The ULTIMATE Test of Speed

The ULTIMATE Test of Speed

THE ROCKET HAS LANDED AT NATRAX!

2,458 cc | 165 bhp | 221 Nm :: 236 Km/h (Speedometer Indicated)

Imagine having some of the fastest motorcycles in the world as a part of your garage but not a place to really let them loose. Yes, India has a few racetracks but they are more technically demanding. The fascination with speed demands a place where you don’t have to brake even when you see God.

That was true until the inauguration of NATRAX, a facility located in the heart of India and one of the world’s most comprehensive proving grounds. What interested us the most though was the facility’s high-speed testing track. 11.3 km of butter-smooth tarmac with an infinite loop consisting of two 2.1 km straights! Yep, it was time for us to pack our bags and head to Indore.

As we loaded our motorcycles on the container, all we could think about was this; throttle pinned, howling wind, and the screaming engines! In addition to our Ninja H2 and Suzuki Hayabusa, there was another very special machine that was accompanying us to the Heaven of Speed known as NATRAX.

Before we tell you about it, here’s a little background. In 2003, Triumph decided to obliterate the big-cruiser competition with the launch of the Rocket. It came with the bragging rights for having the largest capacity engine of any production motorcycle. It was quick, it was brutal, and it was a cruiser! Impressive machinery but it fell a tad short of being desirable to us. Nearly two decades later though, that was set to change.

The second generation Triumph Rocket 3 was launched in 2020. Leaner, lower, and more radical than ever, the new Triumph Rocket 3 R had our attention. It received a displacement bump, a power bump, even more torque while shedding nearly 40 kg of weight. A motorcycle that special had to be a part of the xBhp Garage. And it just had to come to NATRAX along with the H2 and the Hayabusa.

While wondering what the Rocket 3 R was going to feel like on Asia’s longest high-speed track, we reached Indore in what felt like an instant. Upon stepping foot on the high-speed test track, our first thought was how the grandeur of the facility matched the majesty of our machines. The motorcycles were unloaded and we prepared for the sensory assault that awaited us.

The first motorcycle to have a go at this incredible marvel of civil engineering was the Triumph Rocket 3 R. Before this, we had ridden our Rocket extensively. But never like this; without restraints. It is here that we got to experience the much-talked-about acceleration of the Rocket 3 R for real. The excitement that filled our souls cannot be explained in words.

Multiple laps of the 11.3 km track were planned for each of our machines. If we are being honest though, the build-up to the first run was nerve-racking. The limitation in this particular instance was not the venue or the machine; it was the human. But then, we had not come this far to back down and so, it was time to go.

As soon as we released the clutch, the Rocket 3 R spun the massive rear wheel in a way that is only possible with a truckload of torque. This caught us off-guard and we may have even eased up a little involuntarily. In a split second though, the tyre was hooked to the tarmac and the massive triple of the Rocket was growling away as we flew through the gears. Despite the heft of the motorcycle, it felt like all it wanted to do was to send the front hoop skywards.

After a relatively cautious first lap, we knew what to expect and so did the rear wheel. It was up to temperature and it was time for another launch. How did it feel? Well, the hype is real. The acceleration is simply gobsmacking. It is so absolutely savage that if you are not prepared, it can dislocate quite a few of your joints. We can confidently say that when it comes to acceleration, the Rocket 3 R can give full-fledged superbikes that weigh a fraction of it a run for their money.

Thanks to the testing facility that we were at, the action was not a flash in the pan either. We could keep going on and on and on for as long as we liked. In doing that, we realized that the Rocket 3 R can keep up that sort of acceleration almost up to 180 km/h and it can cruise at that speed all day long. Post that though, aerodynamics catch up to it and the progress towards top speed is relatively tamer. That is bound to happen as it is a big and bare-chested beast. No fairing, no windscreen and hefty dimensions.

