Why I’m Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP

11/29/2009 @ 5:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler33 COMMENTS

Why Im Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP Mavizen TTX02 560x374

This extended weekend, we Americans sat down for our Thanksgiving meals, joined by family, friends, and hospitable strangers. There are many things to look back on and be thankful for: good health, good friends, good fortune, just to name a few. I, like many others, am thankful for these things as well, but of course proclaiming as such makes for a very boring motorcycle editorial.

Among other things, in motorcycling I am thankful for the recent announcement by the FIM to breakaway from the TTXGP electric motorcycle racing series. While we may never know the FIM’s true reasoning in its resolve to distance itself from Azhar Hussain’s TTXGP series, I suspect a portion of that thought process stems from the now clear and convincing conflict of interest that is unfolding in electric motorcycle racing, and acts of impropriety that are stemming from those competing interests.

Starting with the basics, any conflict of interest (COI) occurs when an individual or organization is involved with multiple interests or ventures, and one of those interests or ventures could possibly corrupt or impede the best interests for other interest or venture. Conflicts of interests can only exist if a person is entrusted with some impartiality or trust, and it is important to note that the presence of a COI is independent from an actual act of impropriety.

Why Im Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP azhar hussain ttxgpFor Azhar Hussain, there cannot be any question that there arises a COI between his involvement in the two ventures that are the TTXGP racing series and Mavizen electric motorcycle business venture. The two pursuits, while similar and synergistic in nature, have competing obligations at their core, which necessitates Hussain’s removal from one of these ventures.

The role of TTXGP, as a promoter and organizing body of electric motorcycle racing, necessitates the need for it to be impartial in its interactions with all competitors and manufacturers. Impartiality in the drafting of rules, races, and media interactions creates not only a level playing field for racing, but also for the business that surrounds racing. Additionally, TTXGP, as the forerunner and patriarch of electric motorcycle racing, has a duty to not only help grow this sport, but to also help breath life into this budding industry for all its market entities.

Conversely, Mavizen as motorcycle producer and race partner for electric motorcycle teams has made it clear its business model centers around providing turn-key solutions for the various TTXGP racing series. While marketing itself as a cheap and simple solution to go race in this new arena, dollar signs to Mavizen come in greater numbers as the company dominates more and more of the TTXGP starting grid.

Azhar Hussain has made it no secret that he is the man behind both of these ventures. As such I can see no logical rationalization that would alleviate Hussain from the fact that he has a serious conflict of interest in both these ventures, and because of the acts of impropriety have occurred, and will continue to occur until that conflict is resolved.

Why Im Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP mavizen agni ttxgp ttx011 560x311For better or worse, electric motorcycle racing means dollar signs to a number of stakeholders, most notably the motorcycle manufacturers themselves. With the announcement of Mavizen’s TTX02 electric motorcycle, and its offering as a TTXGP turn-key racer, we begin to see Hussain tapping into this revenue stream and inappropriately monetizing a racing series to the detriment of both the sport and the industry.

It is entirely inappropriate for a racing league to offer its own spec-racing machine to would-be competitors, even if it is being done under a different operating name. Not only does this action beg the question of Mavizen’s insight to TTXGP inner-politics and musings, but it also poisons the creative pool and atmosphere of electric motorcycle racing by creating a favored competitor.

If racing fosters a platform where manufacturers are weighed and measured against each other by the tick of the stop-watch and the steps of the podium, it can then only be presumed that creating favoritism in this atmosphere dilutes the authenticity of that racing. Racing pushes the pursuit of knowledge and progression of technology in an industry, technology that will presumably trickle-down into production machines.

I will be the first to advocate the need for a racing series to help push manufacturers in one-direction or another, but this is an element of racing that must be dialectical in nature, with manufacturers providing input and at times pushing back with a new course for the sport. With TTXGP it would appear there is now only one company engaging in that conversation with Hussain, and it is Mavizen.

Why Im Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP Mavizen website screenshot nov 29th 560x339A few months ago I was surprised to see the announcement of an electric-powered supermoto class coming under the TTXGP flag. What is strange about this announcement is the relatively few companies developing electric supermotos at this time, and that the class would effectively create a niche race inside of an already niche market. The announcement also meant that TTXGP would be dividing its resources while its premiere roadracing class is still well in its infancy.

Confused by what appeared to be a poor business decision made by an intelligent business person, I realize now the answer in comes in the pursuit for market share, and with the goal to capture 100% of the electric motorcycle racing pie. Fresh on the heals of the unveiling of the TTX02, came rumors of Mavize working on its TTX03, an electric supermoto-style motorcycle.

It’s clear that Mavizen intends to provide the TTX03 in the same manner as it is providing the TTX02: a turn-key solution for entrants wishing to compete in the TTXGP brand series of electric motorcycle races.

By itself, this would not be an issue, and in-fact you would probably be reading a completely different article right now that commended Hussain on a savvy business model that would help smaller teams enter into the sport of electric motorcycle racing. The problem of course though is that this savvy business model also necessitates itself on being invariably linked to the organization that surrounds TTXGP. We do not need to assume that Mavizen has some insight into what segment of motorcycle racing TTXGP will enter into next or what rules and provisions those classes will entail, the brain trust behind both these companies is the same man.

Why Im Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP TTXGP website screenshot nov 29th 560x364A quick jump to the TTXGP website shows a plethora of Mavizen ads plastered across the site, and similarly the “cross-marketing” continues with Mavizen’s site heavily promoting TTXGP and displaying the TTXGP logo in the corner of every page. The “relationship” between these two companies continues in their media relations, press releases, and even promotions at trade shows, etc.

While Hussain may honestly believe that the “FIM’s unilateral decision means that our energies are divided and the force diluted; the real victim in this may well be the pace of innovation and change for our industry,” I would argue that it is instead his decision to play both sides of the racing coin that is causing a division in electric motorcycle racing’s early history.

Thankfully, the FIM has the ability to not only see the conflicts of interest that are occurring within in this budding sport, but also the land-grabbing based business pursuit that Hussain is undertaking with his simultaneous involvement in both TTXGP and Mavizen. The very purpose of the FIM is to create an impartial governing body to the racing process and to maintain integrity in the sport. While I believe in its current state, the TTXGP exemplifies what the absence of impartiality can create in the atmosphere of racing.

Comment:

  1. racer rae rae says:

    Look— I totally get your point– but give the guy a break– he is trying to do everything that he can to get the TTXGP race series to succeed– when he saw that the TTXGP might suffer for pure lack of competitors, he felt the need to step in to do something about it.

    There is an obvious conflict of interest, yes, but there is also just the plain fact that there are not enough teams to make the series succeed without a shot in the arm.

    He’s trying to provide that.

    The Mavizen venture is not a huge moneymaker.

    The splinter with the FIM will only further divide the small number of competitors and electric racing as a whole will suffer.

  2. Why I'm Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP http://bit.ly/4nEkiv

  3. Why I'm Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP http://bit.ly/8cL6OQ

  4. 面白そうなので、あとで読む。 Why I’m Thankful That the FIM Split from TTXGP→http://www.asphaltandrubber.com/oped/thankful-for-the-fim-split-fro-ttxgp/

  5. hjworton says:

    Has anyone thought of contacting Mr. Hussain to see what he has to say ? racer rae rae is correct, at this time the series needs as much help as it can get to take off. The FIM have effectively stolen the series from TTXGP – the rules of the series(FIMs) are a virtual lift of those created by TTXGP. The bottom line is that the FIM see $$$$$ in front of their eyes, they are a disgrace to the fine sport of motorcycle racing.

  6. connor reed says:

    @Jensen Beeler
    I’m going to have to agree with hjworton. Difficult to view this as a complete and balanced editorial without any evident input from Mr. Hussain. Journo 101 is the who, what, where, why, when, and how. Even a “no comment” from Mr. Hussain tells us something, but without some inquiry from, or interaction with the journalist, the “why” of the situation remains unsatisfied, making this piece more rant than reason.

  7. Stacy says:

    Considering that this post is clearly filed as an OpEd piece, A&R has no obligation to quote anyone whatsoever.

  8. Sean Mitchell says:

    What a set back! I guess it will be that much longer before we have silent grandstands filled with whispering fans, shushing one another so that they might perhaps actually hear their favorite rider whir past, as they jump softly up and down. The atmosphere will be positively…electric!

  9. Jensen, you are a moron. The least you could have done is gathered some facts and if that was too much trouble, contact us.

    Your article is full of inaccuracies and false assumptions. I understand this is an opinion piece, but still better to have been not so ignorant when you were formulating your thoughts.

    Azhar…

  10. Cru Jones says:

    Azhar – Instead of stating the generic “Your article is full of inaccuracies and false assumptions. Blah, blah, blah….words, words, words.” Why don’t you correct whatever is false and/or inaccurate? Seemed like a perfect opportunity wasted IMO.

  11. For starters, and to perhaps put things in a better perspective than I originally framed this article, would anyone be of the same opinion they are of this issue if it were instead Dorna that was making turn-key race bikes for the MotoGP series?

    I realize that this view isn’t the popular opinion on the matter, but I felt obligated to write it anyways. There is a serious conflict of interest here, and quite honestly I’m ashamed that I’m the first/only person with a soapbox to call it as such. I’m one of those people who honestly believes its the duty of the media to voice issues, even if they aren’t popular.

    Nevertheless, I don’t know how any reasonable person could say such a conflict doesn’t exist, but perhaps we’re confusing terminology, and saying COI when we in fact mean acts of impropriety.

    Azhar,
    I would have been more than happy to post your rebuttal to this piece, but would also have to agree with Cru. Choosing to attack me personally does seem like a wasted opportunity.

    Maybe what you don’t realize is that I want to see TTXGP succeed, as well as Mavizen. I do believe the FIM is fracturing resources on a fragile industry, but the even more unfortunate part is that I agree with their decision despite these other sentiments.

    Lastly, calling me a moron just comes across as petty and base. The point of this forum is to create discussion, let’s try and keep some degree of professionalism about us.

  12. Jensen,

    I’m annoyed that you didn’t take the time to seek a comment or clairfy your own thinking on the matter before writing. I’m not the journo here, but seems sensible to have at least assembled the facts before going off and abusing the priviledge you have to inform and discuss with your readers.

    The reason I didn’t try and rebut is that with your entire article being wrong, I didn’t know where to start. BUT we agree that Cru is right. Whilst I was calling you a moron, I should have taken the time to refute your article. So here it is..

    Your entire article is based on your supposition that the FIM acted like they did because of my delivering to the market the Mavizen TTX02. You do state in Para 2 that you don’t know the true reason, but in the next sentence you magically receive some kind of insight. No evidence whatsoever seems to be required for you to build a case that accuses me and my team of acts of impropriety.

    TTXGP has been and will remain a multi-platform racing series. Nobody is compelled to use Mavizen technology. But since today the only way to enter TTXGP is to build your own bike, Mavizen does take away alot of the pain and costs for potential teams. Your points make no sense because if Mavizen did not exist, there would a tremendous number of competitors who don’t have the expertise to build a bike from scratch and so would not take part.
    NOTE: We are currently the ONLY eSuperbike to announce customer ship dates in time for the 2010 racing season. As far as we are aware only one other factory has announced a bike for 2010 and that’s CRP Technology of Italy.

    Every current team in TTXGP was offered space on the TTXGP website to offer their bikes for sale to new potential competitors. To date nobody was able to do so.

    By building a race spec eSuperbike in bulk, we have also reduced the price and made the sport affordable for more people to enter. By setting a low price, we also incentivise others to offer competitive products into the TTXGP eco system. The Italian company CRP have just announced there own model for sale into the TTXGP series and there price will likely reference ours in terms of specs and performance.

    We have also pushed the technology further to keep TTXGP as the most advanced egrandprix in the world. A key feature of the TTX02 is that the entire drive train can be swapped in the pit, allowing for pitstops. This is an exciting exploration that we want to build on and encourage others to follow. Having our own bike was the only way we could drive the agenda forward in a timely manner.

    Mavizen has stated publically many times before and does so here again, Mavizen will NOT enter a factory team in any TTXGP series. We are NOT in the business of competing with our partners. We are only here to complete the grid and build a successful electric racing business that benefits everybody involved. We discussed the launch of Mavizen TTX02 with some of the teams and it was agreed that a competitive grid benefitted everybody.

    You state, without offering any evidence, that Mavizen is a favoured competitor. There will be several teams running TTX02 bikes next year. They do so out of choice and not out of obligation. But the 2009 champions for example are back with a Suzuki chassis and two bikes. Brammo, MotoCzysz, EMS, Mission etc will be back on there own bikes. Your idea that Mavizen will own 100% of the motorsport market is without any foundation and frankly just sensationalist.

    Something you didn’t mention, but major venues require contractual starting grids to get prime time slots. Sponsors and audiences require that the experience will have credibility and the racing will be competitive. The Mavizen TTX02 allows us to set a base line and ensure that we can deliver a grid of quality without worrying about performance. Without TTX02 we would not have been able to get some of the venues we have.

    Let’s say for a minute that Mavizen didn’t exist, exactly how were we going to fill the grids around the world for the races that we have both announced and those yet to come? We will have more then 10 grids next year to fill. Your argument doesn’t make sense in a world where there are no sellers and where we welcome everybody to take part with whatever bike they choose. For sure, without Mavizen, the grids would be smaller and access restricted. Be interesting to see how the FIM championship comes out in this respect.

    Lastly, I won’t share with you why the FIM did what they did. But it wasn’t because of this big discovery on your part. Totally the opposite in fact.

    The FIM were supportive of Mavizen as it meant that we could fulfill our contratual obligation to them to have a minimum number of credible bikes for the TTXGP World Series we were planning together. In fact the FIM were one of the reasons why we did the Mavizen thing in the first place. We received a number of congratulatory messages from FIM officers at the launch of the TTX02.

    Look I understand, you need to create headlines or crusade around which you can build a story. That’s nothing to be ashamed of . But don’t do it at the expense of the you know the truth or its close relation, the facts.

    Take it easy on the truthiness juice.

  13. Brammofan says:

    I’ve been trying to tell Jensen for months that he should join us at the Moron’s Club. Maybe he’ll finally accept the invitation. Free beer. There’s a seat open for you, too, Azhar, because only a true moron calls out another moron in the heat of passion.
    Now that we have that settled, inquiring minds really do want to know: Why did FIM do what they did? I ask as a TTXGP fan, and a FIM fan.

  14. 5QU1DRR says:

    I would be willing to bet that the FIM broke off because of the fact that Mavizen is not full of their cronies. The editorial makes it seem like conflicts of interest and crony-ism NEVER happen in organized racing. Much of the FIM’s descision making is likely based on handing off business and favors to those who are already tight with them. Time will who is the corporate player who already has large participation and influence in MOTOGP and other FIM races, who wanted a bigger piece of the pie at the exclusion of Mavizen.

    Also, if TTXGP and FIM’s rules are exactly the same, how does that diminish the utility of Mavizen bikes? Unless Mavizen refuses to supply bikes for the FIM epower league, they haven’t lost any potential revenue there.

  15. road_rage says:

    I think the damage might be that by splitting the field teams, sponsors and tracks need to choose.

    I don’t think Mavizen would lose as they could still race, but TTXGP will have to work now against the FIM.

    It’s all with the teams now as to who prevails, unless the FIM gets dirty again and pressures the tracks not to work with the TTXGP.

    Actually I’m not surprised that the FIM have been dirty about the dealing, but am surprised that its all come out in the public. This stuff proberbly happens all the time behind closed doors.

  16. road_rage:

    Yes I do, check for it Sunday.

    Good work by Guy. Also check his tweet: “I tell you this off the record. FIM to TTXGP: “Give us 500,000 Euros or we will launch our own series and crush you” – http://bit.ly/5sLtN5” (@GuyProcter)

    I’m afraid he still doesn’t quite get the concept of what conflict of interest is though. In short, and if true, the FIM approving of Hussain being involved with Mavizen, does nothing to alleviate the COI.

    Also, that article, as well as Azhar’s, misrepresents what I actually wrote here. Where I have written: “I suspect a portion of that thought process stems from…” They’ve inferred some sort of absolute causation. That’s what Sunday’s editorial will try to address.

  17. Jacob Fox says:

    It would seem to me that the history of motorsports is filled with examples of this presumed conflict of interest. I don’t mean to imply that it is either right or wrong but I would suggest that it is often necessary. This is particularly true during the invention and infancy of a new type of motorsport. After all, who has more incentive to market and promote the development of the new technology than the inventors themselves?

    The most obvious way to do this is through the spectacle of competition. While a complete separation between the competing manufacturer teams and the governing body of the competition is a noble ideal, it is often a practical impossibility when financial considerations come in to play. This is especially true when the number of viable competitors is particularly small, as it is during the birth of a new technology.

    So long as the competitors agree on a fair and balanced set of rules to adhere to, and provided there is a democratic forum in which they can air their grievances, I see no reason why honest competition can not take place. As the sport evolves and public support grows then an environment may exist that allows for reduced contribution, both intellectually and financially, from the manufacturers to the governance of the sport.

    Individuals like Mr. Hussain who are deeply involved in both the development of the technology and the marketing of that technology through competition are a necessary (I won’t say evil) component to the success of a new venture like electric motorcycle racing.

  18. road_rage says:

    Thanks Jensen. Looking forward to Sunday.

    Have you got any comment from the FIM on this? I mean do you have something solid to suggest that the FIM were thinking this way. It seems that in Hussain’s post, he specifically states that the Mavizen thing was supported by the FIM to complete the grid. You can’t both be right.

    Also does the FIM also have conflict of interest question to answer? I mean Hussain obviously feels aggrieved by the way FIM have used him. But would they have been able to do this if they had not been a governing body? Aren’t they using the govrning body role to pursue other commercial interests. I can’t imagine TTXGP would have worked with them had they known this was how it was going to pan out. The Hell for Leather article if true is pretty damming of the FIM.

    For what it’s worth, I’m still not sure what is right or wrong here. But on the face of it at least it looks like the FIM who are villians here. Unless TTXGP gave them some reason to think that the sport was in danger, it looks like a clear big guy trying to crush new guy.

    Haven’t seen any credible evidence of the sport in danger part so far. Whilst you raise it, I guess without any justification, it doesn’t really help the debate unless the FIM confirm it.

    Jacob Fox: great post. Don’t agree with everything but I can see the argument and it’s well reasoned.

  19. the lesser pacific 'lectric-eel says:

    I think this a very good article and a good debate to be having. So here’s a rant for the mix:

    One can, I believe, safely state that electric racing is going to be a serious property in the racing world. And it really doesn’t need saying that it will need clever, innovative thinkers to take it by the scruff of the neck and place it honestly there beside the other sports events. Now, to hold on to the intellectual property created so that the profits made can be distributed wisely to benefit the vested, valued stakeholders, and the fans, these innovators will need to be smart. Indeed, smart like the technology they are exploiting. But, it will be no news to any one that the commercial community involved in exploiting media rights in sport (ie, the competition) are a crew of, shall I say, a certain kind. And to compliment that fact, those really big players attempting to jump on that silent, but seemingly sweet, green bandwagon have Barry O’B and his ilk, and the like, forcing their way to a comfy seat for the ride. Going naively in to this arena would surely be foolish. Wouldn’t it?

    Is Mr Hussein the guy to lead this here Electric Racing community on to this trading floor? I’m not convinced. Are the FIM? Probably not but they are in a better position than Azar, I’d say, to find the solutions and partners required to deliver a platform from which this format can develop.

    I think that instead of building a bike from a KTM chassis and Agni Motors, Azar would of been wise to concentrate on developing his companies public relations and marketing capabilities.. I say this because he should have told us that this is something any body can do… and this is how. With a strong brand, his strong and resilient strategy, he could have created a business that had something to sell… but as it looks from here he can only defend his position as the first to put on a race. The FIA will create partnerships and thereafter licenses to sell. And that is their business.

    I wonder what Mr Ecclestone would say.

  20. the lesser pacific 'lectric-eel says:

    The last paragraphs again, sorry, it’s the salt water getting at my fuses:

    I think that instead of building a bike from a KTM chassis and Agni Motors, Azar would be wise to concentrate on developing his companies public relations and marketing capabilities.. I say this because he should have used the opportunity that any one can build a bike like this… and this is how, here are the suppliers, etc. Because with the right brand, a strong and resilient strategy, he could have created a business that had something to sell… but as it looks from here he has an OEM product and can only defend his position as the first to put on a race. The FIM will create partnerships and thereafter licenses to sell. And that is their business. It won’t be perfect… by any means.

    I wonder what Mr Ecclestone would say.

  21. Doug says:

    Look, Jensen’s COI idea is based on a moral understanding of COIs, and I think he described his outlook quite well at the piece’s outset. Guy @ MotorcycleNews.com refutes this claim — even labeling it as “misinformation” — by painting the COI as sufficiently mitigated by certain business agreements reached by FIM and Mr. Hussain.

    Jensen took the moral high ground with his position, while, it seems, everyone else is viewing the situation a bit more pragmatically; there will be no understanding between these two camps.

    Personally, I agree with the idea that FIM and Mr. Hussain shared a logical vision to get electric motorcycle racing off the ground: providing turn-key bikes for privateer racers in order to ‘make a splash’ early on. Obviously, the idea worked wonderfully. TTXGP garnered a lot of ink throughout the past year. Would I have hoped that down the road Mr. Hussain would ‘pick a side’ to destroy any moral COI? Absolutely, however, as was also pointed out earlier, the business relationship between FIM and Mr. Hussain made sense for a fledgling racing series.

  22. road_rage says:

    Jensen, you should have shared which Sunday you had in mind.

    Idiot me thought it was the one coming up.

  23. Brammofan says:

    That’s what I told him, @road_rage, until I checked my watch and realized that it’s only half-past Sunday.

    It’s all good, though. I just spoke to Azhar and suggested some new appellations he might drop.

  24. road_rage says:

    @Brammofan.

    Morons think different as well as time travel. I want to join Club Moron. Seems like an idyllic refuge from pain in the ass responsibility.

    Sundays? Where we’re going we don’t need Sundays.

  25. Brammofan says:

    @road_rage: “I want to join Club Moron” LOL… what, am I supposed to pretend that I don’t see you at our weekly meetings, President Road_Rage?

  26. road_rage says:

    Dude, we are morons. We don’t have to pretend.

  27. Spidy says:

    Well people, at least that’s settled.

    http://hellforleathermagazine.com/2009/12/mavizen-wasnt-factor-in-fimttx.html

    Move along, move along. Nothing to see here.

  28. Brammofan says:

    No way. This drama MUST continue. Jensen hasn’t even written Sunday’s editorial yet!

  29. Well I have written it, about three times now…should be out soon though. I’ve sequestered myself to the desk chair until it’s done.

  30. Editorial 2: The Moron Strikes Back is up: http://www.asphaltandrubber.com/oped/for-the-sake-of-the-game-electric-motorcycle-racing-issues-revisited/

    road_rage & Brammofan: didn’t you know that Wednesday is the new Sunday?

    Doug: the only issue I take with your post is the idea that Mavizen helped TTXGP gain the attention it has today. I think the series got the bulk of its cred from having great competitors at the Isle of Man, and the attention that race garnered. With the Mavizen coming out only within the past month, I think it’s been less of a factor in this regard. Now with the addition of CRP Racing, I question the need for Mavizen at all. It presumably will be the cheap racing solution available to all teams is now, the same way Mavizen allegedly is, but without the COI issues.

  31. road_rage says:

    Well after all the build up, am expecting a cross between a season finale and an episode of 24.

    Go Jensen Bauer.

  32. I think I talk about green issues too much to compete with the Neo-Con’s version of the West Wing. ;)