The SportElectric TT is the crescendo of Refuel – an electric vehicle event organized by Speed Ventures which has, over the past five years, allowed EV builders and owners to become intimately acquainted with the twists and turns of the famed Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca that sits just outside of Monterey, CA. With its burgeoning annals of participants, it has become a measuring stick for various sorts of battery-powered cars, motorcycles and (even) go-karts and their drivers.
Wonder if you are, indeed, the fastest Nissan Leaf driver that ever there was? You'd have to do better than the quite remarkable 2 minute, 2.883-second lap laid down by Nader Assemi in 2012. Think you might be channeling Ayrton Senna in the cockpit of your all-out, open-wheel racer? Last year's 1:32.046 – the fastest Refuel lap ever, bested only by Steve Rapp aboard the Mission R during a TTXGP race (1:31.376) – by Kevin Mitz in the Kleenspeed EV-X11 is the mark you'd have to beat to refute suspicions that you're delusional.
There was also a huge surprise from the smaller machines.
We fortunate enough to attend this year's edition, and while the best overall time was not beaten, new records were set in a number of categories and we gained a lot of insight into the comparative performance of several different vehicles. There was also a huge surprise from the smaller machines.
Related Gallery2013 SportElectric TT
While Eric Bostrom easily beat out absolutely everybody aboard the Brammo Empulse RR race bike with a 1:38.502, when it came to the motorcycles in attendance, we were actually more interested to see how the production machines from the Zero Motorcycles and Brammo stacked up on the track. It was closer than we might have expected, and it seems the human element may play a strong role as these brands battle each other in future contests.
Shelina Moreda cleaned everybody's clock in the Production Bike class. She's an experienced racer who's really on her game right now. Aboard her Brammo Empulse TTX – a competition-oriented variant of the Empulse R – she did the deed in a scant 1:51.381. The next three places, however, belonged to riders on a DS, S and FX from Zero, Ian Lebov being the closest to Miss Moreda with a 1:58.351. To complicate the Brammo/Zero equation further, Kenyon Kluge completed the circuit in 1:55.684 on a Zero S with a larger controller to claim second place in the Prototype Bike class behind Bostrum.
In the rapidly growing Production class, Tesla Motors, of course, ruled the roost. The place was lousy with the company's product. Wonderfully, wonderfully lousy. Eighteen examples, in fact, were entered into the competition, though half of those were in a special Tesla Employee class – the automaker didn't want to take the thrill of victory and resulting hardware away from its customers, and so the nine cars it brought had their own separate category.
In the rapidly growing Production class, Tesla Motors, of course, ruled the roost.
So, what's the fastest Tesla? This year that title goes to the Model S by a mere two hundredths of a second. Aaron Bailey, a Tesla Motors Vehicle Dynamics Engineer, SCCA racer and racing instructor slung the electric sedan around the track in record 1:48.917, while Joe Nuxoll topped every other production vehicle in a borrowed Roadster 1.5 with a 1:48.937.
What's the the next-fastest production electric? This year, it was a Toyota Rav4 EV, which, perhaps coincidentally, sports a Tesla drivetrain and battery beneath its stealth, last-gen bodywork.
There were a number of electric conversions on hand for the Refuel event, but only a few attacked the asphalt during the SportElectric TT. And, while Jeff McCabe put down a respectable 2:12.003 in his lightning bolt-painted '84 Porsche 928, on this particular Sunday it would only be good enough for second place. That's because the EV West crew brought its bonkers BMW conversion out to play.
Now, we've seen this car before. Last year, with a rookie driver, it climbed Pikes Peak in less than twelve minutes. We've also watched it bring boatloads of joy to rally racer Bill Caswell during a little test drive. This time it was out to show off in front of its electric kin and show up the factory offerings from Fremont.
Unfortunately, driver Michael Bream had to settle for 1:49.036, less than a second behind the fastest Tesla. Yes, that put him at the top of his class, but he was still disappointed. He managed to catch up with a Model S on the last half of his hot lap and lost valuable seconds trying to get past it. The organizers gave him a second chance to prove what the '95 M3 could do, but on that attempt his approach to the corkscrew proved too hot, and he spun out, losing the opportunity for Tesla-beating bragging rights.
The organizers gave Bream a second chance, but his approach to the corkscrew proved too hot.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day came in the smallest package. A gang of four go-karts, prepared by Bridge Service Motor Company using components sourced from Zero Motorcycles, put on an amazing demonstration of speed. Led by Marcos Ramirez with a 1:44.688-lap, the quartet were quicker around the track than anything else in attendance, save the electric racing Brammo of Eric Bostrom. According to Ramirez, he hit top speeds in the neighborhood of 115 miles per hour during the feat. How's that for cooking without gas!
Interestingly though, this is not necessarily a Refuel record for karts. Back in 2009, Ramirez circled the circuit in about 1 minute and 39 seconds in an even faster, albeit less refined, kart of his own making.
While we look forward to future SportElectric TT competitions, we can always relive some of this year's action (and so can you) by simply scrolling to the assorted examples of in-car footage from the event below. You can check out all the official times at the Refuel website.