I was a bit anxious after the last race Sunday. The two Empulse RR riders weren’t going anywhere near as fast as I had thought they would. I really thought we’d see low 1:40s, and even dared to think the AMA Daytona Sportbike class times of 1:38s per lap were possible. Eboz got within 10 seconds of that time today. What happened? How did I get it that wrong? More importantly did my unrealistic and very public expectations put undue stress on anyone? And did I setup you, my audience, up for disappointment? I have to be concerned, as people are reading this site now. I broke both my highest one day and weekly traffic numbers today, which were previously set at the World Final in Daytona last October. Then I focus on how the Brammo duo only got within only one second of Lightning’s qualifying time from the TTXGP round last year at about this time. How did they not obliterate it? Is power much more of an advantage at Sonoma than I thought? Then I get a tweet from the man like he was reading my mind (or at least the blog). They guy who seems to me to be set to become the Godfather of Electric Motorcycle racers, Eric Bostrom:
@ttxgpfan Thanks for tuning in. Flawless weekend for the team and plenty of motor. Chassis is our focus to move forward in the field.”
OK, so the world wasn’t upside down. Sonoma has proven to be a very different track than Thunderhill, but it’s still the chassis stupid. Why then, when the 2013 Empulse RR is clearly a better handling bike than the early 2012 was it not able to match and crush Barney’s lap time when the old bike were so close at last year’s Laguna Seca round? I went back and looked at the fastest AMA times from the previous year. The 600 Supersports were running as fast as the 750 Superbikes were today. Hell, the RR would have been lucky to brake the top five in qualifying for the Harley XR1200 class. Turns out last year Barney was on fire there. He didn’t get pole but still set 1:47 qualifying times on both the XR and Lightning, and then rode the XR to a 1:46 during the race. So the Empulse has power on all of those bikes, accept the Lightning. And it’s handling is much improved. So what gives? I think I have it . . . Weight. If you look at the AMA classes and how close they are in lap times, I think you will see that less weight translates to faster lap times, mostly because of higher corner speed and quicker acceleration (change in speed not just going faster). I am beginning to think this is the key to getting around Sonoma when compared to Laguna. But that is a sketchy conclusion as Superbikes are always the fastest and the XRs are always the slowest no matter the track. A better example can be seen when you look and see that the very lightweight eSS Zeros from last year would easily fall within the FIM’s qualifying cutoff scheme at Sonoma and but fell well short at Laguna (and were allowed to race anyway). The Zeros had about 1/7th the horsepower and about half the weight of the Lightning bikes. I suspect Laguna Seca hides weight and rewards horsepower more than Sonoma, and is why we have seen the prototypes take big chunks of time out at Laguna. But we have not really seen that happen at Sonoma as weights haven’t dropped much but power has chassis have improved over the last few years. However, from all reports the Lightning is heavier and more powerful and doesn’t have the handling of the Mission. So this in counter intuitive. All I can think of is that the Barnes used the Lighting’s power to counter it’s weight masterfully, and Sonoma may just suit the Lightning. I am certain the Brammo guys have taken every ounce out of the RR they could, so the only thing they can do is try to figure out how to get the bike to carry the extra weight through the corner faster, and that would be done through the chassis. I think of as trying to make a modern Mustang corner like a GT40. It’s a tall order, but there is room for improvement. That is a pretty horrible analogy, but you get the idea. There is more to this, and I am very curious about it. As I have the time I will try to talk to people who have raced both tracks to try to get some more insight.
So all this “anxiety” and blabbering on about lap times is covering up what really happened this weekend. Shelina Kicked some Gas on the TTX, and all the bikes ran flawlessly! I didn’t hear of one hiccup. None of the bike had to be reset mid race, a new charging scheme allowed flawless execution of charging all 4 bikes in a timely manner, and they prepped and raced 4 bikes for three riders in four classes with sometimes mad dashes to and fro from the SuperMoto track. In none of the races today were these guys last! Both RR’s did beat Lighting’s best race time and ran up to 9 seconds faster than at last year’s TTXGP race. Although they got very few laps around the track as both Steve Atlas and Steve Rapp got launched in practice and qualifying. Sonoma was a bad place for them last year and Brammo took its revenge on the track this weekend. Also, we finally got to see the public racing debut of the Engage Prototype. And it looks like Shelina took 4th if I am reading her twitter feed correctly.
From all accounts the team worked their tails off and didn’t spin a tire in the process. The bikes ran flawlessly and the riders rode flawlessly. There were no bobbles or flaws and they represented the elmoto world very well. Bravo Zulu to those guys for what appears to have been a text book execution of a race weekend.