All right, I’ve had a day to digest all the info that has come out. My info comes from A&R, Gas 2.0, IOMTT, the 2012 TT Zero thread on Elmoto.net, and their various twitter feeds. Visit my Facebook page for all the links straight to all the videos and articles.
I am of 2 minds about this year’s TT Zero. Lets cover the negative stuff first, numbers. Last year something like 9 bikes rolled up to qualify for the TT Zero. 5 actually finished the race. And 2 of those were from the same team. This year 11 bikes rolled up to qualify. Not the 18 A&R insisted (over and over again) was going to show. Every year since the very first TTXGP in ’09 ( the IOMTT took the event over in for 2010) there has been reports of 20-30 bikes coming. I whole heatedly believe that many people told the IOMTT they were coming. But every year we get a handful of bikes actually role up, and half of them actually finish. The TTXGP has had the same issues, but the IOMTT really gets the shaft in comparison. I see part of the problem as being the number of practices the TT Zero guys get. Kingston wrote on the elmoto.net thread that it takes most teams 6-8 hours to charge. This is because of this rule:
16 Charging from the Mains
• The motorcycle may be charged from a provided 240 volt single phase supply of 13 Amps maximum. The charging system must be separate from the motorcycle and comply with all electrical safety requirements including thermal overload trip, fusing and be equipped with an earth leakage protection breaker.
Manzinita Micro will sell you a charger that given enough power will charge any of those bikes in under and hour and a half, easy. If the IOMTT needs to fix anything (which, other than actually listing practice and qualifying info on their results page and more practice runs, isn’t much) it’s being able to offer teams access to 480v 50 amp power (and their own paddock). If that power was available to teams (if they equipped their bikes accordingly) charge times would be much shorter, which I believe would allow for greater flexibility in scheduling. Now, we come full circle a bit. 11 bikes rolled up to the line for qualifying this year. 6 bikes finished, and only 1 bike was over the ton. Now 2 bloggers said 8 bike started, but the IOMTT press release said 10 started the race. 4 finished. These teams need more track time. But to sum up, 2 whole extra bikes showed this year, and 1 less finished. Success . . . ?
Now for the good part, 3 bikes broke the ton. Both Czysz bikes and the Mugen (which I refuse to call a Honda). 4 bikes finished, but really, no one seemed to care anything about (before or after) any of them accept the Mugen and MotoCzysz bikes. So you really have to wonder if it mattered that only 4 finished. Really, this is how racing goes, isn’t it. People only follow the top guys anyway. The others in the back are for the fans actually at the event. So for the event, they need to get these bikes to finish.
The big surprise for me was the Mugen bike. They built a dead reliable and competitive machine in 4 months! The other thing that really struck me about them (through the media of course) was their impeccable attitude. Not to go all wannbe-warrior on you folks, but they acted with such honor I am just truly impressed and now a fan of Mugen. I know I have said the Japanese could not make a successful electric racer, but I was clearly wrong. But I still believe this is a Mugen project through and through. You can’t be Mugen and not have Honda DNA, but I think it’s all Mugen. Outstanding job guys!
Now, as far as battery capacity versus aerodynamics, I am declaring aero the bigger problem. Mugen threw a “ton” of batteries, a less powerful motor (than Czysz, and still had power to spare), and the fastest TT rider in history at this TT Zero puzzle, and still lost to MotoCzysz. And Miller was really close to McGuinness. However, I just listened to Episode 314 of MotoPod * from the end of April) and at the end there is an interview with Mark Miller. His biggest complaint of elmoto bikes as far as the race is concerned, is weight. A word of warning, listening to Jim Race talk about elmotos like he’s an expert, and Mark Miller talk about his MotoCzysz like all elmotos work just like that his, can (but not necessarily will) make the hardcore elmoto fan start to grind his teeth. But Mark is about the coolest guy ever, and Jim is Jim. And we listen to him any way. Anywho, the weight is directly related to the battery problem, as when everything else on the bike is as light as it can be, the current batteries are all that’s left. Progress is being made in the motors and controllers as far as weight and packaging, which helps, but it’s in the batteries. So the third problem is battery weight. The MotoCzysz bikes ran smaller packs than the Mugen, keeping the weight down, which after looking how worn out McGuinness was after the race compared to the MotoCzysz riders, I can’t but help think the American team got that right too.
Now for my headlines, that protomech couldn’t wait for me to address.
How ugly will the MotoCzysz bikes be due to aero packaging?
Not ugly. Not beautiful either, but some serious cool factor.
How competitive will the Mugen actually be? They have the fastest TT rider, carbon fiber everywhere, an apparently very well put together bike, but only 4 months of project time.
Damn competitive, but not enough to win.
Will Lighting have their stuff together this year?
No. They didn’t even make the start. Not sure what happened there. I am sure Pinkyracr is working on it.
Will Kingston not get smoked this year?
The ’12 didn’t run, and the ’11 bike didn’t finish. But man they had some speed. However, so didn’t Lighting last year.
Will there be at least 10 bikes racing?
No. I called it, but not particularly happy about it.
Will this be the year that kills off the last shred of my interest in the TT?
No. But only 2 teams battling for the win hasn’t exactly sucked me in either. I really did get sucked in more than I thought I would. That’s something.
So, while it was really exciting to see a team take MotoCzysz head on, and the breaking of the “Ton” was very cool, the field was really shallow. The chatter on the internet wasn’t as hateful as it has been in the past, but it isn’t much better either. Read the IOMTT forums, and it really makes you wish they’d just cut the class and see if someone could start a new one in a more welcoming venue. But it is an internet forum. But really , in my fan’s eyes, the TT Zero has just held fast. Don’t expect me to get excited about next year’s MotoCzysz bike either. They keep things tight, and there will be nothing to get excited about until maybe two weeks before the race. The same kind of goes for the Mugen. It’s hard to get excited about bikes I will only see on the internet once a year. I think about the TT’s ICE bikes, and really, now gets too excited about the bikes like in other series. It’s much more about the riders. For electrics the TT Zero bikes have to almost be specialty bikes just for the event. But is it a premiere elmoto event? With only 4 bikes finishing this year, and 5 last year, I don’t think so. It is a really cool one off event that pushed elmoto technology differently, and maybe in a greater real world kind of way than circuit racing? I think so yes. But the technology that is trickling down to bike we can buy is not coming from the TT Zero. Not at all actually. All the tech that we are seeing in elmotos on the street came from the TTXGP series, and the FIM by coincidence. I truly believe this will change in a few years time when (and if) we see a big jump in battery technology. But for now the TT Zero is nothing more than a show case for MotoCzsysz’s, and now Mugen’s, ablities to build an elmoto that will go 37.7 miles in just over 20 minutes. Everyone else appears to irrelevant.