If you are not an avid motorcycle race fan, then it would be understandable how you would not know about the displeasure in the world of MotoGP fan-dom over the racing (or perceived lack there of) in the top class of motorcycle racing. People over the past few years have wailed and whined about how the racing isn’t as good because the 800’s (800cc 4-stroke motors down from 990cc 4-stroke motors that phased out the old 500cc 2-strokes that were just dangerous) aren’t powerful enough and they aren’t roasting tires, sliding sideways, and launching their riders 20 ft into the air and sending them to the hospital on a regular basis. Although, it seems to me that former Suzuki 800 riders John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen might tend to disagree. It seems like Vermeulen has yet to be able to fully recover from the injuries suffered during his tenure on the Suzuki, and “Hopper” is just now back on track after one heck of a season racing BSB. But, I digress. At first the blame for the “horrible racing” we have been made to suffer through the last few years was aimed squarely at the smaller displacement engine. It was too 250 like and only allowed for single line racing, went the arguments. What happened is, just like in F1, they made the engines smaller because they wanted to slow the bikes down (well mostly because Honda wanted 800cc engines). We were seeing 250 to 260hp and scary straight away speeds. So just like in F1, they went faster. Turns out the cornering speeds from the smaller and lighter bikes went way up. Something else had made a good sized evolutionary step forward, electronics. It turns out this was the real culprit behind the lack of tire smoking and sideways riding cowboy-isms in the 800 era. Want proof? Simply compare the power output of the 800 MotoGP bikes to that of their 1000cc bucking broncho World Superbike counterparts. You will find the 800s were putting out as much if not more power, and only 30 to 40hp down on the 990cc GP bikes. You don’t have to be a Vulcan to to follow the logic that the 800s had more than enough power, and that something else was at play.
Enter the electric bikes. I have stated before, and will again, that I feel electrics will be in or clearly the equal of MotoGP bikes by the 2018 season. This ridiculous statement was fortified in my recent interview with Lightning development rider Ted Rich. The interview will be in Episode 1 of the TTXGPod that will be posted soon. In the interview Rich talks about how their motor is capable of 400hp but inverter technology is still progressing and they are only up to 240hp at the moment. Also, battery technology needs to get much more energy dense while weighing less, and smaller would be nice too. But, in 6 to 12 months the Lightning bike could be 250hp and only 400 lbs, and after a sprint race using the WSBK Panigale’s fuel injectors to pick it’s teeth. As I have discussed in my podcast an electric motor does what you tell it so even with over 200hp traction control isn’t a concern yet, and may be implemented much easier than in an ICE engine. But because of the the way an electric motor does what you tell it I think riders will tune the traction control out, and be able to do so safely (an argument made, from many people who would know, for TC). TC (traction control), or electronics as it were, is meant to keep the tire in constant contact with the surface, and to limit spinning and loss of control. It has to be pretty sophisticated because the ICE engines are so powerful, and not necessarily in a constant or predictable manner. So TC tries to limit power through many means to prevent tire spinning, sliding, and wheelieing for safety, an has the added benefit of helping a bike go faster around a track because preventing those behaviors keeps the bike moving on the correct direction. Tire spinning in itself is not so bad, it is when tire spinning leads to tire sliding. Again, still not so bad if tire sliding either gently stops, or it leads to a low-side crash into the kitty litter. However, a spin, then slide can also stop abruptly resulting in a high-side crash where ride find him or herself catapulted into the air. I feel if the power delivery was more predictable, and customizable in a way that modern GP mechanics and crew chiefs only dream of, you wouldn’t need as much TC as we have now that is “ruining” the racing. Also, I feel if power delivery and engine characteristics were easily predictable then TC would be simpler to build into the bikes, and therefore the need and demand for them to be in racing so the manufacturers can develop them would be greatly diminished. This gets us the safer bikes on the street, and the throttle control back into the racers hands all at the same time as having no exhaust fumes. The noises we may miss, but I am not sure anyone will miss the CO poisoning. Problem solved. 😀