Armed with an entire season of data collection on some of Australia's most rigorous motorcycle racing circuits from 2011, the Electric Motorcycle racing teams were back on the grid for 2012. This time it was at Wakefield Park for the first round of the eFXC | TTXGP Australian Electric Motorcycle Championship.
Now we're faster!
After a foggy start to the day on Friday the first practice session kicked off. Given that the teams had over six months tinker time since the last racing season, it was no surprise that they were faster than last year. The question was, 'how much faster?" The first times were in and Catavolt had gained fifteen seconds on last years race times. It was well noted that the Catavolt machine needed to up the ante on the straights as all bets were on Ripperton for the highest straight line speed.
On first outing it was evident that builder Jon Eggenhuizen had been busy indeed. Catavolt's performance was a lot better than last season. After a couple of practice sessions with the gassers it was evident that Catavolt was posing a major threat to the Ripperton camp. Daniel Sailer was oficially "watching his back".
The first thing to be changed on the machines were tyres. After the practice sessions, Catavolt Rider Jason Morris immediately took the bike to Whites Racing Products where the track side tyre specialist, Craig White, proposed some Sava soft compound racing tyres for the Enertrac rear hub. Craig explained that "the original Catavolt tyre was too large for the rim which had an adverse effect on the profile. It was affecting handling so badly that Jason fought hard to avoid coming off in the corners. He almost highsided the machine on more than one occasion. It took just over one hour to change the tyre on the Enertrac hub. Most of that was removing and replacing the complex rear wheel assembly on the machine. This non-standard setup was engineered to allow more cooling to the electric windings in the motors.
Champion Supermono rider takes Ripperton R1 for a practice session
Meanwhile the top supermono rider Shaun Geronimi took the Ripperton R1 Electric Superbike for some warm up laps to get the feel for an electric machine. His first reaction was that the tyres were completely wrong for the bike. Ripperton too was off to the tyre shed for some more traction. Shaun commented that it was "brilliant fun to race the Electric" and that it was "not what I had expected at all". It was awesome!
No more novelty, this here is racin'
Discussions in the pits had changed from worries about batteries and motors to more competitive 'race talk' concerning tyres, racing lines and tactics. The pressure was on both teams and for the first time since the series began and there was nothing stopping the bikes from racing. All of the lessons learned last season were implemented which made for an enjoyable race meet with lots of friendly rivalry in the pit area.
Poles apart but still close performance
Both Jon Eggenhuizen with the Catavolt machine and Daniel Sailer with the Ripperton R1 have approached their builds using very different technologies. Catavolt with the Enertrac rear hub powered by Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries and Ripperton with an eighty percent customised, liquid cooled, Motenergy AC motor running Lithum Polymer cells. This gives the engineers the unique oppotunity to collect data on how both of these technologies perform under extreme racing conditions. The Catavolt setup is significantly heavier than the Ripperton R1 yet it performs almost on a par with the R1. With a lighter battery setup Catavolt might prove difficult to catch. The extra weight on Catavolt, and the fact that the Daelim frame is not a tried and tested race chassis like the R1, hampers the teams ability to get the most from the setup. When asked about this, Jon mentioned that there was a third iteration of the Catavolt machine "in the works". Brilliant!
Now we're fast and reliable
Reliability was a major factor last season with all of the teams experiencing technical failures at the events. This time was different. The instigation of mandatory battery management systems on the machines meant that there were less battery problems, although Jon Eggenhuizen was seen to be working on some 'spare cells' for a while.
The speeds were certainly up with both bikes clocking over 170kmh on the straights and managing lap times of just shy of 1:15. This is still 15 seconds slower than the gassers however considering the technical challenges in building electric motorcycles to racing spec, and that this is only the second year of development, it's big news!
Both bikes were so evenly matched that there was no way of knowing which would be the winner. It was purely down to rider skill and dare it be said, a little luck.
Pushing the engineering envelope
At the end of the event Daniel was keen to point out that "I have three months of lab time before the next race". A true testament to Daniel's drive and determination. Considering that Daniel Sailer's lab packs some serious cnc engineering horsepower, there is no way of knowing what to expect from the Ripperton R1 for the next round. There is no doubt that Daniel is keen on making good on his claim that the Ripperton R1 Electric Superbike really is bigger, better and faster than last year.
Sponsorship opportunities, get onboard or put a bike on the grid
There is no doubt that this electric motorcycle racing thing is here to stay. In Australia alone, the event gets broadcast coverage with the FX Superbikes on Australia's SBS TV channel and the media department at EVMOTORCYCLE.ORG (aka me), has been working overtime to get the word out about this series. There are some serious media opportunities now available considering the growing interest in this arena. If you want to be part of this exciting event contact firstname.lastname@example.org now!
Next on the agenda
The next outing for the electrics will be 20th-22nd July when they head north to Queensland Raceway near Brisbane QLD. The paperclip awaits!
For more information on the eFXC | TTXGP eGrandPrix championship visit www.egrandprix.com
Words and pictures by Andy Marsh for EVMOTORCYCLE.ORG.