McGuinness and Mugen dominate 2015 SES TT Zero Challenge
Team Mugen reaffirmedits electric class authority at the 2015 Isle of Man TT Races with the same two-rider teamthat monopolized last year’s proceedings. Yet this time it seems that seriouscompetition has arrived in the form of Victory Racing.
As expected, the race evolved into a Team Mugen show as the two Shinden Yon bikes led from start to finish. McGuinness was the faster of the two, managing to keep Anstey four seconds behind him. With this win the Englishman reached a total of 22 victories, just four shy of Joey Dunlop's record.
Sevenelectric motorcycles stood in line under a glorious sunshine in anticipationfor the start of the 2015 TT Zero race. Departing in 10 second intervals, eachracer is up against a timed lap of the 37.73 mile (60.72 km) Mountain Course. JohnMcGuinness, a legendary 21-time Isle of Man winner, was on board the first ofthe two Team Mugen electric racers, having shattered the lap time record in qualifying.Behind him was Bruce Anstey, an equally expert TT contender and in provenform after having won the RST Superbike TT race on Saturday, ahead ofMcGuinness who was fourth.
The nexttwo participants represented the rookie team of Victory Racing. The faster of the twois Lee Johnston, who started third, ahead of the famous Guy Martin. Dressed in hisTyco BMW leathers, Martin didn't have the chance to test ride his electricVictory racer as he's been part of the team for just two days. WilliamDunlop, the team's leading rider was forced to withdraw after sustaining chest injuries when he fell on the Laurel Bank section during a Supersport TTpractice session on Monday.
TeamSarolea Racing with Robert Wilson on a single electric racing prototype contested the TT Zero Challenge for the second time. Having debuted in 2014,the Belgian team knows there is not much chance for a podium finish, yet thereare important targets to achieve.
At the backend of the starters' list were two student teams. The University of Nottinghamand Brunel University raced prototype e-bikes, fueling aninteresting duel on academic honors.
Asexpected, the race evolved into a Team Mugen show as the two Shinden Yon bikes ledfrom start to finish. McGuinness was the faster of the two, breaking his own lap record for an electric bike and managing to keepAnstey four seconds behind him. With this win the Englishman reached a total of 22 victories, just four shy of Joey Dunlop's record.
2015 SES TT Zero Challenge Results
1 John McGuinness (Team Mugen) - 18:58.743 - 119.279 mph
2 BruceAnstey (Team Mugen) - 19:02.785 - 118.857 mph
3 LeeJohnston (Victory/Parker Racing) - 20:16.881 - 111.620 mph
4 GuyMartin (Victory/Parker Racing) - 20:37.987 - 109.717 mph
5 RobertWilson (Team Sarolea Racing) - 21:15.256 - 106.510 mph
6 Michael Sweeney (University of Nottingham) - 30:56.695 - 73.156 mph
What does it feel like to lap a 37.73 mile course on an electric bike at an average speed of almost 120 mph? Check out this video McGuinness' record breaking run:
Equally important is the fact that both Mugen bikesimproved their laptimes, with the winner's average speed reaching 119.279 (192km/h). To get a sense of measure, McGuinness has now officiallysurpassed Joey Dunlop's 1984 winning performance on the Honda RS500, a proper two-strokeGP bike of the era. His average speed was faster than what the Sidecars haveever done, more than enough to win this year's Lightweight TT and would have easilylanded him a top-20 finish in the Supersport class.
An important target in the recent past, the 100 mph (160 km/h) mark is now trivial business for Team Mugen, as bothits bikes consistently lapped above "the ton" from the very firstpractice lap. Electric superbikes have come this far in just a handfulof years and they are still pushing the envelope. By next year we'll probably betalking about the 124 mph (200 km/h) lap – that'd be top Supersport territory.
The VictoryRacing team represented a more or less unknown quantity prior to the firstpractice sessions. Its Brammo-derived motorcycle had never raced a TT beforeand only some cold technical figures would suggest it could be a seriouscontender. As it turned out, both Victory bikes danced around the 110 mph (177km/h) mark, securing third and fourth places in the race. Lee Johnston wasthrilled to achieve his first ever TT podium, while Guy Martin showcased histalent by lapping close to his teammate, despite the fact that he had neither anyexperience with electric superbikes in his past, nor any time to get properly acquainted with his racing bike.
Victory's TTZero attempt bears many similarities to Mugen's first participation in 2012. AfterTeam Agni won the inaugural TTXGP in 2009, MotoCzycz proceeded to a four-yeardomination in the zero emissions class that was henceforth rebranded as TT ZeroChallenge. Team Mugen arrived in 2012 and immediately John McGuinness rode theMugen Shinden motorcycle into second place, behind Michael Rutter’sMotoCzycz. The Japanese team emitted all kinds of warning signals by breaking theton in their first race at the Mountain Course. The following year McGuinness again finished second – this time breathing down Rutter’s neck at a distance of just 1.7 seconds, or just 0.15 mph (0.24 km/h)in average speed. In 2014 MotoCzycz did not come to the Isle of Man and Mugenwhitewashed the field with McGuinness and Anstey. If Victory Racing returns nextyear, Team Mugen will definitely have a race in its hands.
For TeamSarolea Racing the 2015 race was a milestone event. Last year, at its TT Zero debut,the team managed to finish the race with a 93 mph (149.7 km/h) lap, while yesterdayRobert Wilson reached as high as 106.5 mph (171.4 km/h) in the race, happilycelebrating the introduction to the "100 mile Club" with the relevant trophy.
As for the academicrace within the race, it was Michael Sweeney on the University of Nottingham's motorcycle who managed sixth place with a 73.156mph average (117.7 km/h). Brunel's James Cowton didn’t make it to the results'list.
Can Electrics conquer the Superbikes?
Theevolution of the electric motorcycle seems to have reached a power sourcequagmire. The Shinden Yon's most important update for 2015 was a new suspensionsystem. Of course "a little more power" was part of the typicaldescription of the bike, but most of the PR talk was around Showa's new singleaction racing forks. Derived from its Motocross range, these forks separatethe hydraulic functions on one stanchion and the mechanical on the other.Mugen's electric superbike featured the first asphalt oriented application for this systemand its most communicated benefit was weight loss. In the racing worldthis is just another way to get more usable power – short of more potent battery cellsthat is.
A similarsituation unfolded in the Victory garage. Its motorcycle had to be considerablydetuned in order to make the race distance. In comparison to the outputit was making as a Brammo when competing at the 2013 FIM eRoadRacing World Cup,in TT Zero guise Victory's superbike was some 25 hp (18.6 kW) weaker – andthis is two whole years later.
After having progressed so far, the modern electric superbikes have now arrived at a very tricky point: The closer one gets tothe top, the harder it becomes to shave seconds off laptimes.
With Superbikewinners at 128 mph (206 km/h) laps and Supersport royalty residing at 125 mph(201 km/h), one may assume that Team Mugen – standing on the doorstep at 120 mph (193 km/h) – can almost smell the gasoline, and Victory Racing isn't far behind.
If the planis to gradually get the general public accustomed to the electric motorcycle, inevitablythe two worlds will have to fight elbow to elbow at some point. At this stage the playing field is not level, with the TT Zero race covering one lap while gasoline-powered bikes go six times around the Mountain Course, but race results still indicate that this point is not very far away. A lot will depend on how soon and at what cost batterytechnology can take these incredible and rapidly evolving motorcycles to the next level.
Source: Isle of Man TT
Watch John McGuinness and Lee Johnston at the SES TT Zero post-race press conference in the following video.