Chennai boy H. Senthil Kumar looked at covering 2,000 km in 24 hours. Did he?
At 6.35 a.m. on May 1, H. Senthil Kumar — bone-tired and famished — slumped into the warm embrace of friends. They were waiting at the fuel outlet in Ambattur from where he had set out on his 223 cc Hero Honda Karizma at 6.47 a.m. the previous day (April 30) to establish an endurance-cum-speed record of 2,000 km in 24 hours.
A few mishaps resulted in an unsuccessful attempt, but Senthil had rolled on for 1,851 km in 23 hours and 48 minutes — figures that enable him to stake a claim to an Indian endurance record in the 220cc bike category. (Senthil is presenting his case to the authorities of Limca Book of Records)
October last, 26-year-old Senthil scorched the Highways around Tamil Nadu on a 153cc Yamaha Fazer, and covered 1,665 km in a little under 24 hours. As a result, he was inducted into the ‘SADDLESORE 1600K' (1,600 plus km in 24 hours) hall of fame by Michael J. Kneebone, president of The Iron Butt Association, a U.S.-based endurance motorcycling group with 35,000 members from around the world.
Following this, Shah Dupesh — house surgeon at Chengalpattu Medical College — invited Senthil to test his bikes beefed up with performance mods. The doctor — who undertakes bike enhancement projects with Thiayagu, an able machinist — showed Senthil a Karizma, battered in an accident, and said he'd restore it. And, looking at it, Senthil was inspired to attempt 2,000 km in 24 hours.
Two months ago, the Karizma was resurrected — with a high-lift camshaft, forged racing pistons, porting, a sports exhaust, and a close-ratio gearbox. Shah prepared not only the bike, but also the rider, for the challenge. “He asked me to carry a generous amount of orange juice, and, chocolate cakes and black chocolates rich in serotonin,” says Senthil.
A bike and a menu
With a newly-built bike and a strange menu, Senthil headed out of Chennai towards Kanyakumari. According to the plan, he would return to Chennai, and immediately ride to Salem and head back to Chennai.
Till he reached Madurai, he had nothing to worry about. Once he hit the busy road linking Madurai and Tirunelveli, trouble began. With heavy commercial vehicles around, he could not throttle up freely. And, worse, the bypass road near Tirunelveli was temporarily closed for maintenance. As a result, Senthil had to go around asking for directions.
And, while returning from Kanyakumari “I had to deal with a freak shower”, he says. So, Senthil had to reduce his speed, and subsequently, also the number of breaks he took.
But, the bad times were not over yet. At Udumalpet, his helmet fell off the parked bike, and the visor broke. “I started my night ride without a visor,” says Senthil. “The eye strain was severe.” He also developed a nerve pain in his wrists. He soldiered on, but there were facts to face. “When I reached Vandalur at around 11.30 p.m. on April 30, I realised it'd be imprudent to go to Salem and return in time. I decided on reaching Krishnagiri and returning.” At around 3.30 a.m. on May 1, he turned his back on Krishnagiri, and headed towards Chennai. There wasn't a record. But, there was the warm embrace of friends…