India to take its first step towards producing MotoGP riders

What if a motorcycle that weighs just 84 kg but has an engine that revs all the way to 14,000 rpm shooting off to a top speed of over 220 kmph is found on our homegrown race tracks? Well, it will surely set the tarmac on fire! For the first time in history, Indians will soon be racing the championship winning quarter-litre Moto3 track bike, the Honda NSF 250R. Yes, you heard it right.

We are going to ride the same machine once driven by the current MotoGP contenders Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins, Jack Miller and so on. Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI) made a bold announcement recently that the NSF 250R will be introduced in the country for championships starting from 2019.

Motorcycle racing is not new to Indians who have been in the sport since the early 1980s when homegrown manufacturer, TVS, made a foray with their 50 cc mopeds.

The racing scenario has evolved over the years with four manufacturers: TVS, Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki – putting their flagship offerings to test in one-make championships now.

Racing in India has become so accessible to the masses that you and I can participate, in a Gixxer Cup for example, paying a throwaway fee of Rs 2,000 with the race-spec bike and safety gear included. Not to forget, we have three world-class race tracks with the Buddh International Circuit topping the list.
But even with these many developments over the course of almost four decades, the hard fact is that there has been not even a single Grand Prix racer from our country so far.

What might be the reason? Well, there are two pointers to take note of. One, due to government levying excessive taxes, international races are no longer held here, depriving the masses the essence of the sport.

Secondly, there have not been competitive race machines that can give riders a good start for ending up handling a full-fledged MotoGP race bike. Though Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki are into MotoGP, what they gave the Indians so far to race were mere 150 – 250 cc under-powered production bikes with minor tweaks. With the entry of NSF 250R next year, things are set to change.

HMSI have announced NSF’s entry almost after a decade of their racing stint in India. During the race machine’s announcement, the firm’s president and CEO Minoru Kato, said, “It is my dream to see an iconic Indian compete in Grand Prix-level racing. With a clear development path and structured approach to nurture riders in place, we now want to take Indian motorsports to the next level. Honda will introduce the Moto3 machine NSF 250R as competition bike in India next year. India’s best racers from Honda India Talent Cup and national championship will be racing on NSF 250R in a separate series running parallel to existing national championships. Motorsports has a bright future in India and Honda will continue to take such steps to support racing talent.”

As of now, HMSI are racing their slightly modified CBR 150Rs and CBR 250Rs.
As far as plans are considered, there will be new teams exclusively for Asian riders in international racing championships. The first team, ‘Honda Asia Dream Racing’, which will compete in the Suzuka 8 Hours Endurance Race, and JSB1000 class of All Japan Road Race Championship, the most premier road racing championship in Japan.

The second team, ‘IDEMITSU Honda Asia’, will offer a platform for Asian riders in Moto2 and the third team, ‘Honda Team Asia’ will take riders to Moto3 class through which they can get prospects in MotoGP.

What’s special about NSF?
The NSF 250R was developed by Honda in 2011 to replace their 125 cc two-stroke race bike in accordance with the new race regulations coming in place in 2012. The bike’s 250 cc DOHC single-cylinder engine churns out a maximum power of 47.6 bhp at 13,000 rpm and 28 Nm of torque at 10,500 rpm. It can rev up to 14,000 rpm. Its light weight of 84 kg means it has an incredible power-to-weight ratio.
Honda’s one-make series so far
HMSI has been conducting the Honda One Make Race in India since 2008. It’s held in two categories, with the Honda CBR150R for novice class riders with a maximum age limit of 23 years, and the Honda CBR250R, which is an open category. These two are Honda’s road bikes race-prepped. Once the Honda NSF 250R is introduced in India, it will be the first time Indian riders will get a chance to compete and race in a thoroughbred Moto3 class race machine.

 

S Ben Raja