We carried out multiple runs of the 11.3 km track, pushing the behemoth to its absolute limits. The Triumph Rocket 3 R achieved a top speed of 236 km/h. That is not slow by any means, instead, it is impressive considering the size of the motorcycle and the fact that it is considered a cruiser by many!

So, how does the Rocket 3 R do it? Primarily because of its engine. A 2,458cc, three-cylinder engine. It makes 165 bhp but the proverbial cake is taken by the torque. The longitudinally mounted engine of the Rocket 3 R doles out 221 Nm of torque! Though to be honest, it is not all about the engine. Geometry is another aspect because of which the Rocket 3 R can keep up that sort of performance without threatening to kill you. The long wheelbase, the weight, and that massive rear tyre make sure that despite seeming like it’s going balls-out, everything is still firmly in control.

Another factor that we must talk about here is the role of the engine oil, more specifically, Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE 15W50 that powered our Triumph Rocket 3 R. We have already talked about the speed we were able to achieve. We have already talked about how we kept at it for a while during multiple laps of NATRAX’s high-speed track. So the engine oil had its hands full. Let us talk about that.

While putting Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE to test in the heat of the desert was enough to affirm its abilities, this was a different challenge altogether. Despite that, Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE rose to the occasion as always and performed brilliantly. With its synthetic technology and 5-in-1 Formula, it ensured that our Rocket 3 R ran cool and the innards were well-protected.

Moreover, the Rocket 3 R’s already savage acceleration was further accentuated by Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE. It was because of our faith in Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE and its liquid engineering that we had the confidence to push our Triumph Rocket 3 R to the limit and attain the top speed that we did.

The realization that a motorcycle weighing 291 kg dry can go like that is a testament to the engineering prowess of the folks at Triumph. It is mind-boggling to think that they took an already massive engine, bumped up its displacement and yet, somehow managed to make it lighter. Because of that, it revs harder and higher, sounding like a million bucks in the process.

After experiencing and marvelling over the performance of it during every second of our run, it was time to bring the ‘Fast’ Rocket 3 R back to the pits. In doing that though, we had gotten a taste of what one of the most exciting motorcycles on the planet was capable of. It may not be the fastest but it is definitely one of the quickest and what the Rocket 3 R brings to the table is simply insurmountable. Unless Triumph is already working on the 3rd gen, that is.

THE ORIGINAL SPEEDSTER: SUZUKI HAYABUSA

1,340 cc | 190 bhp | 150 Nm :: 302 Km/h (VBox Indicated True Speed)

Our next contestant ready to show its speed on NATRAX was Suzuki Hayabusa. The Hayabusa is a legend and it sits in the pantheon of greats for one reason and one reason only- speed. Initially, its bulbous silhouette and overall heft gave rise to doubts over its capability. But Suzuki knew that a powerful engine alone won’t help the Hayabusa to become the fastest motorcycle of its time. It needed help from aerodynamics. That is why it was designed to keep the drag coefficient to a minimum. The result was there for the world to see.

In all its time in the motorcycling world, the Hayabusa has also been referred to as one of the most deceptive motorcycles in regards to speed. It achieves mind-boggling speed seemingly without effort and before you realize it, you are way past what you set out to do. The latest generation of the Suzuki Hayabusa is the refinement of all that with a dash of modernity in terms of a comprehensive electronics suite. It is easier to ride than ever and, in turn, just as deceptive.

But that is a problem for the roads. On NATRAX, the proving ground is all yours. You can almost sense the relief, even in the inanimate machine, as it gets to finally stretch its legs. So, we did just that. We let the Hayabusa do its own thing as we kept the throttle pinned. Hungry for numbers? It achieved 302 km/h as indicated by the VBOX.

Even after so many years since its inception, 300 km/h, despite being an astronomical number, did not seem out of place on the Hayabusa. The way its 1,340cc inline-4 goes about its business, the effortlessness of the gearbox and the riding bubble you find yourself in; makes it all seem… ordinary. And it is a compliment because 302 km/h for a road bike is no mean feat.

