Clean-Emissions, Carbon-Free International Racing Competition - Rebooting Racing

The Zero-Emissions TTXGP Electrifies The Isle Of Man **By Aaron Frank
Photo by Roland Brown

Event organizers did their best to lend gravitas to the start of the inaugural TTXGP. This was, after all, history in the making-the world's first clean-emissions, carbon-free international racing competition. Members of the U.K. Parliament and other dignitaries mingled amongst engineers and riders in parc ferme, while journalists from around the globe jostled for the perfect pre-race quote. Then the 5-minute warning sounded, and the racers rolled into position for the traditional staggered TT start in front of the historic Glencrutchery Road grandstand. But even the anticipatory atmosphere and legendary location couldn't save the start from being anti-climactic. "That sounds just like a VCR rewinding," a nearby journalist muttered as the fast qualifier, a Suzuki GSX-R600 converted to electric power, unceremoniously whirred away from the starting line.

So, the TTXGP is not MotoGP-not yet anyway. These first-generation eRacers lack more than a little in terms of sound, style and speed, even compared to the most modest internal-combustion racebikes. Even the organizers seemed damning with faint praise when they loudly-and quite uncharitably, we think-celebrated the fact that Rob Barber's event-winning 87.4-mph lap "shattered" the existing 50cc course record. Compared to John McGuinness's record-breaking, 131.578-mph Senior TT lap, this is hardly the stuff TT legends are made from.

But looked at through another lens, accounting for the present state of electric vehicle technology and the phenomenal challenge the Snaefell Mountain course presents to such a vehicle, Barber's achievement is quite remarkable. Consider that the bike he rode, fielded by the Anglo-Indian partnership Team Agni, carried the energy equivalent of just 1.3 gallons of gasoline. Then imagine how slowly you would have to ride McGuinness's Honda CBR1000RR Superbike to nurse it over the mountain on the same amount of fuel. In that context, the ultra-efficient Agni X01 begins to look very fast.

That's the fundamental difference between electric vehicle racing and traditional, petroleum-based sport. Electric performance is a quest for efficiency-not excess power-making it the perfect pursuit for our post-millennial, conservation-obsessed age. It's a competition that favors geeks over gearheads, and demands deft programming and digital manipulation more than thermodynamic tuning prowess. And it's not going away. Given the fever-pitch interest in electric vehicle technology, earmarked as the chosen savior of the global transportation system, such races will only become more prevalent in the coming years. And the TTXGP was the first.

Brainchild of British entrepreneur and event promoter Azhar Hussain, the zero-emissions event wasn't limited to electric vehicles-though only electric motorcycles showed up. Some 60 teams from 15 countries originally registered, though only 15 teams qualified and just nine bikes completed the full lap. Entries were divided into two classes: Pro (sponsored by Best Buy), featuring sophisticated prototypes with corporate backing; and Open, limited to machines converted or constructed from off-the-shelf components. Machinery ranged from polished, professional entries from EV OEMs like Mission Motors and Brammo to cobby conversions from the lunatic fringe of backyard inventors who took off their tinfoil helmets just long enough to don a proper crash helmet for the race.

The Isle of Man was an inspired, if odd, choice of venue for the FIM-sanctioned race. The TT pedigree lent credibility to the event, though new rules had to be written to accommodate the novel machines. All bikes needed two very conspicuous kill buttons so the safety crew could be absolutely certain the silent, high-voltage motors were disabled before handling, plus a horn that riders were instructed to honk when closing in on course workers under a yellow flag, warning of their silent approach.

Then there was the 37.73-mile mountain course itself. Long, steep and with countless heavy braking and acceleration zones, this public-roads circuit seemed tailored to sap batteries with alarming quickness. "We studied a topographic map of the course beforehand," said competitor Michael Czysz. "Honestly, it was pretty scary. We knew we'd have to pack a lot of energy just to finish the lap."

It took Barber 25 minutes and 53 seconds to complete his winning lap-singular, though next year's race will run over two laps. His average speed was 87.434 mph, with a maximum velocity of 97.8 mph through the Sulby Straight speed trap. Second place went to Germany's Team XXL Racing, fielding a converted Laverda Formula piloted by rider Thomas Schoenfelder, with an average speed of 77.841 mph. Third place-the highest-ranking American effort-was the Brammo Enertia TTR ridden by Scotsman Mark Buckley, with an average speed of 75.350 mph. Another American effort, the Mission Motors machine ridden by American TT veteran Tom Montano, finished 31 seconds behind the Brammo bike at an average speed of 74.091 mph. The MotoCzysz E1pc suffered a motor meltdown at the bottom of Bray Hill, while a second Brammo bike suffered a similar fate.

Next after Montano was the winning Open-class machine, the California-based Electric Motorsport effort ridden by Chris Heath, with an average speed of 66.022 mph. Second place in the Open class went to the converted Ducati Supersport of U.S.-based Barefoot Motors with a speed of 62.219 mph, followed by underdog Team TORK (average speed 60.475 mph), a group of Indian college students who skipped their final exams to attend the event. Tragically, TORK rider John Crellin, a 55-year-old resident of the Isle of Man, was killed later that same day in the Senior TT, becoming the 226th victim of the world's most dangerous race circuit.

The podium revealed no clear formula for success. The top-two Pro-class entries were converted streetbikes, while the third-place Brammo TTR was a highly modified version of that company's production Enertia streetbike. The Mission Motors and MotoCzysz entries-both radical prototypes-didn't make the box. Given the speeds, chassis technology was not a limiting factor, nor was rider skill. The limiting factors at this point are available energy and electric motor technology, both of which leave plenty to be desired. The MotoCzysz, reportedly producing 150 lb.-ft. of torque, repeatedly melted its three Agni motors, which were no match for the energy the bike's 11 batteries delivered. Mission Motors, Brammo and others also suffered heat-related failures. Teams that chose a lower-power, lighter-weight strategy suffered different problems, running out of juice before the mountain summit.

Lack of practice-TTXGP competitors got just two laps before the race-made tuning an exercise in guesswork. Even seemingly well-prepared teams like Mission Motors were essentially guessing, since they had done most of their testing on predictable race circuits. In the end, there was no replacement for experience. Tuning the winning machine was none other than Cedric Lynch, the designer and manufacturer of the Agni motor with more than 20 years' experience with electric vehicle development and numerous world speed records to his credit.

The race also proved challenging for the riders, all of whom were accomplished motorcycle racers. Racing an internal-combustion bike is all about extracting as much power and speed as possible. With an electric bike, the focus shifts to efficiency-every extra mile per hour comes at a significant energy cost. "I spent an awful lot of time monitoring the 'gas gauge,' so to speak," Montano said. "I used up a little bit too much at first, so I had to save some for the second half." For racers trained to chase redline, the need to hypermile at hyperspeed is enormously challenging.

Difficulties-and a few disappointments-aside, the participants are still enthusiastic about the future of electric motorcycle racing. "The coolest element of this whole deal," Czysz said, "is that it's true run-what-ya'-brung, and you can bring anything. That's not happening in MotoGP!" It's reminiscent of the rise of the two-stroke in GP racing in the early '60s, when backyard privateers competed with high-profile, corporate-backed efforts on equal footing. If you value competition driven by innovation and hard work rather than cubic dollars (a rarity in modern motorsports), the new frontier of eGrandPrix (see sidebar) is very intriguing.

The first-ever zero-emissions roadrace is officially on the books, and there will be more to come. Electric vehicles are not going away. Governments around the globe are pumping billions of dollars into electric vehicle development and infrastructure (the carrot), and at the same time, drafting tough new laws that make EV technology more appealing by the day (the stick). Consumer demand has already influenced the automobile sector, where manufacturers must have electric offerings in their lineup or face oblivion. It would be ludicrous not to expect the same in the motorcycle industry.

Racing has historically been important to advancing new technology, and the situation is no different with electric vehicles. "That's the reason we're here at the TTXGP," Brammo's Brian Wismann said. "Truth is, if we hadn't had professional riders push our bikes as hard as they did, we wouldn't have found that limit. Now, we're ahead of where we would have been if we would have stayed home. This was why Honda came to the Isle of Man in the '50s, and this is why we're here too."

This competition-bred experience will only make electric motorcycles-whether plug-in or hybrid-more prevalent, and more desirable, in the coming years. Electrified commuters are a logical choice, given current battery range and recharge limitations. But what of racing, or other traditional sportbike applications? Will high voltage ever replace high horsepower as the ultimate performance measuring stick? Will the oil-soaked enthusiast population embrace this digital revolution?

If spectator enthusiasm at the TTXGP was any indication, the answer is, surprisingly, yes. "Fook yeah, electric motorcycles are fine by me," slurred one particularly vocal, Honda RC51-riding Irishman in the Bushy's Beer tent on the Douglas promenade a few hours after the race. "As long as it goes fast, it's cool to me." When I asked about the lack of an exhaust note or any other discernable evidence of power production, his Suzuki GSX-R1000-riding buddy chimed in: "Who cares if they don't make any noise? The only screaming I need to hear should be coming from inside my helmet!"

Electric or not, it's hard to argue against logic like that.

Circuit City
Does the FIM's eGrandPrix represent the future of motorcycle racing?

**By Aaron Frank
Photo by Roland Brown
**Is MotoGP irrelevant? Certainly motorcycle racing's premier class still matters to enthusiasts, but what about to those outside our insular atmosphere? In the brave new world of cost-conscious, clean energy, how relevant is a gas-sucking, 250-horsepower internal-combustion engine? Not at all, say some industry insiders. As manufacturers pull more and more money out of MotoGP and Formula 1 and divert it to electric and hybrid vehicle technology-sectors that the finance, technology and energy industries are keen on right now-petroleum-powered racing begins to look as extinct as dinosaurs.

Against this backdrop, it's no surprise that Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme officials were lurking around the TTXGP paddock. And only slightly more surprising that two weeks later, they announced the creation of a future racing series for electric motorcycles. If carbon-based competition indeed enters a decline, an all-electric racing series will be a good hedge for the future.

The new FIM series will be run inside the Road Racing Grand Prix Commission under the direction of TTXGP founder Azhar Hussain. The goal, according to the initial press release, is to provide an international platform for the development of electric bikes, driving low- and no-carbon technological innovation forward while demonstrating that clean-emissions motorcycles can be fast and exciting. "The future of the sport depends on our capacity as well as that of the manufacturers to innovate quickly," says FIM President Vito Ippolito. "We are convinced that very shortly the motorcycle world championships will be accessible to non-polluting engines as far as gas and sound emissions are concerned."

Technical rules and an official event calendar are being drafted right now, with the intention of hosting at least one international competition in 2010. It's an ambitious goal, and a tall order. The electric motorcycle infrastructure is in its infancy, with no major OEMs involved yet. Development budgets are tight, and nothing on any continent resembles a race-ready program. Still, this is exactly the sort of challenge-and opportunity-under which innovation thrives. And that is what makes racing relevant.

Cooler Than I.C.E.
Michael Czysz builds a Digital Superbike

**By Aaron Frank
Photo by Roland Brown
**The MotoCzysz E1pc is sleek, sculpted and impossibly shiny, with the same techno-sheen as a new Apple computer. Thin white batteries, stacked like ribs where you expect to see a cylinder head, make the bike resemble some Predator-like mechanical animal. From the faired fork legs to the blinking blue battery lights to the trio of electric motors peeking out of the bellypan, you can't help but imagine this is the motorcycle of the future.

Forget that the E1pc failed to finish the TTXGP-it barely made it down Bray Hill before suffering a catastrophic motor failure. By almost any other measure, this was the most impressive machine entered in that event. The design was unmatched, the level of fit-and-finish would shame Ferrari, and that gorgeous exterior concealed innovative electronic solutions. This is not the last you'll see of this bike.

Built in just five months from a highly modified MotoCzysz C1 chassis-the C1 is Czysz's internal-combustion-engined (ICE) prototype GP bike-the futuristic E1pc looks like something Valentino Rossi's son might ride to his first world championship. The C1 frame has been reconfigured to carry 10 1-kWh lithium-ion-phosphate battery packs (with room for an 11th under the seat), and three Agni electric motors mounted in sequence under the battery packs.

"One engine can't deliver enough torque to accelerate the bike like we wanted," Czysz says. "Two might. Three, no question." Delivering big power was a program priority. "This is the Isle of Man; we wanted to bring a true high-performance bike." Czysz says the E1pc powerplant produces a staggering 300 lb.-ft. of initial torque, and holds a nominal 150 lb.-ft. to its 5000-rpm rev limit.

MotoCzysz manufactures the innovative battery packs in-house. "I didn't expect that we would have to build the batteries," Czysz says, "but no one could build them to our design, on our timeline." Each battery pack is mounted with a quick-release mechanism to allow "hot-swapping"-exchanging spent batteries for fresh ones in just seconds, instead of waiting hours for a permanent-mounted battery pack to recharge. "No one else has anything like this yet," Czysz says, proudly. Each individual battery pack also incorporates a lighting array that allows Czysz to instantly assess the battery-management system at a glance. "Each battery pack has 400 separate welds inside. I know instantly that all the cells, from the very first to the very last, are up and running."

The only exposed wires are short stub harnesses running from the top of each battery to a central CAN-bus inside the frame backbone. The next version will be completely wireless, Czysz says, with an integrated coupling connecting each battery directly to the CAN-bus. This is an important safety consideration, given the amount of energy each battery contains, and the possibility of a wire failing or being compromised.

Ultimately, even three motors weren't enough to harness the E1pc's battery output. Brush failures in the Agni motors-one of the few components the MotoCzysz team outsourced-sidelined the bike both in practice and during the race. "The motor magnets are graphite, and they're fragile," Czysz says. "Probably fine for a scooter, but our bike literally rips the magnets right off. I wouldn't use a brush motor again, at least not in this application."

The striking machine still made a lasting impression at the TTXGP, with American rider Mark Miller blasting away from the start with a ferocity unmatched by any other entry. In a race that rewarded efficiency over outright power, Czysz's go-big strategy may have been flawed-but he's not apologizing. "Bottom line: We made a sportbike, not an economy bike," the racer's racer says.

Understandably disappointed by the DNF-and visibly distraught the day after the race- Czysz says this TTXGP experience isn't a total loss. His firm has since added battery engineering, design and manufacturing to its list of available services, and he's in discussions with an unnamed "large manufacturer" to explore a hybrid sportbike that would combine his electric and ICE expertise.

Czysz embraces this post-internal-combustion world for reasons both pragmatic and passionate. "I have to be involved in electric vehicles," he says. "If I still want to influence the history of motorcycling, I need to look at things people are interested in. Right now, in global terms of where the money, attention and energy are flowing, that's electric vehicles-not, unfortunately, my original goal of MotoGP. This is where I've got to be."

Czysz also sees potential to improve the riding experience. "Look at all the electronics that we put on an internal-combustion engine to make it rideable," he says. "Here, we only have the electronics. That excites me from an engineering standpoint, and a rider's standpoint, too. The technology obviously isn't there yet, but soon we'll have bikes that are even faster-and calmer-to ride at the same time. This is a gigantic step."

The TT M.D.
Discussing life-and death-with the doctor who tends to the world's bravest bike racers.

By Mick Phillips
Photography by Fabiano Avancini

The late, great Isle of Man TT specialist David Jefferies once reportedly answered, in response to a journalist questioning the lack of armor in his racing leathers, "All the armor in the world won't help me if I fall off here." Apocryphal or not, that story is haunting: Jeffries, a nine-time TT-winner, was killed instantly after impacting a stone wall at 170 mph during practice for the 2003 Senior TT. Though there was nothing he could do for Jefferies, Dr. Peter Moran has saved countless other lives during his near-three-decade tenure as the TT's lead medical authority. And while he knows-perhaps better than anyone else in the world-the true dangers of TT participation, he doesn't even try to explain or excuse the famed event's fatalistic appeal:

"I can think of at least 20 people who never went home after their first TT," Moran says. "The TT is just one of those things you have to observe. It's like Michael Dunlop racing at the TT just after his dad was killed [in practice for the North West 200 in 2008]. There's no answer to that at all; it's just an enigma and you have to respect it. I remember thinking when David Jefferies was killed at Greeba, 'Thank God the others don't have to go that fast, because he was clearly ahead of them.' But within a year they were going quicker than him in any case. It's enigma upon enigma upon enigma. I observe it and don't come to a conclusion."

Moran is originally from Clifden, Connemara, on the western coast of Ireland-"the next parish to New York," he says. He's one of those tall Celts. "Most Celts are squat, short and stocky," he says, "but the Morans are great, tall beanpoles." He originally came to Noble's hospital on the Isle of Man as an anesthetist in the late '70s, fleeing a woman, and never left. He now resides in a parish called Lonan, up in the hills, and he lived on the Isle for almost a decade before he saw his first TT.

"I could never get the time off," he explains. That changed when he was drafted for helicopter duty, as the doctor who is rushed to the site of race crashes. And while his work during the races centers around the riders who have crashed, he remains as philosophical about the crashes as the racers themselves.

"An awful lot of racers aren't bothered by a crash at all. Milky Quayle broke his femur on the Mountain. He went off the road after Brandywell and was lying out of sight and no one knew he was missing. So, cool as a cucumber, he realized he'd been missed and waited till he heard the next bike coming and threw his glove up in the air. He was a bit late so tried again with the next bike and the rider noticed it and we got the shout and scooped him. And after that crash we thought, 'Well, we'll see what he's like now,' but it didn't touch him at all. In fact, Milky was an absolutely beautifully smooth rider, till he had his horrendous crash in 2003. [Quayle clipped a rock face with his shoulder at 160 mph and lost control, hitting a wall. He suffered internal injuries and retired from racing.] Joey Dunlop had a very bad smash in '89 [Easter, Brands Hatch] and he was off for a couple of years. But bloody hell, he went an awful lot quicker after that. Robert Dunlop was virtually paralyzed down one arm when the back wheel collapsed at Ballaugh Bridge, but he came back and was quicker than ever."

The exposure has given Moran a strong sense of what it takes to race the Isle of Man, and to be part of the larger event. It's this insight and appreciation that fuels his love of this place he calls home. "The Manx produce extraordinarily good roadracers for such a small population. It's an ancient race and it's a classic sign that people have been there for thousands of years and have learned the score. They're life affirming, without a doubt, but there's a maturity toward death. They don't rate life so highly that they won't take a risk, and that's key to their ability to be able to face a challenge. They're up for anything: a really good laugh or a really good fight.

And while TT racing is quite likely safer now than it's ever been, the event still offers up its share of blood, bone, drama and gore. Moran, however, sees the bigger picture in all of it: the connection and draw of a dangerous event. When the riders succeed, it's breathtaking. When they don't, they can still say they've attempted something that few would dare.

"How do I remain enthusiastic, having seen the things I've seen?" Moran ponders. "They're not connected. Gore is only emotion; emotion is nothing to do with it. It's just what you're used to."

Rob Barber bends the race-winning Agni X01, built from a GSX-R600 chassis, into Creg-ny-Baa curve, with Kate's cottage in the background. Barber's average speed for the single-lap race was 87.4 mph.
Germany's Team XXL finished second in the Pro category, campaigning a converted, late-nineties Laverda Formula. XXL rider Thomas Schoenfelder finished 3 minutes and 11 seconds behind winner Rob Barber.
Brammo rider Roy Richardson leads teammate Mark Buckley through Parliament Square in downtown Ramsey. Richardson eventually dropped out due to an overheated controller; Buckley went on to finish third.
Fast ain't always pretty: one of the Agni entry's two outboard-mounted, air-cooled electric motors. Duct-tape, spray paint, and dodgy fiberglass work were common themes on many TTXGP racers.
West London's Brunel University mechanical engineering department fielded this electric-powered Triumph Daytona 675. It finished sixth in the Pro class, with an average speed of 40.092 mph.
The "100% electric" decal describes both the Team XXL bike and the TTXGP field. Preliminary entries included hydrogen fuel cell machines, but none showed.
Problems in practice forced pre-race favorite Mission Motors to compete using a lower-spec spare drivetrain. Rider Tom Montano finished fourth.
Barefoot Motors, an Ashland, Oregon-based supplier of electric utility vehicles, momentarily set aside development of its electric ATV to construct this Ducati Supersport-based racer that finished second in the Open class.
Oakland, California's Electric Motorsports entered a modified version of its $8500 GPR-S electric streetbike. Ridden by Isle of Man local Chris Heath, it finished first in the Open class.
MotoCzysz spared no expense creating the E1pc, based on the firm's C1 internal-combustion bike. Motor failures sidelined the MotoCzysz in practice and during the race.
Underdog Team TORK, led by four mechanical engineering students from India, landed their cobby creation on the Open class podium. Yes, that battery pack is secured with wood blocks and ratcheting tie-down straps.
The E1pc is cloaked in reshaped C1 bodywork. The fairing rake is lower, the "tank" has been chopped and the swingarm is more compact, too.
American TT veteran Mark Miller (shown here beside designer Michael Czysz, in sunglasses) was contracted to pilot the E1pc digital superbike.
"Hot-swappable" battery packs incorporate LED lighting that indicates battery-management system integrity, fuse status and battery life at a glance.
A unique, pushrod-activated rocker mechanism allows Czysz to quickly and easily alter ride height and rear suspension progressivity.
The 6X Flex fork is an all-new, tuned-flex design. "It was a bit of a job," Czysz says, "but we wanted the latest spec, not the same old C1 fork."
Moran spends some time everyday in his backyard workshop, tweaking his Jawa-engined dragbike. "I spend all my time in there thinking. I call it the Lonan Post-Graduate School of Philosophy."
"I belong to the Lonan Gentleman's Fellowship. You have to have built your chassis in Lonan. I think there are five full members and everyone else thinks they're members but they're bloody not."