Motor Racing Bike: How’s It Different from a Street Bike

When we talk about motorcycle racing, we typically picture a full-leather suit clad rider, blazing around the racetrack with his machine leaned over at some physics defying angles. That, broadly speaking, is circuit racing for you, with MotoGP being at the very pinnacle of this form of two-wheeler motorsport. Having said that, circuit racing isn’t the only form of racing, and we have other forms of two-wheeler racing too, including rallying, motocross, flat track racing and many more. The two-wheelers for each of these racing categories are either custom built or are modified over a stock donor vehicle to suit the specific requirements of the race. One, however, often wonders as to how these competition spec motor racing machines differ from their production counter parts. Well, the differences are many, and are often defined by the exacting guidelines laid down by the governing body of that specific motorsport event. So the first thing that one needs to understand is that the differences between a racing machine and a similar road-going machine originate primarily from the rules laid down by the controlling body for the sport. In this article, we will broadly discuss the ways in which racing two-wheelers are different to their corresponding production vehicles that we use on an everyday basis.

To start off, as we mentioned above, there are many categories of two-wheeler racing, and the two-wheelers participating in categories such as rallying or motocross are wildly different as compared to the regulation road going motorcycles. To establish a relatable link between the two varieties of machine, however, we’ll restrict this discussion to motorcycle used for circuit racing. This is a good way to explore the differences between the two varieties of two-wheelers, as circuit racing motorcycles are often derivatives of production spec machines.

Now, talking specifically of extreme circuit racing sports, Superbike World Championship (WSBK) motorcycles are based on their respective production motorcycles, and are heavily tuned to make them more suitable for track while following a rigid set of laws. On the other hand, the more extreme MotoGP machines don’t need to have anything in common with production spec motorcycles. The motorcycles participating in this sport are purpose built for the track, and the rules are very flexible to help them go faster around the track.

In the Indian context, the governing body for motorsport is Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI), and the rules for various circuit racing classes of two-wheelers are defined by this body. While most of the rules are broadly in line with the international norms for similar categories, there obviously are differences, based on local requirements, vehicle models and practices.

The motorcycles participating in circuit racing in India are categorised through Groups and Classes. For example, the two-wheeler racing Groups for Indian track racing are termed as Super Sport, Super Sport Indian, Pro Stock and Group Stock, based on parameters such aswhether the participating vehicles are imported or manufactured in India, are series production or modified within the FMSCI Guidelines. Next, you have Classes within the Groups, based on the cubic capacity, body types, and the number of cylinders in the engine.An ‘Indian’ two-wheeler for racing, according to the two-wheeler racing regulations by FMSCI, starting 10th March 2017 is defined as –

“A two-wheeler manufactured in India and is available for sale to the public through the normal commercial outlets of the manufacturer in a minimum of two hundred (200) numbers of identical examples within a period of twelve (12) consecutive months. The two-wheeler may be wholly or partially manufactured and / or assembled in India from Indian and/ or imported components.”

Now based on the specific Group and Class you are competing in, there will be specific rules pertaining to the extent of changes allowed to be made to a competing two-wheeler. The extent of changes allowed varies from Group to Group, and is defined clearly by the governing body to the last detail. Every component of a racing two-wheeler has to comply with the rules laid down by FMSCI in the Indian context. The extent of detail, to which the specification of a racing machine is defined, is evident in the following examples taken from the FMSCI two-wheeler racing regulations

Exhaust – “The extremity of the exhaust pipes for all two wheelers must not pass the vertical tangent of the rear tyre. The end to the exhaust pipe, over a minimum distance of 30mm must be horizontal and parallel to the central axis of the two-wheeler with a tolerance of +/-10 degrees. Exhaust fumes must be discharged, towards the rear, but not in the manner as to raise dust, foul the tyres or brakes or inconvenience other riders.”

Radiator coolant – “Any glycol coolants are prohibited, plain water without any additives has to be used.”

Permitted modifications for Group STOCK – Engine: “Over boring up to 1 mm O/s from the homologated size permitted provided the maximum capacity of the class is not exceeded. Only oversize pistons supplied by the manufacturer as original equipment (OE) replacement may be used.”

As evident by the rules above, the extent of modifications allowed is unambiguously defined to the last detail. As these rules are different for various Groups, the performance of the racing machines may vary as compared to the respective stock vehicles.

Based on the class and regulation, various components such as engine, exhaust, tyres, throttle bodies, transmission, electronics etc are allowed to be altered to a certain extent. This generally makes a race going machine superior to its stock counterpart in terms of acceleration, top speed and dynamic ability. For example, the RR One Make Series TVS Apache RR 310 produces 38 PS of peak power at 10300 rpm, a significant 4 PS more than the stock motorcycle. It also has a higher top speed of 175 km/h.

In addition to the performance-related changes, there are specific rules that define the appearance, bodywork and other things to ensure safety on the racetrack. For example, the FMSCI two-wheeler racing guideline mandates that items such as front and rear registration plates, luggage carriers, headlight assembly, tail light assembly, rear foot-pegs and a ton of other stock items should be removed for a motorcycle to be deemed fit for racing.

Also Read: Chain Vs Belt Vs Shaft Drive: Motorcycle Final Drive Systems Explained With Their Characteristics

Finally, each racing two-wheeler has to carry its own number, represented through three plates, which can be oval or rectangular in shape. The instructions about their exact dimensions, construction material and all the other details are provided in the FMSCI guidelines.

So that’s how race machines broadly differ from their stock, road-going versions. We earnestly hope that this informative article went some way in quenching your curiosity about how different the racing machines are to their stock counterparts in the Indian context. If you think this article was informative and some of your friends with interest in racing would benefit from it, do share it with them using the tools provided on the page. If you have any questions, shoot away, and we’ll be happy to answer them. Ride safe!

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