As mentioned earlier, in addition to the engine, aerodynamics play a pivotal role in allowing the Hayabusa to attain its top speed. Its aerodynamic efficiency is a result of the meticulously designed fairing but that comes with its own set of problems. Cooling is executed cleverly on the Busa and it never gets too hot to handle. But when you wring the bejesus out of it, have the needle kissing the redline for consecutive 11.3 km laps at top speed; things are bound to get a little difficult.

Situations like these highlight the importance of engine oil, more importantly, good engine oil. Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE works wonders in driving the heat away from components that aren’t actively cooled. This also helps keep thermal expansion and the resulting wear and tear in check. It’ Full Synthetic Technology and 5-in-1 Formula do more than that though. Due to its carefully crafted and extensively tested composition, Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE ensures that you have performance on demand and it continues to be that way no matter how hard you push the motorcycle and its engine.

With the confidence that Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE was working away its magic inside the engine, we were able to push our Suzuki Hayabusa to the limits and achieved the numbers that we did. Now, it was time for ‘Faster’ to give way to the next one in line.

Guest Rider 1: Simran King

Simranjeet Singh or Simran King, as he is known by his audience, accompanied us to NATRAX for our top speed runs. Being a racer, he is accustomed to being over 250 kays an hour but NATRAX was a different experience than a racetrack simply because of the sheer expanse and the gradient-free, arrow straights of NATRAX’s high-speed track. He rode our Suzuki Hayabusa for a few runs. know more about him on his YouTube channel linked here.

TODAY’S UNDISPUTED KING: NINJA H2

998 cc | 210 bhp | 130 Nm :: 299 Km/h (VBox Indicated True Speed)

Now, it was time for the ultimate speedster, the fastest road-legal production motorcycle, and one that dwarfs all the good words you can throw its way. We are talking about the Ninja H2. It is a piece of engineering marvel and that is an irrefutable fact. Because of its radical design, radical powertrain, and sheer performance, it has become a legend in the motorcycling world. More impressive is the fact that it did that in a fraction of the time it took for some other motorcycles to do that.

998cc inline-4, 210 bhp of power, 165 Nm of torque and so on; numbers are inconsequential when you are talking about the Ninja H2. The one thing that isn’t though, is the forced induction. It was the first production motorcycle to feature a supercharger. Why wasn’t it done before? Because in a motorcycle space is an issue, unlike cars where forced-induction is commonplace.

It is that supercharger that propels the Ninja H2 to ungodly speeds. And it is the supercharger that emphasizes the engineering prowess of the folks at Kawasaki. The boost generated by the supercharger along with the already potent inline-4 is enough to make the Ninja H2 almost terrifying. The acceleration, the relentlessness, the savagery, and the sheer grunt that you have till you hit top speed is magical. What wasn’t though was the top speed we achieved- 299 km/h.

Sort of anticlimactic once you think about the Busa’s 302 km/h. But there’s a solid reason for that. Unlike some other motorcycles where only the speedo was limited to 299, the H2 is actually electronically limited to 299 km/h. We could tell that even at that speed, it had some untapped potential left and that was a bit saddening. But then, there’s always a next time.

The fact that we could not touch 3,00 km/h did not mean that the H2 was any less exciting. For example, the journey from 0-299 km/h was quick, too quick. Aerodynamics play a part here too but for the most part, it is the demonic supercharged inline-4 that’s responsible for this. So it has been established that the Ninja H2 is blisteringly quick and extremely powerful. But, all of that comes at a cost.

As mentioned earlier, space is a constraint and a supercharger needs an intercooler. Executing one without an intercooler is extremely tricky. Since it is such a tightly knit package, it highlights the importance of cooling in a motorcycle like this. It becomes even more prominent when one considers that when the inline-4 of the Ninja H2 is singing away at 13,000 rpm, the supercharger impeller is spinning at nearly 1,30,000 rpm! Imagine the sort of heat dissipation required in a situation like this.

