Chip Yates and the SWIGZ.com crew were on hand at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb this past week, racing the team’s 240+ hp electric motorcycle. An event that highlights the advantages of electrics over internal combustion engines, Pikes Peak saw not only the most powerful motorcycle ever to race its 156 turns, but also saw its electric motorcycle record time fall under Chip’s throttle hand. Blowing the previous record of 16:55.849 set by John Scollon out of the water, Yates posted a respectable under time of 12:50.094, which would put him well above the median of the super-fast Supermoto 450 class, and fourth in the heavyweight 1205cc class.
Pleased with his result, Yates was hindered by the dirt section and nearly 600 lbs motorcycle. Still, the up-beat competitor views the 89th annual hill climb as paying his dues for when Pikes Peak becomes fully-paved for its 90th running in 2012. “I felt bad for the fans that watched me through the dirt section. They saw an electric superbike going 1 mph around the hairpins in the dirt,” admitted Yates to A&R. “After the dirt section though, it’s called Glen Cove, it goes paved again, and there’s some tight twisties were I can kind of hold my own.”
“At Devil’s Playground, at about 10,000 feet, it all opens up. It’s really a road race track there, and that place is hard for people to beat me. So that’s where I opened it up, and tried to fight back for the time I lost to all the leaders in the dirt section. I think next year when they pave the dirt section, there are some open spots, I think we can be a serious factor in the results next year.”
In the lower section’s paved portions, Yates was 9th fastest out of the 112 motorcycle competitors, and unlike his ICE counterparts, he was able to utilize his bike’s full-power ability all the way to the top of Pikes Peak (we’ve heard estimates of ICE motorcycle losing up to 50% of their power because of the extreme altitude at the summit). “At 14,000 feet, the gas bikes are suffering, and I’m not. I’m still making 241hp,” explained Yates. “I was at 13,000 feet going up to the 14,000 foot summit, and the thing was trying to wheelie, so the guys I was passing all came by and said “I can’t believe that electric bike, it’s incredible!'”
“We got a 12:51 time, I’ll take it, it’s plenty good for a rookie, and it’s plenty good for a home-made bike made by three volunteers,” said Yates. With his Pikes Peak cherry now popped, Yates plans on returning to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb next year, to compete for the outright motorcycle record (which was broken this year by Carlin Dunne). Taking the lessons learned and data gathered by this first running, we imagine the gears are already turing in Chip’s mind on how to race to the clouds quicker next year.
“This really is an entreprenuerial race. The guys who are winning, are winning on home-made machines. [Nobuhiro "Monster"] Tajima just set the course record here with a car that’s totally custom built, you can’t buy that, and that’s what we’re doing too. The distance of 12.4 miles is perfect for our battery pack. When I was at the top of the course, I looked and I had 14.4 amp hours remaining of my 30 amp hour pack.”
With weight being one of Yates’s big weakness with the SWIGZ.com superbike, we wouldn’t be surprised if the racer showed up next year with a lighter and more agile racing machine, though we’ll have to wait 364 days to see what Chip and his team can conjure up.
Practice, Race, and Pit Photos by Asphalt & Rubber:
Pit Photos Courtesy of Chip Yates:
Photos: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0