Thought to be a Honda in disguise, the Mugen Shinden (神電) broke cover this weekend at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Suzuka Circuit. While the Shinden leaves a bit to be desired visually when compared to the Honda RC-E concept that debuted at the Tokyo Motor Show, underneath the bland white fairings is a carbon fiber chassis with 122 hp on tap, and a curb weight of 573 lbs. With that much weight on board, Mugen’s electric superbike is sure to have a massive battery pack, which should give MotoCzysz, Lightning, and other 2012 TT Zero contenders a run for their money…the £10,000 that is still up for grabs to the first team to crack a 100 mph lap.
Piloting the Mugen Shinden around the 37.733 mile TT course will be none other than “King of the Mountain” John McGuinness. The seventeen-time TT race winner has been keen on racing the electrics for some time now, and his involvement with the Mugen squad only adds more credibility to the belief that Honda is using the tuning outfit as a front to race its electric in a low-pressure situation (McGuinness is a contract Honda rider with the Honda TT Legends squad). Interviewed at the Morecambe Football Club, McGuinness added even more linkage between the two Japanese companies when he refered to the project as the “Mugen/Honda” electric bike.
“I’ve not had a chance to test the bike yet. My first look at it will be in a few weeks, but the pictures look great,” said McGuinness. “I’ve followed the electric bike race for the last couple of years and I was keen to take part if the bike was right. There are a few other good machines in the line up so I think there’s going to be a bit of competition this year, particularly with the chance to make history with the first 100mph lap.”
“Having the Mugen team enter the race is a real boost to the SES TT Zero and the Isle of Man’s clean tech credentials,” added Isle of Man Government’s Economic Development Minister John Shimmin. “We are really pleased that the team has chosen the Isle of Man for the bike’s first competitive outing and having John McGuinness competing in the event will generate even more interest in the race.”
With the outcome of most battles determined before the first shot is even fired, there is an added pressure for OEMs to enter an electric motorcycle race when they are not certain of their dominance over the current more privateer entries. Logic would then dictate that an entry that was not made in the name of the manufacturer would help mitigate such a risk, as is speculated with the Mugen entry. Should the Mugen Shinden win the 2012 TT Zero, it will be of course be inferred that it was because of Honda’s goodness flowing beneath the bodywork. However, should the bike’s performance be eclipsed by a “lesser” priavteer team, then the defeat would rest on Mugen’s shoulders and not HRC’s.
With virtually all the industry insiders agreeing that such a situation is playing out with the Mugen Shinden, the Isle of Man TT has an interesting opportunity to distinguish itself from the rest of the electric motorcycle racing series of the FIM and TTXGP. An entry from an OEM, especially one from Honda, can only act as a kingmaker for the island nation’s electric race, and proves our theory that despite TTXGP’s goals of
land-grabbing the electric motorcycle racing space disrupting the racing industry, major OEM players were not going to race with such an unprofessionally run organization and its history of burnt bridges.