This is where Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE comes into play. The 5-in-1 Full Synthetic Formula ensured not only enduring performance as we dispatched multiple laps of the 11.3 km track at the limit, but it also made sure that the innards on the engine remained cool and protected even in such testing conditions. This, along with our test of the H2 in the desert, goes a long way in cementing the fact that Castrol POWER1 ULTIMATE is one of the best you can get for your motorcycle.

PERFORMANCE WITH PANACHE: TVS APACHE RR 310

310 cc | 33 bhp | 27 Nm :: 171 Km/h (Speedometer Indicated)

The machines that we had tested till now are at the extreme end of the spectrum, the best of the best and ones that we are proud to have in the xBhp Garage. But there is one more machine in the xBhp Garage that we are extremely proud of. TVS Apache RR 310; the fastest all-made-in-India motorcycle. It is beautiful, it is fast, and it is more advanced than most motorcycles conceptualized and manufactured in India.

Ever since it was shown as a concept at the Auto Expo, we knew that this motorcycle will go a long way in putting Indian on the global motorcycling map. The first iteration of the TVS Apache RR 310 launched to great acclaim and was instantly christened as the most beautiful motorcycle made in India. It boasted of performance to match the looks as well. But TVS, being the racers at heart that they are, never stopped improving it.

Their quest of shaving tenths of seconds off their lap times on the racetrack translated to a quest for perfection in the market. The TVS Apache RR 310 has received consistent upgrades and improvements and in this avatar, it is one of the absolutely best motorcycles you can get your hands on in the segment.

In terms of looks, the TVS Apache RR 310 defies Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. It is universally accepted as gorgeous and unanimously agreed to be one of the best motorcycle designs in the market. But it is the performance department where it has gained the most in the years post its launch. It has become more refined, more advanced, and more approachable.

With riding modes, a beautiful display, intuitive controls, SmartXonnect, and so on; the TVS Apache RR 310 is a complete package aimed at inviting newcomers and thrilling enthusiasts. But we have talked about all this in the detailed review that we did a while ago. The burning question is how did it go at NATRAX.

In a nutshell, it exceeded our expectations. The TVS Apache RR 310 was able to achieve a top speed of 171 km/h as indicated on the speedometer. That is a phenomenal number considering it is a single-cylinder, entry-level sportbike. This number though was not the result of the RR 310’s fantastic engine alone. It is how the whole motorcycle is packaged.

The 312.2cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine makes 34 PS of power and 27.3 Nm of torque in Track Mode, the default for a test like this. Due to continuous improvements, the engine feels much more refined and the power delivery is simply fantastic. The gearbox too is slick along with spot-on fueling. This makes the Apache RR 310 pull cleanly, gather revs quickly, and accelerate linearly.

Once you hit triple-digit speeds though and keep pushing further, the role of aerodynamics becomes more and more prominent. This is one department where the Apache RR 310 has most other motorcycles beat. With the best-in-class coefficient of drag, the Apache RR 310 is able to achieve a higher top speed than one would expect.

Furthermore, the reverse-inclined engine configuration has allowed TVS to equip a longer swingarm without increasing the wheelbase that would have made the motorcycle slightly sluggish in side-to-side transitions. But even on a high-speed track like NATRAX, the straight-line stability that we had from the TVS Apache RR 310 was commendable.

If having access to a world-class facility like NATRAX did not fill us up with pride enough, riding the TVS Apache RR 310 surely did. It was a reminder of how far our nation has come when it comes to manufacturing motorcycles like the Apache RR 310, facilities like NATRAX, and motorcycling in general as well.

