Hurtling down a sinuous track at 260 kms an hour, the vision blurs while the mind comes startlingly alive. Trapped in a cocoon of speed, instinct screams escape, the mind, though, realises that with riders packed up close like a deck of cards, one inopportune tap of the brake on the straight will ensure a 600cc missile rams your bike’s rear. That’s the world that Krishnan Rajini resides in. That’s just where he now revels as the first Indian to ever step on the podium in the Asia Road Racing Championship.
“Out there you think of nothing. It all goes blank. All you know is that the concentration lapse of a second can cripple you for a lifetime. Yeah, it’s kind of crazy but then like I told her when we got married -- my first wife is racing,” says the 29-year-old seven-time national racing champion.
Rajini made a giant leap this year from the puny 160cc machine that he lorded over in the Indian circuit to the 600cc Yamaha he now struggles to tame. Third place in just his fourth race has the man a bit surprised. “I didn’t expect this. The team (Red Rooster Racing) has chalked out a three-year programme. We are aiming for a regular top-5 position next year. A podium spot was envisaged only by 2011. But to get it in our home race is pure ecstasy.”
Racing down a track as technically demanding as the one on the outskirts of Chennai is about constant movement; not only of the wheels but also of the rider.
Lying low on the tank, they hug their machines in the straight, pop up to shift body weight into the fast looming turn and then jab the brakes before throttling away; all in the span of milliseconds.
It’s gruelling work - physically exhausting and mentally draining.
“You sweat a lot. There is tremendous load on the arms and shoulders. I spend two hours in the gym every alternate day pumping iron, other days I run at least 12 kms. Pain is a constant companion for a rider,” he smiles as he spreads out his hands to display welts overriding calluses.
Rajini has embraced tarmac eight times already this year. He has lost count as to just how many times gravity has claimed her toll over the years. A broken left wrist and finger along with a busted right foot are scars that he says are the rewards of battle. Fortune does tend to favour those who push it. For Rajini, Sunday was fitting redemption.