Motorcycles

Mugen dominates the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero with record lap

Mugen dominates the 2018 Isle ...
Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Lee Johnston aboard the Mugen Shinden Nana at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Lee Johnston aboard the Mugen Shinden Nana at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Lee Johnston aboard the Mugen Shinden Nana at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Lee Johnston aboard the Mugen Shinden Nana at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Daley Mathison on his way to a third pace finish at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Daley Mathison on his way to a third pace finish at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Daley Mathison racing the University of Nottingham's electric racer at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Daley Mathison racing the University of Nottingham's electric racer at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Daley Mathison on his way to a third pace finish at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Daley Mathison on his way to a third pace finish at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
The Mugen Shinden Nana has the same motor and batteries as last year's TT Zero motorcycle
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The Mugen Shinden Nana has the same motor and batteries as last year's TT Zero motorcycle
Mugen worked on improving only the aerodynamics of the Shinden Nana for the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Mugen worked on improving only the aerodynamics of the Shinden Nana for the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
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Michael Rutter on course for a record-breaking lap of the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero

The electric superbike class of the 2018 Tourist Trophy remained under Mugen's control, after the Japanese team secured its fifth straight win. Seasoned TT competitor Michael Rutter rode the Shinden Nana at a record-breaking pace, attracting attention to the TT Zero despite dwindling competition.

When Victory Motorcycles joined the Isle of Man TT Zero class in 2015, fielding an updated Brammo Empulse RR rebadged as Victory RR, it seemed that the electric race would finally get some serious competition. After all, until then there was only Mugen, leading a small group of privateer competitors that couldn't really challenge its Shinden series of electric sportbikes.

Then Victory decided to pull the plug on its motorcycle business in 2017, in a move that also spelled the end for the American company's TT Zero involvement. Just as it had seemed that someone would finally give Mugen a run for its money, the Japanese were left alone to dominate the field as they had done continuously since 2014.

The 2018 edition of the TT Zero didn't leave much room for hope, as all the other contenders were either University teams or privateers that could hardly reach the 100 mph mark. When Mugen unveiled the Shinden Nana, marking the seventh (nana in Japanese) version of the Shinden racer, no-one questioned who would win the 2018 TT Zero.

The Mugen Shinden Nana has the same motor and batteries as last year's TT Zero motorcycle
The Mugen Shinden Nana has the same motor and batteries as last year's TT Zero motorcycle

Mugen had contracted the cream of the crop to race the Nana, in the shape of the former king of the Isle of Man John Mc Guinness, along with two expert TT racers, Bruce Anstey and Lee Johnston. Unfortunately, a few weeks before the TT, Mc Guinness announced that he wouldn't be fit in time to race for Mugen due to a slow healing prior injury and, to make things worse, Bruce Anstey also had to retire with a very serious health issue.

Michael Rutter stepped in at the last minute to take over one of the three available Shinden Nanas, making for a two-rider team with Johnston.

The race itself didn't leave much room for debate, as Rutter and Johnston were faster than anyone else throughout qualifying. Rutter went on to win with a record-breaking lap of 121.824 mph (196.057 km/h) in average speed. This is the first time anyone managed to complete the 37.73 miles (60.72 km) that constitute a single lap of the Mountain Course with a pace above 120 mph.

Lee Johnston aboard the Mugen Shinden Nana at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Lee Johnston aboard the Mugen Shinden Nana at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero

A hint of drama played out behind the winner, when Johnston found himself in trouble with his motorcycle's chain drive, forcing him to make a stop mid-race and fix the problem himself, before rejoining the race. In the meantime though, Daley Mathison had passed him on his way to a second-place finish with the University of Nottingham racing prototype.

Johnston would eventually secure the third place, followed by James Cowdon with Brunel University's electric racer, Adam Child with an Energica Ego and Shaun Anderson with a Brammo. These are the only six riders that have made it to the official results list, out of the 12 competitors that were supposed to start the race.

Daley Mathison racing the University of Nottingham's electric racer at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero
Daley Mathison racing the University of Nottingham's electric racer at the 2018 Isle of Man TT Zero

Although Rutter's record lap makes for some solid publicity and hints at strong competition, the sad truth is that there is very little to support the electric motorcycle class besides Mugen. With a field of amateur privateer entries, the TT Zero seems to be feeding only on Mugen's will to dominate proceedings – which is good, while it lasts.

Several questions pop up, such as why no team from the MotoE championship bothered to join the TT Zero? With most teams based in England and The Netherlands preparing to compete in a four-race championship that is set to start in July, one would think that the TT Zero would seem like a good idea.

Also, there is still no apparent interest from USA, despite having several strong companies that could find a relatively easy path to a podium finish at a race with guaranteed publicity.

One answer could be found in the upcoming MotoGP electric class, set to debut in 2019 with identical Energica Ego motorcycles. Maybe when the new championship kicks off it will also reignite the interest for electric motorcycle racing, especially for the professional teams that will take part in this new racing series.

SES TT Zero – Results

1. Michael Rutter – Mugen, 18:34.956 min, 121.824 mph

2. Daley Mathison – University of Nottingham, 18:58.600, 119.294

3. Lee Johnston – Mugen, 21:26.668, 105.566

4. James Cowton – Brunel Racing TT Zero, 23:14.934, 97.372

5. Adam Child – MCN/Moto Corsa, 27:50.042, 81.332

6. Shaun Anderson – Brammo, 30:16.155, 74.789

Source: Isle of Man TT

3 comments
ChairmanLMAO
no one is interested because - electric vehicles are too good - and our entire society is based on oil
Daishi
University of Nottingham coming in at 119 mph is a pretty impressive showing considering Mugen Shinden is a well funded team that's been at this for a while. The Nottingham team posted a faster time than all of Mugen Shinden's previous years. I read that they are taking the bike to the Pikes Peak hillclimb which should be interesting. Victory motorcycles is gone, MotoCzysz met a tragic fate, and I don't think Zero motorcycles has the resources to back a proper race team. A handful of people have said they'd like to see Zero offer an option with a fairing and a university partnership might allow them a means to subsidize some of the R&D.
Gannet
" the first time anyone managed to complete the 37.73 miles (60.72 km) that constitute a single lap of the Mountain Course with a pace above 120 mph" Anyone? or first time for electric? I'd say there is little interest as the IOM is a killer circuit, best to stick with the new race series on safer circuits.