Guest Rider 2: Dino’s Vault

Dino, popularly known on YouTube as Dino’s Vault, is an avid rider and takes pride in putting out detailed motorcycle reviews for his audience. He accompanied us to NATRAX’s high-speed track and rode our TVS Apache RR 310. For him, it was an entirely different experience as one can never reach the limits of their motorcycles on general roads and on NATRAX, there are no limitations. Know more about him on his YouTube channel linked here.

BEAUTIFUL AND BRUTAL: BMW M340i

2,998 cc| 387 bhp | 500 Nm :: 262 Km/h (Speedometer Indicated)

The last in the list of the machines that we put to test on NATRAX is a peculiar one. Firstly, it has four wheels instead of two. It is not an ordinary car but then, no BMW ever is especially if it has an M badge. We are talking about the BMW M340i xDrive which has quite a few distinctions going for it.  It is the first made-in-India M car and it is the quickest car assembled in India. While it being a BMW was enough to convince us to test it on NATRAX but those distinctions intrigued us even further.

How did it fare? Well, BMW quotes a 0-100 km/h of 4.4 seconds for the 340i xDrive, which is phenomenal considering it is a full-fledged sedan. While we did not get to test it out, it felt pretty darn quick and not only to a ton from a standstill but beyond that as well. Keeping the pedal floored took us to a top speed of 262 km/h as indicated by the speedometer. Again for a 3-Series sedan, that is pretty darn fast.

Now that we have the numbers out of the way, let us talk about the how and why of it. First of all, the M340i xDrive is sort of like a bridge between the 3-Series sedans and the ballistic M3. That is good thinking from BMW’s standpoint as it provides an option for those who want a little more from their 3-Series without having to shell out for the M3.

In terms of looks, BMW decided to keep it simple. They used the gorgeous lines of the 3-Series as they were and added some additional bodywork which worked wonders in making the car look more dynamic and sporty. If that was too subtle, the massive exhausts (and the note as well) cleared all doubts of it being a bit more than the 3-Series.

But the highlight here is the engine. BMW TwinPower Turbo 6-cylinder engine that makes 387 bhp of power and 500 Nm of torque. Excellent numbers, but the experience goes beyond what a brochure can establish. The engine is silky smooth and almost misleading. It is so smooth and linear that you are caught unaware when it starts to scream and the acceleration hits you. The peak power arrives at 5,800 rpm which is lofty and yet, the meat of the torque is available right from 1,850 rpm.

Among the various modes, Sport is the one you want when the laws of the world do not apply. It is distinctively different from the other ones. The acceleration is more urgent, the car feels stiffer and more planted, and the exhaust note is throatier too. Another factor that helps its acceleration is the transmission- 8-Speed Steptronic Sport Automatic with xDrive. That means that the grunt from the engine is sent to all four wheels, which means that more power is put to the ground instead of being wasted as wheelspin.

Upon unleashing it on NATRAX, the first thing we noticed was the sound. The BMW M340i sounds simply magical and the more beans you give it, the raspier the exhaust note gets. The acceleration, as mentioned earlier, is intoxicating. It is almost beyond belief that all the carnage you experience is being doled out by a sedan! The dynamics of the car are wonderful too. On the parabola of NATRAX’s high-speed track, the maximum Neutral Speed is 250 km/h. That is, if the car is built and calibrated well, it will take the curve without any steering inputs. The BMW M340i did that with ease, which is a testament to how meticulously the car is built.

All in all, with the BMW M340i xDrive, one has the option to experience some M Magic without having to be content with the 3-Series and dreaming about the M3. It has the performance and panache one expects from a BMW with an M badge and yet, it is not too edgy or extreme or wanting their driver to be an F1 dropout. And then, it is a matter of pride that such a wonderful car is assembled right here in India and that it can be tested to its limits right here as well, instead of having to visit a track like the one in Ehra Lessien in Germany.

NATRAX is one of the world’s most comprehensive proving grounds and that much has been established. Now, let us see how it came to be. Head to the next page. 

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