This is history; at least it will be put in the history books for motorcycle racing as a seminal moment in the advance of technology within the sport. The SWIGZ.com Pro Racing Team and rider Chris Yates finished on the podium in two races against gasoline-powered motorcycles using an electric bike.
That’s right; a machine which runs on a theory where electrons moving through metal cause electro-magnetic fields to turn a shaft (loosely) has bested bikes powered by good, old-fashioned refined petroleum.
The setting for the event was the WERA Heavyweight Twins Superbike Expert race held at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, 9 January 2011. Against a slew of Ducati 848s, NCR-Ducatis, Honda RC51s, and Suzuki SV650s, Yates took his electric motorcycle to a second and third place finish in the weekend’s two races of that class.
Adding to the historic nature of what Yates did was that he had never started a race on the machine he was riding; he didn’t even take the sighting lap due to worries about not having enough juice in the batteries to finish the race. Believe it or not, it gets even more intriguing when you learn that the rider who raced the machine also owns and designed both the machine and the SWIGZ.com team. Chris Yates, the modern renaissance motorcycle racer – the ultimate privateer.
Yates’ electric bike was placed in the Heavyweight Twins class by the WERA due to its power-to-weight ratio. Even with that allowance, his bike only places in the middle of the class in those terms. Yates used a Suzuki GSX-R750 frame, top-shelf Ohlins and Brembo components, and hooked up a very powerful electric motor to a large bank of battery cells for his beast.
In fact, it turned out to be too heavy for its class in the FIM ePower and TTXGP series for which it was designed. So, Yates decided to try it against the heavier gasoline-powered machines in the WERA. Turns out that was a very good idea, and he may have made a huge first step for electric motorcycles in this sport. A 194 horsepower motorcycle is nothing to ignore no matter how it makes that power.
The SWIGZ.com electric Superbike is not even finished yet. Yates experienced some high-speed instability issues and problems keeping the front wheel on the ground, so there is much potential still in reserve. The WERA season will continue through 2011; the very next event is scheduled for 29 – 30 January at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Classic Course, so make your plans accordingly.
Chris Yates, the SWIGZ.com Pro Racing Team, and their electric race bike are only just starting out, one would do very well to watch them closely this season for what could become a new standard.