After holding two separate electric motorcycle racing championships over the past three years, the FIM ePower and TTXGP championships have finally come together to create one high-level series – the eRoad Racing World Cup – and, it's already started racing. Two weeks ago, the European season first twisted its throttle in Valencia, Spain, while this past weekend saw the North American season kick off at the biggest and baddest motorcycle racing event of the year; MotoGP weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
In a race that saw three riders go down, Eric Bostrom came away, unscathed, with the win. Aboard the Brammo Empulse RR, his only top-tier competitor had been his teammate Shane Turpin, but he retired from the contest on the final lap, after leading the the entire way. Representing proudly for Zero Motorcycles in the saddle of a Zero S was that company's Director of Electrical Engineering, Kenyon Kluge, on the second step of the podium, while Jeremiah Johnson of Be-Ev.Com was third.
*UPDATE: Have added video of the crash at The Corkscrew which you can see by scrolling below.
The event highlighted the challenges that lie ahead for the new series, the biggest of which seems to be attracting top-level teams. After putting on a clinic at Pikes Peak and setting a new two-wheeled record, Lightning Motorcycles were a no-show. Likewise the MotoCzysz crew, after its own stunning, record-setting display at the TT Zero, weren't in attendance – possibly down to a health crises being suffered by its principal, Michael Czysz. Mission Motorcycles, who holds the current track record for electric bikes, did have a bike on hand, however it was busy generating interest in the vendor area rather than rubbing handlebars on the track.
Despite the absence of the top-tier contenders, we can easily find solace in the excitement provided by the production-based bikes. After all, these are the machines that anyone can buy, and ever since the 2013 models started coming to market there has been a lot of discussion about which of the top two brands – Zero Motorcycles with its single-speed gearbox and air cooled approach or the heavier Brammo, boasting a six-speed transmission and liquid-cooling – is best. Whilst that controversy hasn't definitively been settled, we may have to give the advantage to the Zero S on this particular track.
Kluge's modified S started just behind the two Brammo Empulse RR race bikes, while factory-backed Shelina Moreda's Empulse TTX – a race-prepared version of the Empulse R – staked out the fourth grid position. Meanwhile, Ted Rich, who was a last-minute entry with a (more or less) stock S started fifth. Though slow off the mark, he had regained that position by Turn 3 and was behind Moreda as they climbed the back hill, looking for the pass. Unfortunately, both their fates and bikes were about to collide.
With track and tires still a bit cold, Moreda lost grip as she hit the apex of The Corkscrew's descending right turn. With nowhere to go, Rich hit her from behind and went skyward, missing the airfence and crashing heavily into the tire wall. While both were able to walk away from the incident thanks to modern safety gear, we understand Ted may have a couple broken ribs.
Later, Brandon Nozaki Miller also low-sided in turn three, damaging only his bike and, we imagine, his pride. The crashes and retirements allowed Arthur Kowitz (Brammo's first Empulse TTX customer) to bring his machine to a fourth-place finish in his first electric contest.
The series returns to action in Europe at Motorsport Arena Oschersleben and Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 18th of August. Across the ocean, Zongshen are likely to dominate as they did in the first race, while here in the US we expect Brammo to get some competition from Lightning Motorcycles, Virginia Bolt Tech and Ohio State's Buckeye Current. We have no doubt that they may be looking for some revenge in the production class as well.