of machinery will be limited to the fare provided for One Make Championships (OMC) and stock motorcycles with a race fairing. A season’s worth of racing in the Novice category will determine just how well you will fare in the Open class.
As the name suggests, Open class does not have as many restrictions for entry as the Novice class and it consists of professional racing teams and riders . So expect the competition levels to be quite high. In fact, you could find yourself racing against factory-backed veterans on purpose-built racing machines in some classes. Here, the choice for machinery and modifications broaden. In India, the most popular racing machines include everything from a tricked-out single-cylinder 150-cc up to specifically-modified 400-cc singles or twins.
If you are racing your own motorcycle as a privateer, be prepared to find a few sponsors or foot some enormous bills. Basic expenditure will include logistics, pit crew, motorcycle spare parts, tyres and riding gear. The only alternative is also the first step to racing professionally. Get picked up by a well-funded private team or a factory-backed outfit. However, to earn a seat in those teams you will have to prove your worth in your first few seasons and that means footing your own bills for quite some time. Or is there another way?
Thankfully, there is. It is called the OMC and it is a life-saver for racers on a budget. In India, OMCs are managed and hosted by reputed manufacturers including Honda, Suzuki and TVS. The process of admission is simple. If you fit their programme’s age requirements, submit the necessary paperwork and turn up for the tryouts. A handful of people will be selected by a jury and they will progress to race in the upcoming season for a relatively modest registration fee that covers the machine, its maintenance and in some cases, even the riding gear. So on the day of the race, show up at the racetrack with your helmet, suit up, and go race with your rivals on evenly-matched machines. At the end of the season, the man with most points wins the championship. The OMCs are kind of like a grooming programme because factories and racing teams monitor the progress of the participants throughout the season and a lucky few may even be offered a seat in one of the big teams the following season. TVS Racing and Honda Ten10 Racing’s current riders in the National Championship used to race in their OMCs and worked their way up.
For those who would like to get a hang of track riding and technique before delving into the world of professional racing, we would suggest you attend a racing school and a few track days to see if you are comfortable with the kind of pace required to stay relevant in the national championship. Here is a list of reputed schools you could train with.
- Apex Racing Academy
- California Superbike School
- Honda Ten10 Racing Academy
- Indimotard Throttle Wide Open
- Rajini’s Academy of Competitive Racing
- TVS Racing School
Please note that the FMSCI competition license for a first-timer requires a completion certificate from a certified racing school. So check if the school of your choice is authorized to issue the certificate.
Professional racing is no joke. It is a high-speed competition to the finish line. Sometimes, a mistake could send a rider and his machine off the tarmac and into the scenery. While such incidents are part of the competition, it is imperative that the rider is okay to race another day and the first step to ensuring this is the rider’s responsibility. Invest in good-quality riding gear. Here is a list.
- DOT/ECE22.05/JIS/Snell certified full-face helmet with D-ring closure and no sun visors
- One-piece leather suit with FMSCI-specified thickness
- Racing gloves
- Racing boots
- Chest and back protectors
OMCs are currently run by Honda, Suzuki and TVS. These manufacturers have invested a lot of time, effort and money to promote motorsport in India. That is certainly a commendable move and we hope it inspires their rivals also to participate in this arena. Leading the charge for the tyre manufacturers are MRF and JK Tyre. For a rider entering the world of professional racing, their best bet would be to enrol in the Honda NSF250R programme. Honda selects and grooms young riders and let them race using Moto3-spec Honda machinery. In addition to giving riders a taste of premier-class-level machinery, the NSF250R programme also offers talented riders a chance to secure a seat in Honda Asia’s Moto3 outfit. Motorsport is steadily progressing in our country and opportunities for riders are improving with each season. All it needs now is the country’s support and encouragement.
With this article, we hope we have covered most of the basic questions you may have had about professional racing in the country. Should you have any more questions, feel free to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out to us through our social media channels. Cheers.
Story: Joshua Varghese