Did Kawasaki Just Enter TT Zero Without Anyone Noticing?

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The Isle of Man TT sent out an interesting press release yesterday, where it cited the largest competitor entry list in the TT Zero’s race history (lawyer’s crafty word choice note: this does not include when in 2009 the race was run under the TTXGP banner and 23 competitors allegedly entered). With 18 competitors signed up for the single-lap electric motorcycle race around the Mountain Course, we can surely expect the field to dwindle, as virtually none of the electric series have been able translate large entry lists into large starting grids, sans maybe the FIM e-Power race at Laguna Seca, which TTXGP is now piggy-backing off of as well.

Announcing the return of MotoCzysz and its two-rider team of Mark Miller and Michael Rutter, the Isle of Man TT also gave a nod to the Mugen entry, which is widely believed to be a front for Honda’s own electric motorcycle racing program. Having 17-time TT race winner, and long-time factory Honda rider John McGuinness at the helm of the Mugen Shinden has only added further credence to the rumor. However getting only one sentence in the press release was perhaps the most intriguing entry to the list of competitors: Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive, which will race the team’s Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike.

From the naming convention being used here, we can surely accurately guess that the Bournemouth Kawasaki/Zytek Automotive will be comprised of a Kawasaki ZX-10R with its innards replaced with electric drive components. Many have been content to leave the analysis there, but there is considerable evidence to suggest that there is more than meets the eye with this entry.

Here are three pieces of information that we know, and have also not piqued the interest of anyone else:

  1. Bournemouth Kawasaki is one of Kawasaki’s top racing teams at the Isle of Man TT.
  2. Zytek Automotive is a serious electric & hybrid drivetrain supplier for OEMs in the automotive industry.
  3. A Kawasaki Europe supported race entry was on the TT Zero list for 2011, but ultimately failed to come to the Isle of Man TT that year.

Other than the glaring fact that Kawasaki had been planning to participate in the 2011 TT Zero, the real fuel to this conjecture is the involvement of Zytek Automotive. Probably not well known in the hobbyist EV circles, one industry expert described Zytek to A&R as, ” like Mission Motors, but the real deal.” Engaged with a number of OEMs, Zytek has also done some work with a small shipping company called UPS, as well as electrifying the taxi cabs in London. The group also has racing experience, having helped power a winning entry in some day-long car race that is held every year in western France.

A company with serious experience and resources, partnering with Zytek comes with no small price tag, and would certainly dwarf the budget of a British motorcycle dealership like Bournemouth. Instead, what makes better sense in this situation is that a company with a sizable budget, like a motorcycle OEM for example, is footing the bill, and has engaged one of its most respectable Isle of Man TT racing teams to manage the entry from a racing point-of-view. Does that sound like anyone else we know?

A Top 20 rider, James Hillier, along with the Bournemouth Kawasaki squad, is Team Green’s answer to the McGuinness/Mugen entry made by Honda. While the Mugen Shinden is being regarded as the biggest competition to last year’s 1-2 winner MotoCzysz, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev is perhaps the biggest dark horse entry for the island race, and will be one to watch come race day on Wednesday June 6th.

Photo: © 2011 Jensen Beeler / Asphalt & Rubber – Creative Commons – Attribution 3.0