Race report by 1st rider James Spooler, aka 2nd rider Chris Siglin, aka actually rode Jason Lauritzen.
The most electric report I have ever written, whew there I promise no more bad electric jokes. Last week my phone rang, on the other end Greg McCullough my teammate. He asked me if there was any interest in maybe riding an electric bike for the AMA weekend. Absolutely, they are new and not gas powered, but hey it has two wheels and that is all I care about. So I made contact with Chris at CT Racing or better known as the Pirelli guy. He had been contacted by fellow Pirelli pilot Chis Siglin. They needed a fill in rider, as Siggy had some conflicts with his schedule. With a smile on my face I said yes to both of them and was put in touch with Todd Killman of Electric Motorsports in Oakland, Ca.
A few phone calls later and we agreed to meet at thee BRG Performance shop on Friday. The idea was to meet there and go straight to afternoon AMA practice at Infineon. Not sure about the electric ride, I hesitated telling anyone until I was sure we were going and they wanted me to pilot their bike. BRG is owned and operated by KC a former AFM racer. Having been friends with his riders we had casually met, but never really spoke to each other on a personal level. While we waited for the mystery R6 to show up, I had time to really get to know the BRG crew. KC is an amazing man and has a rich history and an inspirational story to tell. If you have never met him I encourage you to seek him out and say hi.
When the bike showed up and was unloaded I had mixed emotions. Wow they built this and wow it is not done. First off it takes a huge effort to design and make a bike work. Bimota, has been taking other manufacturer bikes and building them into their own creations for years, but not like this. No gas, oil, coolant, clutch, transmission, or pistons. A completely custom, one off ride is what sat before me. My first impression as I put a leg over it, was the weight was so different. The bike is heavier, but the weight is so low it is just odd to feel an R6 that way. The guys put the bike on the rack and went to work. It was apparent to me that we would be lucky to make the late practice at best. Parts were needed as they were trying a completely new controller ( kind of like the brain for the bike) and the guys were all hard at work. Mix a pile of mechanics with a bunch of engineers and it is a sight to see. The guys at Electric Motorsports needed some mechanical items and KC was quick to fabricate them. This guy can make anything you want including a roller for the chain, because the store bought ones would not hold up. They continued to work and the time ticked away. We all saw the idea of Friday practice evaporate like a glass of water in the Sahara.
6pm and we are strapping up to the dyno. How excited were we? It was like a bunch of kids opening a X-mas present. They bike roared to life, scratch that. The bike silently sped to life as the fist pass was made. I have never been in a dyno room without the need for ear protection. We shut it off and repositioned the bike on the dyno. Now it would not start, the engineering team jumped to action and found a failed port or at least what that is what I think they called it. The best way I can relate this is, like a regular bike dropping a cylinder. The crew loaded the bike and took it back to their shop, where they would spend a sleepless night prepping the older and more proven system for the bike.
Saturday 8AM and I am at the track. We unloaded some items I brought to better our effort on the suspension side of things. They located us on the infield of the track, in front of the grandstands. It was a little weird showing up first. I walked around and looked at the other 10 bikes and saw we needed to add a few safety features. We already had the emergency shut off switch located on the tail, but we would need a tail light and a horn as well. The horn to warn turn workers that you silent speeder was heading at them and a light so they knew power was on. As the team showed up the lack of sleep was apparent, they were all running on fumes. We unloaded the bike and made preparations to the bike. First for me was taller forks and just in time Greg showed up to help. Time just disappeared as we struggled to get the bike finished in time for first practice / qualifying.
Did I forget to mention that my first time on the bike would be to qualify it. Well it was and as I pulled into the staging area my mind was set on just getting a few laps in, and not how fast I could go. Lap one I eased on the track and I mean eased, the entrance was at the beginning of the front straight, on the straight away. The power is smooth and seamless as you just give it more throttle to speed up. Kind of like a scooter with no noise. Up the hill the bike went, but immediately it was clear we needed a larger rear sprocket. The gearing is crazy. Your bike probably has a 16 front and a 45 rear or something close to that. Try a 12 front and a 70 rear, that is what we needed. Where to you even get a 70 rear sprocket anyway? Well half way around the track the bike died and we encountered our first issue, followed shortly by my second. Well known AMA racer and Zero Team pilot Shawn Higbee passed me close down the carousel as I was without power. It was not a really close pass, but I did not hear him at all and an underwear change later it would be all good. Mental note for next session, loose the earplugs. I had limp the bike back to the pits. No lap times in session one as the guys would work hard to get me out in session two. With lots of time to kill I went out to visit some friends and spread the electric word.
4:45 and second practice, we are not sure but we think we have a fix. I was able to get a few laps in, but with the bike shutting off at least a few times per lap is was hard to go fast. Back in the pits, I relayed what information I could to the team. The gearing change from 16-55 to 12-55 helped, but the bike just kept dying. We were forced to forgo the rest of practice. They would work again on the bike as I went to a late riders meeting and then home. The tally so far, 4 non consecutive laps on the bike and fear that I may not get many more. The struggle was not just ours as many teams had to overcome issues and try to get ready for Sunday. Remember these guys are the pioneers of our sport. So much technology has been created in recent years people forget how much money and effort is needed. These are the guys working out of a small garage in Silicon Valley, just for bikes not home computers.
