Vinay Harne, the president, New Product Introduction, TVS Motor Co, speaks to Sumantra B Barooah and Amit Panday on the many racing-derived learnings that have gone into the new Apache RR 310, TVS engineers’ penchant to get a ‘feel’ of the product and parts they make, and why the alliance with BMW Motorrad is a win-win strategic partnership for both.
The TVS Apache began its journey with a 160cc premium motorcycle. What are the key learnings from this journey so far?
The learnings have come from continuously being on (race) track, continuously using the vehicles on the field, from the specialists in this field, from people who are riding in the races and through their experiences. So each time we have completed a race, there have been a few learnings from the race and from the real event, whether it is at the racetrack, motocross, off-road, drag race or even a rally. Every time we send our vehicles out, we learn from that and the product improves. Most of our R&D engineers are good riders who ride in races too. They use these vehicles in that environment, the feedback goes to them directly instead of through some other channel(s). They learn by themselves. I see that the more we race, the better our products get from the design stages.
It is interesting to know that your R&D engineers are motorcycle racers as well. How many of your engineers race regularly?
They don’t take part in professional racing. They have to support the professional racers. So there is no conflict between the professional racers and our R&D engineers. All of them (R&D engineers) are capable of racing and riding well, and many of them are also coaches to the young racing enthusiasts. They pick up the best riders and they are also supporting the racers. I have worked as a race engine tuner for almost eight years (1984-92), on engine design and engine tuning. Similarly, we have many engineers who have done some racing. There are also racing experts who have done only aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics, and then there are engineers who are experts in braking and suspension systems. But all of them ride themselves to get a 'feel' of the specific parts and systems that they work upon.
What were the key challenges you had to address while working on the new Apache RR 310?
Our focus was on getting the best lap timing and to get there we had to concentrate on the overall performance of the vehicle. Overall performance is never about only the engine output or any specific individual part. The three key areas are the engine response so that the bike accelerates faster than other vehicles. This was engine performance and engine response; you know we have always focused on the RTR (racing throttle response) which comes from the fueling system.
The second area is the suspension system to manage all the cornering speeds and vehicle stability in the corners. For example, no racetrack is in a straight line; you have to get the best suspension, best handling and best cornering speeds, otherwise every time (at every corner) you will have to slow down.
The third key area is the safety and braking system. If the rider does not feel confident while riding the bike, he can never get the best lap timings. So the race is about getting the best lap timings and that comes from power response, suspension and handling, cornering abilities and safety and braking systems.
While the engine and platform are the same for the two motorcycles (BMW G 310 R and TVS Apache RR 310), the Apache RR 310 comes across as the heavier model. How did you arrive at the balance between its performance
TVS Motor Co's core engineering team. L-R: Sathish, BA Rajput, R Venkatesan, R Babu, N Kannan, Meghashyam Dighole, V Jayaraman, KP Chandrashekara and (sitting down) Iyappan.
As I said, the power required to go at a particular speed is minimised by the aerodynamics. When you are riding a bike, the weight is not actually the problem as much as its aerodynamics could be. The aerodynamics force goes by the cube of the velocity, and we have worked on that to minimise the aerodynamic forces on the vehicle.
TVS Motor has built up the Apache RTR series with the 160, 180 and 200, and the RR 310 has just joined them. How do you plan to progressively develop the RR series?
I will not be able to comment on that at the moment. As and when we will work on the future products, they will be announced by the company. We will be supporting the Apache brand through a lot of product action and certainly through racing and marketing activities.
Is the Apache RR 310 a fully localised product?
I don’t exactly recall what parts are imported but there are certain parts that are imported for this model. It is finally made at the Hosur plant.
What are the synergies between the BMW G 310 R and the TVS Apache RR 310 in terms of component sharing?
Basically, the entire platform is common or you can say that the architecture of the vehicle is shared. All the styling parts and wheel design are our own. We have made it specifically as per our requirements. We had to make a robust yet lightweight bike for Indian riding conditions (weather, roads, traffic) with racing applications. We had to meet extremely high strength requirements, so the wheels, aerodynamics and styling are completely different (than the BMW G 310 R). On the other hand, the basic platform, which includes the frame, crankcases, engine and the basic architecture, is the same. The fueling system, though, is completely different on the two.
How has the TVS-BMW Motorrad alliance impacted TVS’ engineering and manufacturing capabilities?
We have worked on this together. The alliance has helped both the companies. For them (BMW Motorrad), it is an opportunity to enter into the small-capacity bike segment and for us (TVS Motor), it is an opportunity to enter into the larger capacity (midsize) bike segment with the highest performance parameters.
Both sides have learnt to work together and create new business opportunities for each. That’s why from the beginning we have always looked at it as a win-win partnership for both the companies, and it has helped. Certainly, we have learnt from their experience of big and high-performance bikes and they have learnt about how to make single-cylinder, small engines at a low cost and in this manufacturing environment.
TVS Motor is a process-driven company with R&D as its strong point. Has its alliance with BMW Motorrad also impacted its work culture?
We are focusing on our manufacturing. We have always focused on our customers and have always paid attention to product quality. We don’t plan to give up on the best-in-class quality and it will remain so in future also. For over 100 years, TVS Motor is known for taking care of its customers and delivering quality products.
(This interview has featured in Autocar Professional's December 15, 2017 Anniversary Issue)