Motorcycles / Motorsports

State of the Art 2020: Electric Motorcycle Racing

State of the Art 2020: Electric Motorcycle Racing
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The inaugural season of MotoE just wrapped up a few weeks ago in Valencia, Spain, with the aptly-named Italian Matteo Ferrari taking the widely celebrated first-ever championship in the history of this all-electric racing series. It so very nearly wasn’t so, however– and as such, in this week of Thanksgiving, it seemed like a good time to look back at the state of electric motorcycling in 2019, and take some time, too, to look ahead to 2020 and see what might be looking forward to next year. So with that, here it is: the state of the art of electric motorcycle racing in 2019.

2019 MotoE Season Recap

Remember that? The very first season of big-time electric motorcycle racing almost didn’t happen at all due to a massive fire that broke out the series’ pre-season test sessions at Jerez. In order to ensure that the teams weren’t tinkering with the bikes between runs, all 18 of the slick Energica Ego MotoE racers were locked away in a common garage. A common garage that caught fire around midnight local time, resulting in a blaze that completely engulfed the MotoE paddock structure and destroyed the bikes.

The fire represented a huge setback for the fledgling race series– one that put its very existence in doubt. That’s one part of of what made the series inaugural event at Germany’s Sachsenring (which had been pushed back to July after the fire) so special.

The other part? The racing was absolutely fantastic!

The MotoE series was always meant to serve as a stepping stone for young riders eager to prove their worth to the big MotoGP and World Super Bike teams like Honda, Yamaha, and Ducati, so there was always going to be a lot of raw talent coupled with the bravery of youth to drive the action. That much was expected, sure– but the fact that the bikes actually performed well, with plenty of speed and the electric motors’ instant-on torque blasting the riders out of even the tightest of corners? That was a huge bonus, and one that did a whole lot to promote the cause of electric motorcycles to anyone in the MotoGP audience who might still be counted among the doubters of an electrically-driven future.

Either way, it proved to be a great series. Heading into the truncated season’s closing round in Valencia, Spain, a number of riders could still take the crown. Matteo Ferrari had scored a key double victory in Misaon to arrive at the Valencia double-header with a 19-point lead over his nearest rival, Tech 3’s Hector Garzo. At the close of the first heat race, Garzo seemed to have closed the gap to Ferrari with a strong second-place result on Saturday, but it was not to be. Garzo was disqualified for running tire pressures below the permitted minimum– a move that may have given the rider extra grip and traction in the corners.

That disqualification meant that Ferrari was able to run largely unopposed in the last race of the season, needing “just” a top 10 result to clinch the title. Ever the champion, though, Ferrari finished a strong 4th behind the top three– with less than a second covering the distance between first and third on the nearly 170 MPH machines. Which, like I said, is absolutely fantastic racing!

Forza Ferrari! | MotoE Champion 2019

Ferrari is set to return to defend his MotoE championship next year, with a fresh 6 race calendar having been unveiled in October. The 160 HP Energica Ego MotoE bike is expected to return as well, along with a few more teams and riders, maybe. All of which sounds like great news for this super-exciting electric motorcycle racing series.

If the idea of wicked-fast motorcycles blasting from 0-60 in under three seconds on their way to a 168 MPH top speed ridden by some of the most talented and aggressive young riders in the world in nearly total electrified silence does anything for you, you’ll want to take note. I’ve included the provisional 2020 FIM MotoE event calendar, below. You may want to click here for any updates from the official source between now and May 3rd, though. Just in case something changes, you know?

Provisional 2020 FIM MotoE Calendar

So, the MotoE thing has been a wild success for electric motorcycle racing, regardless of the initial obstacles. That’s great, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the state of electric bike racing was, in general, a rosy and optimistic one. Unfortunately, that’s just not so– and two major electric motorcycle races won’t be with us as we look forward to the 2020 racing season.

The first of the two biggies that will be missing from the calendar is, arguably the biggest bike race of them all: the Isle of Man TT.

