Here are my impressions of the Royal Enfield Continental GT-R650, the race-spec GT competing in the Continental GT Cup, from Kari Motor Speedway
After a lengthy run of success in the Indian racing scenes in the good old past and the subsequent hiatus, Royal Enfield has made a comeback to tarmac racing with one of its iconic nameplates, the Continental GT. The all-new Royal Enfield Continental GT Cup runs across four race weekends with the first three rounds at the ubiquitous Kari Motor Speedway and the finale at Buddh International Circuit.
With the first round in the books, I got to witness a thrilling couple of races around the winding and technical racetrack in the outskirts of Coimbatore as eighteen racers fought it out for the top step of the podium. The first race had an almost photo finish as the racers pushed their limits to bring out the best in them and the Continental GT-R650 – tussling through every corner and the straights.
Royal Enfield filtered out 18 racers from more than 400 applicants across India based on their lap times and consistency by evaluating them over five laps around KMS. I put my leg around the race-spec Continental GT 650 for a good amount of time and came out mightily impressed. Firstly, the stock Conti has been through minimalistic changes but the transformation in its riding behaviour is rather substantial on the circuit.
For improved aero stability, RE has fitted the standard cafe racer a Monza fairing and it evokes the vintage vibe accentuated by the dual exhausts and spoked wheels. The tall windscreen helps in tucking in for aerodynamic benefits and the low-set clip-on handlebar has further been lowered to give a more aggressive track riding stance. It is supported by the further rearward set footpegs that increase cornering ground clearance as well.
The Gabriel-sourced front telescopic suspension gets pre-load adjustability for fine-tuned setup based on the rider preference and the oil used is specifically designed for track use with different viscous nature. The dual shock absorbers at the rear get linear springs as opposed to progressive springs for improved responsiveness on the track.
The Chennai-based manufacturer made no changes to the ECU or the powertrain but the same 648 cc parallel twin-cylinder engine produces slightly higher power (47 PS and 52 Nm of peak torque) courtesy of the full system stainless steel exhaust. The powertrain is paired with a six-speed transmission as the regular model.
With no electronic aids, the ABS system is turned off and the brakes are also stock as the bybre unit with 320 mm front disc and 240 mm rear disc units continue to be utilised. RE has managed to shed 24 kilograms in the GT-R650 and the results are more than evident while the sprockets have reduced toothing for better acceleration. The Ceat tyres are ditched in favour of stickier soft compound tyres as well and its superlative performance makes me wish it was on the stock motorcycle already.
As I straddled, I immediately noticed the need to acclimatise to the more aggressive clip ons and footpegs and as soon as I did that the confidence came flying in as I managed to brake late into the corners and took the exits cleanly. The dual exhaust pipes definitely sing a roaring rhythm of petrolheads while opening the throttle and at three-digit speeds down the pit straight. The tricky final part of the track makes or breaks lap times and the heavy double-cradle chassis had to be worked on with wider turn-ins to get the maximum out of the motorcycle and it renders a planted feel on most parts.
The rear shocks could have been firmer to my liking but the front telescopic forks managed the weight transfer quite well especially in the hard braking areas (like scrubbing off the speeds for turn 1 left-hander) and quick braking needs to enhance the intuitive feel. The bumpiness of the track is challenging and for a long wheelbase motorcycle like the GT-R650, you would be a handful all the time. The sharper acceleration and increased lean angle certainly made the difference on track as higher speeds could be carried in and out of the loops.
The standard Continental GT 650 could be turned into this mean machine without emptying your pocket and it’s the big takeaway for anyone wanting to do open sessions on track and learn the faster way forwards the proper way. RE will also set up racing schools to take this to the next level and the GT-R650 has plenty of potential to go even faster as a race machine with improvements over time and hopefully, the learnings from the racetrack will be applied onto the production bikes for people to buy just as how it used to be in the past!