Seven riders lined up for the electric superbike race at the Isle of Man, which got underway two days later than originally planned, due to unfortunate incidents and unpredictable weather. Mugen had an easy day quadrupling its wins, filling the two highest podium steps with its Shinden Roku motorcycles.
Racing has always been an integral part of the motorcycle business, and for the electric sector things couldn't be any different. In the absence of a relevant world championship, events like the Isle of Man TT Zero and the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb have proven pivotal in directing much-needed publicity towards electric motorcycles. Until MotoGP starts its own electric class in 2019, these two annual races will probably continue to monopolize the global public interest – and chances are that they'll remain relevant as competitive events where different manufacturers and technologies battle each other, as opposed to MotoGP's single-make series.
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The 2017 TT Zero was eventful even before it started, with Mugen's star rider, John McGuinness, forced to sit out the whole Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) after he was injured at the North West 200 race in Northern Ireland a few weeks earlier. Next was Lee Johnston who would not race his Saroléa SP7, after he suffered several fractures during Supersport practice in the opening days of the TT.
On Wednesday, the original race day of the TT Zero, a fatal accident during the preceding Superstock race forced the marshals to cancel the rest of the day's proceedings. Come Thursday, the heavens opened up and made sure no class would race or test at all on that day, leading to the final cancellation of the second Supersport race, while the rest of the classes were crammed into a busy Friday.
With Victory out of the TT Zero since it ceased operations last January, Mugen didn't really face any serious competition. Bruce Anstey, standing in for McGuinness, qualified first and never looked back until the checkered flag of the one-lap TT Zero with a 117.7 mph (189.4 km/h) lap, winning it for the second consecutive year. Behind him was Guy Martin, Mugen's second rider, who completed his lap at an average speed of 113.6 mph (182.8 km/h).
Just like last year, the final rostrum position went to the elated Daley Mathison (109.2 mph/175.7 km/h), the rider representing the University of Nottingham who came up on top after a battle against Saroléa's second rider, Dean Harrison (108.1 mph /174 km/h).
The final classification also includes the second University of Nottingham motorcycle with Antonio Maeso (91.2 mph/146.8 km/h), James Cowdon of Brunel University (91 mph/146.5 km/h), Adam Child with a privateer Energica Ego (78.8 mph/126.8 km/h) and Matthew Rees representing the University of Bath (77.4 mph/124.6 km/h).
Interestingly enough, the start list on Wednesday morning also included an entry for Lightning Motorcycles with rider Ivan Lintin, as well as a Lito ride with Steve Mercer, but neither ever registered in any qualifying session or the race itself.
There was also some controversy surrounding Adam Child, who competed under a sponsorship from the MCN newspaper and English Energica dealer Moto Corsa. On the second day of the Isle of Man TT, May 28, a brief press release from Energica Motor Company responded to some social media reports that mentioned it as a participant, stating that it doesn't join officially the event, as its motorcycles are not race bikes, and dissociates itself from this matter.
In the end, what we're left with is a race that was won by the biggest and better-organized team. Mugen fielded the two most successful and expert riders in the class, proceeding to dominate each and every session. The misfortune of Lee Johnston may have cost a podium possibility for Saroléa, but the Belgian team should be quite pleased to actually make and finish the race close, after last year's mechanical woes. As for the third-place finisher, a massive improvement in lap times and another TT medal should entitle Nottingham to the unofficial laurel of the fastest university in the world.
The 120-mph lap mark still evades the electric superbike class, with the lack of competition standing out as the probable culprit. Last year we were hoping that Victory would stimulate the evolution of the species, by pushing Mugen that had already been lapping above the 119 mph (191.5 km/h) mark with McGuinness since 2015.
The unfortunate disappearance of Victory has not been replaced, with Saroléa remaining as the only other manufacturer to officially contest the TT Zero. Incited by the two manufacturers (Lightning and Lito) that silently crept into the TT Zero start list, we can plausibly interpret the move as a sign of interest, and cannot help but imagine how exciting would be a seasoned rider on the world's fastest production motorcycle, the Lightning LS-218, going up against the Japanese might of Mugen Power.
Source: Isle of Man TTView gallery - 11 images