I read A&R’s article about the FIM and TTXGP unification (for lack of a better term). He said this, “The resulting fracture created a lack of cohesion in the sport, and created a situation where the heavy-hitters in the electric motorcycle industry would cherry-pick the events they attended, often with no formidable competition alongside them at the starting grid. This not only created a disparity in performance between competitors on any given race day, but also denied enthusiasts the chance to see real head-to-head racing amongst the brands that were dominating the newswires.”
The heavy-hitters comment made me laugh out loud. This comment comes from the same guy who said that the 2013 Zeros had only minor changes when in fact they are a completely new design. While I agree with the spirit of what he says, his “heavy-hitters” are anything but. Maybe if he had said they were heavy-hitters in racing and not the industry he would have been a lot closer some view of reality in the elmoto world. But that is my view of the elmoto world, and A&R are one of my favorite main stream whipping boys. Lets not mince words, he is talking about Lightning and MotoCzysz, and even Mission can be put in there. Of all three of those none of them are making motorcycles accept Lightning, and that’s a barely. How do I know he is talking about those three? Well because the actual heavy-hitters in the industry are Brammo and Zero. They are making bikes, and according to business types Zero is by far the biggest of the two as far as bikes actually produced. Although with the Empulse R and Enertia Plus finally getting into customer hands, and the regular Empulse (E-1 as Brammo refers to it) is due to go into production in April (here we go again?). With these bikes Brammo is set to close that gap significantly. These company’s teams actually show up to every round. Although Moto Zero did not show up to the World Final at Daytona. In my interview with Kenyon Kluge he said they actually didn’t think they would be in a position to go and hadn’t planned for the time and budget and needed to work on getting the 2013 bikes ready. Either way these are not teams that compromise electric motorcycle racing as a whole by cherry picking. Although, to give credit where credit is due, the cherry pickers don’t say they are going and then not show. Nope, Mission, Lightning, and MotoCzysz have all cherry picked what races they will attend. Now they all have their reasons, which usually are half way reasonable, but in what series other than NASCAR or club racing have you ever seen behavior like that? Mission did one race (after saying they were going to do a whole season) and blew the field away with a lap time that still stands 2 years later. But if Mark Gardner’s blog post is to be believed (no reason it shouldn’t be) their whole marketing change from being a motorcycle company to a tech consulting company lead them to a place where they eventually laid off a large chunk of their work force. They’re no heavy-hitter, at least anymore. MotoCzysz, multi-time TT Zero winner, had similar designs but last we knew the only thing they were producing were drivetrains for South American country and forward thinking prototypes. It’s not that MotoCzysz come up with ideas no one has thought of before, its that they actually invest the time and money to and do what others have only talked about. But other than impressive and inspiring engineering exercises that get results as well as the press and fans all a buzz, it seems to me MotoCzysz has surprisingly little influence in the industry. And then there is Lightning. They are making bikes right now, and from my interview with Richard Hatfield, it seems they are following their business plan, whatever it may be. But they are a little company that has got a lot of mileage out of big horsepower. They dominated the inaugural 2010 NA season, but in 2011 they missed the first race of the year and lost the championship to Brammo (who made it to all the rounds) despite finishing ahead of Brammo in two of the three rounds. In 2012 the mechanical issues the plagued their second bike at Miller in 2011 showed up at the first race at Sonoma Raceway, and each bike of the two bike team both won and DNF’d one race of the double header format, meaning that at the end of the weekend the stock Zero Ss’ stood atop the top two spots of the podium. Laguna went well but, but they skipped Miller and a chance to qualify both bikes for Daytona and instead the FIM flew them out to Le Mans where Miguel Duhamel won the race there handily. It is distinctly possible they avoided being beat properly by Brammo at Miller, and gained a well known TT rider to race their bike for the 2013 European season and TT Zero in return. Again, their race bike is impressive, but I wouldn’t call them a heavy hitter in the industry by any stretch. But then again, I don’t think they would call themselves that either. They probably would say, “not yet” with confidence, and they might very well be right.
So why would A&R call these folks heavy-hitters? Well because in every race they have shown up at and raced this is the order they finish: 1) Mission, 2) MotoCzysz, 3) Lightning, 4) Brammo, 5) Zero. Now remove the teams not at any particular race, ignore the teams not listed, and you will see this pattern. No one has ever beat Mission, although they only ever had one chance but they haven’t beat their lap times yet either. Lighting has never beat MotoCzysz in their three TTXGP/FIM meetings, although Lightning might have lead most laps and the finishes were close. And Lightning has never beat them at the TT Zero in the two times they have gone. Brammo has never finished ahead of the any of those folks accept Zero. Funny how the number of bikes produced is inverse to the finishing order.
