I lost the race before the first corner- then won the race after the last corner. It was a single, 16 minute race that perfectly mirrors the MotoCzysz attitude- Never give up!
I was a little apprehensive going into the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca, not only because I was personally racing, not only because the E1 is still in early development, but because of the fans. The Red Bull USGP hosts some of the most loyal, dedicated and educated motorcycle racing fans in America and they attend to watch the greatest racers on the fastest motorcycles in the world. MotoCzysz was very excited to be part of this great event but I could not help think that our “project” would be laughed off the peninsula. To my and everyone’s surprise, the e-race had the most exciting finish of the weekend!
Obviously not comparable to a MotoGP motorcycle, (thankfully a concept understood by nearly everyone) the e-Powered machines lapped quicker than most expected. There was even some appreciation for the break from the ear splitting MotoGP bikes, though we were “eerily quiet”. In the end, the interest and support for the electric motorcycles from the MotoGP teams, the other riders, and especially the fans was unexpected- a result that left me almost more satisfied than the race win itself… almost.
The MotoCzysz E1pc has been solidly reliable from the first test. This has allowed the team to spend more time on development and less time on re-engineering. We had only ever “tripped” the system once, causing the system to fault and stop the bike, after a firmware revision this never happened again- until Laguna, during qualifying when the system tripped-faulted again. We are confident it is a noise issue on one parameter that we do not filter, a minor problem but one we could not patch at the track. Other than the “trip” the bike performed perfect.
The primary issue we focused on over the weekend was suspension, we simply have not had the E1 on this type of circuit. Laguna Seca is on of the two tracks where the MotoGP riders experience the highest compression G loads and we were under sprung and under valved for the circuit. We made good progress, but with only two practice sessions we did not get as close to a race set up as I would have liked.
With an improved, rebuilt front shock and raised ride height we gridded on the front row in P2. Barnes was P1 and though I wanted pole, we stuck to our plan and focused on race setup during qualifying. We put in more laps than any other team during practice and qualifying, collecting more data and worked towards the best race set-up possible. After qualifying we increased the power potential of the E1. We took only a very small step as we we were moving into untested parameters and wanted to be smart.
There was one benefit to P2; I was hoping to follow Barnes for the first half of the race, learn, then try to make a break during the second half- that strategy lasted about 50′.
Lights out… full throttle… fault… trip… die… I raise my left hand (thinking of Scott Russell the entire time) until the 3rd place bike went by, then I drop my hand and started to reset the system. Once the controller was reset, I could finally start to accelerate again but I had already lost 4 seconds in the process, all before T2. I passed at least one rider going into T2 and then caught up to DeRidder who was in P2 but I could not get by until T5 and lost another second. Before we even completed the first lap, I was already 5 seconds behind Barnes.
Lap 2-3 I am very aware of the throttle, and accelerate judiciously to not trip the system again and though my times are dropping I lose another 2 seconds to Barnes. At this point I still believe we are in the race and try to stay relaxed and focused. However on lap 4, I have another big setback; Barnes and I encounter our second lapped rider and clearly Barnes gets by #15 Mike Hannes better than I do. I catch Hannes but cant make the pass until exiting the corkscrew losing another 2.5 seconds in the process. At this point our deficit to Barnes grew to 9.8 seconds, the largest gap in the race. I kept telling myself “relax, be technical and do not… give up”.
Lap 5 was the turning point- we matched, even slightly bettering Barnes time. Lap 6, 7 and 8 we continued to turn quicker times than Barnes reducing the overall lead by another 3 seconds and were now trailing by 6.6 seconds. I could see the gap starting to close on lap 6 and saw it closing more quickly on laps 7 and 8. I knew Barney was not slowing… it was his bike.
Going into T11 for the last time, I closed up to within 1 second behind Barnes. A nice drive, no trip… and a win could be possible. As we started down the straight for the finish line I was focused on the drive and Barnes and didn’t even see the bike we were lapping until Barnes went left to make his pass. My closing speed on both bikes was very high. I quickly veered right and made the pass for the win on the outside shoulder of the track.
I never gave up during the race and on lap 8 with Barnes clearly in sight, I became even more motivated. I set all my personal best sector times for the weekend in laps 8 and 9 and set the overall e-Power lap record 1’44.496 on the last lap of the race-
I want to thank our team (my Dad, Adrian, Fred, Ryan and Kevin) for never giving up. Michael Barnes for being such a gracious competitor, the FIM for their professionalism and MotoGP fans for having an open mind and allowing me to live the dream.
All my best, MC
E racing is a balance of performance and efficiency- Nearly every e-motorcycle set their fastest lap early in the race and slowed towards the end. Conversely the MotoCzysz consistently lapped faster every lap (excluding lap 4). In the end it is the motorcycle that averages the highest speed over the entire race that will prevail. At the moment, e races are marathons not sprints, which on the surface makes the racing look slow and boring but to the informed, adds another element of strategy and interest.