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.
For 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.
For 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.
A 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.
A 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.