I believe that is about to change for 2013, and I am predicting that Brammo is going to flip that neat little formula on its head. Production numbers are a closely guarded secret with the Zero and Brammo folks, but I think if Zero didn’t sell any 2013 bikes (which of course they have already) Brammo would come really close to catching up with Zero. This is only because I believe their pre-2012 sales numbers were really small. 2012 was a big year for Zero from all accounts that I can find. But those accounts are vague at best. Brammo has almost 5 times as many followers on Facebook as Zero, which shows a lot more people are aware and interested, but in an interview a Zero rep mentions how their fleet sales had been doing much better than they expected. And Zero’s 2013 line is really exciting with their MX and FX appearing to pretty much have parity with their ICE counter parts in power, range, and weight. And with swappable battery packs, refueling times could be even faster. The 2013 S is comparable in power with the Empulse R but lacks a transmission and about 80lbs for the 11.4 and 120lbs for the 8.5. This is going to make for some very exciting eSuperStock racing but more importantly, if people find out, could lead to big sales. So while Brammo try’s to flip my neat little formula by producing and selling bikes to knock Zero off the top of that hill they are standing firm on, Zero is taking a solid shot at beating them at the track. I don’t think it’s going to happen on either front, but its too close to tell.
In the prototype racing world though it’s a different story. In my interview with Eric Bostrom that has yet to “air”, he clearly states that Brammo will have something for the competition in 2013. According to “Eboz”, as he is affectionately referred to by fans, when he first got on the Emulse RR for the first time, “it did nothing right”. Yet, a week later at the Laguna Seca round Atlas only finished 3 seconds behind Lighting, and got within .3s of Lightning’s lap time while being about 10mph down on the front straight. His teammate Bostrom wasn’t far behind. The bike went a long way to working as it should by Daytona, and now there’s even more improvements while Bostrom and Atlas are not asking for any more than the 150ish hp they already have. Apparently not something Bostrom is used to, and a position he is quite happy to find himself in. As Lightning seems busy getting their production side going I don’t see a lot of improvements for the race bike other than maybe even more power. I think the personality of the Lighting always has been more power than handling (not that there’s anything wrong with that at well over 200hp), and may continue that way until they sell some bikes. Lightning needs to be fearful of the Empulse RR. But for 2013 I believe the MotoCzysz will no longer be beyond the reach of the Brammo either. Last year adding almost double the power to the Empulse RR launched not one but two AMA pro riders skyward, it was such a wild ride. Atlas was healed by the time Portland’s round was here, and the RR seemed tamer. MotoCzysz showed up but was only 3 seconds a lap faster, one of their packs over heated, and reading what came from them at PIR it felt as though they did not want to race and admit that the Brammo was even that close to their bikes. They packed it up and watched the next days race instead. And the RR would be even faster at Laguna, and at that point it was still didn’t do things a motorcycle should as that is when EBoz was brought on board. MotoCzysz won’t sit still, and they have been making some noise over on twitter. I think they have their paperwork ducks in a row if they want to go racing. With PIR being MotoCzysz’s home and testing track, they know it well, and if the best they could manage was 3 seconds on the Brammo in the development state it was in, they need a big improvement if they don’t want to lose to the RR with EBoz on it. On top of that they did only one race last year and it was the TT, which is a very different race. In fairness if the Empulse RR was to do the TT Zero, I doubt it would be a true threat to the E1PC. Reading the article from both Alan Cathcart and A&R the MotoCzysz is an even more impressive bike than the Mission. MotoCzysz have some very unique suspension designs and it apparently handles very well because of them, not to mention the aero package they have, and might very well be able to keep the Brammo riders behind them, but only if they show up. MotoCzysz has yet to commit to a full season, so using history as a guide it’s not very likely, especially if Brammo’s slow initial approach to development bares the fruit it looks like it will. But, MotoCzysz also has serious competition from Mugen at the TT Zero, and if the technology really has evolved to the point where you have to have a TT or race track specific bike, I don’t know any teams that could afford to fight a two front war. So, battle Mugen on the Isle or face the possibility of defeat by the hands of Brammo at home in front of an even larger audience. If MotoCzysz loses at home it won’t look that good in the main stream press if they decide to finally pay attention. But if they race at the Isle of Man and win, it’s more great press. If they lose the TT Zero the main stream press may not pick up on it, but if they do the stories will simply read that they lost to (non-existent) factory Honda backing.
Anyway I think adding Eric Bostrom to their ranks was the best move Brammo made all year. I believe that we will see the ushering in of Brammo as the power house in racing. If this happens I am concerned about what is going to happen to Lightning and MotoCzysz because it seems to me that part of their image and value is based on the fact that they have thoroughly trounced the Brammo’s “factory team” on the track. So clearly they know something Brammo and Zero don’t and their products can be competitive with the likes of Empulses and even Zero Ss’ in the production world, or so they can tell investors. But if Brammo is on top that argument is hard to make. Zero avoids the comparison all together by not running a prototype and builds bikes instead with the largest range of models on the market. Then one of their engineers puts together a program and races four of their production bikes on the track with no faults what-so-ever all season, and single handedly ushers in a renaissance of production elmoto racing. Hey Zero, I think that Kluge guy needs either a raise or a big ass racing budget. If Brammo does indeed knock the other two off the racing hill (Mission went home a long time ago) it will give them a lot of momentum to try and go knock Zero of the production/sales hill. That task, I believe, will be much tougher, longer, result in better street bikes, and end with two stronger companies. Lightning. if they get these current bikes made, and they prove reliable and competitive, may get a tow and it looks like it might have a future. But in a world that is bringing electric drivetrain design in house, unless they can take advantage of the work they were doing with the government, I’m not sure what kind of future MotoCzysz has. But they are some clever folks, I’m sure they have 5 things going I’m never going to know about.