Unhappy with the handling I grabbed some stuff for the bike before we left on Sunday. Most importantly would be my race tires from Pirelli. The bike had some other tires on it, but in the few laps I did they were no where near as good as my tires. Sc-1 rear and Sc-2 front would be the answer to my turning issues, I hoped. After measuring the ride height we changed tires and adjusted nothing else suspension wise. The guys removed a faulty switch and wired the rest of the bike. The tech inspection crew had been very lenient with the rules on Saturday, but Sunday it must all work and be safe. We went out in morning practice and as I dipped the bike into 1, it did something, it turned and turned well. A huge grin crossed my face as I flew by other riders up in 2. My ground clearance would still be an issue, but thanks to Pirelli we were able to turn. Just as fast as my grin appeared it disappeared, the bike died. After pulling on and off track several times we managed to get back to the pits.
I was still super stoked, the gearing had gotten better 12-60 and the tires were great. All I needed was for the motor to work and my eyes were set on a podium spot. While we were waiting I noticed the team next to me had no seat. Riding on just a plastic I offered a set of Tech Spec to them. They applied it to the seat area and were actually able to stay on the bike , rather than sliding all over the place. I want to beat the guy next to me, but only if that means we did better as a team and not because he could not stay on the bike. The minutes ticked away as the 11 race was coming and they were still unable to find the fault. With just minutes until the start of the race, the team decided to change electric motors. Just as they went to pull in out they found the problem. A faulty piece in the motor, the set screws fell out and the motor did not understand how fast it was going. It is like a crank or cam sensor in a gas engine. They scrambled to get the part secured on the motor and as the bikes were called to grid we placed the last screw on. Tech gave us the thumbs up and off we went.
Due to power worries no warm up lap was allowed and my tires were cold. Nice and easy into turn 2 was the plan. I had not had a chance to practice starts, but knowing we were not correctly geared I did the old 125cc start. Paddle your feet until she gets going. My start was not great, but hey I had 11 laps and could pass when the time came. As you let off the gas our bike has regenerative breaking, so there is some engine braking, but not a lot. You are able to adjust that during practice, but due to our limited testing we chose to minimize the re-gen power. I was using more brakes than I wanted too. So as I came out of 6 trying not to use the brakes much and up towards 7 the bike was running and running well. I eased into 7 worried about using to much power to early. My eyes glanced at the gauges every chance I got. Don’t push to hard, make sure you save some for the end, be smart and I was smart, until, it happened I got on an electric bike and a race broke out. I came around 2 and saw third place off the track. I was fifth, now fourth and as the bike crested the hill I saw third.
Racers start your batteries, were off and racing. Closing the gap and trying to take advantage of my power, I saw third place looked back at every exit. On his back wheel and looking to pass in turn 9, he used a lapper to get some distance. I honked frantically at the other rider to move over. As the bike headed towards turn 2 my power was decreasing. Had I used all the batteries up? So close I could see the podium and then it happened the bike slowed way down. Closing on a lapper Zoe Rem, I used her draft up to seven before lapping her in the eights. Limping down the hill I chose to pull in sure that the batteries would not give me another lap and old slow and steady passed me back, damn tortoise. I pitted and told them just let me wait here and limp across the line for the checked finish. My team rushed down where I showed them the 40% battery life. Todd jumped up and said no your just overheated on the motor and she is in limp home mode. Grabbing every available bottled water, including some passer by we rushed to cool the engine. Several laps down saw the white flag and took off at full power again. I ran the last lap at what felt to be my best lap of the weekend and made it to the checker flag.
All said and done my stop cost me 5 positions and a podium for the team. Had we got some testing time the cooling issue would have shown its self and a solution may have been found. Could have, would have, should have. The team did a great job to work out the issues with so little test time. It takes a great amount of courage to try and do what has never been done before. So to the entire team, those who helped build the bike, my friend who helped, my wife, and every other team/racer congratulations on your weekend. I admire your efforts and would be proud to race you all again. Remember, it was once believed that racing gas powered bikes was lunacy!
My weekend was made possible by many of my regular sponsors and some other people. Please remember to support the people who support racers and riders.
Electric Motorsports for the bike, BRG for the fabrication, CT Racing/Pirelli for the tires, Z2 Trackdays for letting me ride for another team, Helimot for keeping my body safe, Soumy for keeping my head safe, Sidi for keeping my little paddlers safe as I ran on the start and out of turn 11, and as always the rest of my sponsors who have allowed me to race this year Yamaha, David at Fastbikes Ind., Yamalube Products, Motion Pro, Race Image Graphics, Leo Vince, Factory Body Works , Igartua, 4 The Riders, Tech Spec, Tech Spec, Ink Monkey, GP Frame & Wheel, CRG Levers, Graves Motorsports, Mach 1, and Ken Hill Coaching.
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