Isle of Man TT | TT Zero

You read that right. After running for ten consecutive years, the Isle of Man Government Department for Enterprise, as promoters of the TT Races, has confirmed that they will hold a moratorium on the TT Zero class participation in the TT Race schedule for a minimum of two years (2020 and 2021).

Critics have pointed to the dominance of the Honda Mugen Hachi (above) in the TT Zero class in recent years– the team scored a staggering and unprecedented six back-to-back victories– as one of the big reasons driving the class’ (supposedly temporary) demise. The TT’s promoters, though, claim to see it differently. “As an island we remain committed to the principles and passion that continues to motivate everyone associated with the TT Zero class and the clean tech industry,” says Rob Callister MHK, Member with responsibility for tourism and motorsport. “Our intention is to have a moratorium on the event to allow the motorcycle industry as a whole to catch up on the leading edge developments that some manufacturers and individual race teams and universities have achieved … in clean emission racing at the TT, and will work closely with the industry and with manufacturers without the pressure and focus of delivering a race format to build on the success to date.”

If, like me, you can read between the lines of PR-speak there, what he’s saying is, “we’re giving everyone else two years to catch up with Honda, while preventing them from gaining any more real-world experience. Good luck!”

Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb

That picture up there is one of Carlin Dunne, the so-called “King of the Mountain” at Pike’s Peak, and one of the bravest, toughest, and fastest motorcycle racers of all time. Unfortunately, that’s not a picture from 2019. Instead, it’s a picture from this Cycle World interview that took place in July of 2018. No such picture of Dunne, waving a checkered flag and flashing the “Number 1” exists for 2019 … because he didn’t make it.

On June 30, 2019, Carlin Dunne high-sided his Ducati on what would have been the last turn before the finish of the 97th Running of the IIHC’s Race to the Clouds– and to say that the racing community was shocked is something of an understatement. The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) course is 12.4 miles long, and comprised of 156 turns and curves. Carlin Dunne knew each and every one of those turns intimately, and there is no reason to believe that bike suffered any sort of mechanical failure before that fateful misstep– which, again and for emphasis, happened on the 156th and final turn.

Yeah. “Tragedy” doesn’t quite cut it.

In response to that day’s tragic and traumatic events (don’t even get me started on the frantic radio calls from Dunne’s support crew and the eerie silence that answered), the promoters of the PPIHC have cancelled all two-wheel class events for 2020 … but that may be just a start. “Motorcycles have been a part of the PPIHC for the past 29 years, and their history on America’s Mountain dates back to the inaugural running in 1916,” said Tom Osborne, Chairman. “That said, the motorcycle program hasn’t been an annual event. They have run 41 of the 97 years we’ve been racing on Pikes Peak. It’s just time to take a hard look at every aspect of the race, including the motorcycle program, and determine whether or not the event (needs to) change.”

So, MotoE is doing great, but the Isle of Man is on hold and Pike’s Peak may be done for good– which, I guess, is pretty much the state of major electric motorcycle racing as we go into 2020. Not super bright and unquestionably marred by tragedy, but certainly not diminishing. Heck, in terms of sheer viewing numbers, 2019 was a triumph– if only Carlin Dunne could have seen it, you know?

Maybe that’s just me talking. I was in a good mood when I started typing this article– I swear!– but reliving Dunne’s tragic death kind of took it out of me, so I leave the rest to you guys. What electric motorcycle races are you excited about seeing next year? The electric trials series set to start in 2020 looks pretty good, and it’s only a matter of time before we get a major electric motocross series going, isn’t it? Scroll on down to the comments section at the bottom of the page and let us know how you think the future of the electric motorcycle racing business is shaping up … I know one thing: I can’t wait for next year!

 

Original content by Enrg.io, source links throughout.

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Jo Borrás
Jo has been working in the automotive industry since 1997, and has been a contributor to various automotive and technology blogs for more than a decade. You can usually find him talking about Swedish metal at his Volvo fansite, out cruising on two wheels, or chasing his kids around Oak Park, IL.