We are at the Kari Motor Speedway. It’s a short and narrow racetrack near Coimbatore. It is technical and challenging, and an absolute blast on a small capacity motorcycle. And by small we mean sub-500cc bikes.
And we are here to race at the Suzuki Media Endurance race astride the company’s latest track weapon for India. Now I know that sounds inflated given we are talking about an oil-cooled, 250cc, single cylinder motorcycle. But, the statement remains true, nonetheless.
Meet the Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP bike. No, it’s not a motorcycle that Suzuki races at MotoGP, or anywhere internationally for that matter. But, it is a race bike sporting Suzuki’s MotoGP colours, so….
Anyway, the race bike is based on the road going Gixxer SF 250. So, it uses the same engine, the same chassis, and the same suspension as the road version. In fact, the bodywork looks similar too.
But Suzuki race engineers say the track bike has lost close to 20kg compared to the road legal version. And that’s because it doesn’t get any head lights or turn indicators. There’s also no rear seat, no rear footpegs and no rear view mirror. And it doesn’t get a saree guard!
What it has though is a lighter and freer flowing exhaust system. It has grippier set of W rated tyres. The clip-on handlebars have been dropped lower, and the rider footpegs are now higher and more rear set.
There’s no change to the engine mechanically, including the gearbox, gear rations and even the final drive. But, thanks to some software upgrade and the change in the exhaust, the engine now revs more freely. And of course, the bike sounds nicer too!
Let me just come clean at the start here. Ideally, I should have weaved my Endurance race experience with the riding feel as part of this story. But, even though we raced – my endurance racing partner and me – and finished the race, we were disqualified at the end. Why, you may ask? Well, let’s just say we got into the groove so much that we forgot we had to switch riders and by the time we realised it, well it was too late.
Here then is a straightforward riding feel of the Suzuki Gixxer SF 250 MotoGP race bike. Did I mention the race bike sounds better than the stock motorcycle? And that it feels quicker, better geared, and more agile as well? Well, it does. On all counts.
The turn-in of the race bike is sharp and intuitive. It also feels light and agile on its feet making quick direction changes through Kari’s chicanes like it was a much smaller bike. Plus, there’s lots of feel from the front end. The brakes are better too; better bite, better feel, and better progression. So, not only can one brake later on the race bike, one can also carry handsome amounts of braking into the corner.
And thanks to the grippier tyres – I think the motorcycle was running Metzelers – and the higher set footpegs, one can lean the motorcycle more as well. Moreover, it seems to have more grunt coming out of corners. In fact, in at least two corners I had to short shift so that I didn’t end up sitting on the rev limiter mid corner. And even though the short shifts did drop the revs out of the optimum range, the engine never felt like it was lacking any pull. Plus, on the Kari’s long straight, the race bike was redlining even in sixth gear!
Now, truth be told, I would have loved to write about the racing experience. About qualifying at dusk; about pouring over the time sheets to see which pairing was quicker; about our planning regarding rider switch, and how fast we were going to ride, and how we would still have fun no matter where we finished.
But I ended up enjoying the bike more than the racing. And even though I know this is a race setup, it would be so wonderful to see the stock Suzuki Gixxer 250 ride like this. It would give the motorcycle more character, more focus, a stronger USP, and of course, higher desirability. If nothing else, the Gixxer 250 race cup bike did show us the potential the Gixxer platform has.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi