It’s Memorial Day weekend, time for race fans to focus on… the UK! Yes, it’s the Isle of Man TT. In particular for this blog, it’s EV race time. Qualifying’s already begun (subject to rain); motorcycles will actually race in coming days, with the TT Zero race Wednesday, June 4.
This year’s event is one to watch, if not hear. Last year’s winners, MotoCzysz (and the year before, and the year before that, and the year before that), won’t compete; founder Michael Czysz’s cancer has worsened. Without its dominating competitor, the 2014 running will be up in the air. Sometimes literally- this is no dumb oval. It’s a road race, on old European streets, including hills. Officially, it’s dubbed the “Mountain Course.”
So, what does the coming week hold- and what does it mean for the coming year or so in EVs? After MotoCzysz (who offered their EV skills as consultants to automotive companies), the next favored team is Mugen, with their Mugen Shinden. After coming in second to MotoCzysz, this year’s Shinden San would be a logical bet. Never heard of Mugen? They’re an aftermarket shop and racing crew, technically independent but clearly tied to Honda, in both the bike and cage worlds. Though you can’t buy a complete Mugen vehicle, any Shinden tech will obviously reach Honda. Also note that Mission is a contractor to Mugen- Mission tech is then getting shaken out Shinden-style.
After Mugen, one would handicap Lightning. Lightning, coming off their Pikes Peak victory, has shown they can do twisties as well as straight lines. However, their Isle of Man record is inconsistent, partly because their very entry into the race has been inconsistent. Again, one would expect that race lessons would find their way into Lightning products (eventually). MotoCzysz has never offered a vehicle for public sale.
And then comes Saroléa. This Belgian firm, resurrecting an old brand name, has been coy so far with their plans. But we do know they’ll be in the IoM with their SP7, if not in the showrooms (yet?). Just breaking cover within a year, it’s too soon to know. But I’d guess they’re not going to beat a team that’s been entering and finishing for years, let alone all other teams that have been finishing. Again, this is a road course, with road hazards and actual weather, not a tightly-controlled drag or even an oval. There’s a lot more to a roadgoing vehicle than a motor and some wheels. Of course, it’s always possible that everyone else suffers a mechanical, except for Saroléa. Last year, MotoCzysz won with their leading E1pc bike, but their second E1pc blew a “transmission.” A transmission in an electric vehicle- not normally a worry, and often not even there at all. So who knows this year.
There will be other entrants as well. Typically, a university sends in a bike, though their past results and current odds aren’t keen. Of course, knowledge and talents gained by such dark horses may be picked up by existing firms, or startups, both in the racing scene and in public sales. This stuff isn’t wasted; like the punk rock scene, we eat our dead.
Yes, these are interesting times. Even if you don’t need to go 120+ mph to get to work, know that challenging courses, weather, and deadlines in a competitive field (not just two or even three names) will result in better products on the streets later. Even 4-wheeled products, via consulting contracts to boring ol’ cage companies.