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2012 TT Zero

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With water reported at various points on the track before the start of the 2012 SES TT Zero, there was serious concern from the riders about the racing conditions. Getting it done with “dodgy” conditions, Michael Rutter rode out to a commanding lead on his Segway MotoCzysz E1pc, and never looked back. Posting 126 mph at the Sulby Straight speed trap, Rutter made good time over the mountain, and set an official 100+ mph lap for electrics at the Isle of Man TT, with an average speed of 104.056 mph.

Getting a chance to sit down with Michael Czysz, ahead of the 2012 SES TT Zero race, we asked the designer of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc and CEO of MotoCzysz a few questions about the Segway MotoCzysz Racing team’s latest machine, as well as his thoughts on the 2012 season and the state of electric motorcycle racing. With aerodynamics being the centerpiece for the team’s 2012 entry, there’s a lot of reading between the lines between Michael’s comments on the bike’s technical aspects, which become fairly apparent when closely examining the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc u-close. And yes, we of course even asked the form-driven motorcyclist his thoughts on the bike’s aesthetics.

Kidding aside, Michael provides a ton of insight not only into the Segway MotoCzysz team, but also the state and trajectory of electric motorcycle racing as a whole. Developing new systems for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the bar for electrics is constantly being pushed farther, and with several potent entries this year, the TT Zero competition has never been fiercer. Like John McGuinness said to me earlier in the week, in five year’s time or so, everyone will be racing these.

With Sunday’s session cancelled on the account of rain, today’s combined practice/qualifying session for the 2012 SES TT Zero started under ideal conditions. With over 10 bikes starting from Glencrutchery Road, it was Michael Rutter on the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc who lead the field from the line to the finish — setting in the process the first 100+ mph lap for the electrics on the Mountain course, albeit unofficially. Despite Rutter also posting a very impressive 153.200 mph trap speed at Sulby, for at least several more days the £10,000 bounty the Isle of Man government has put on the 100 mph barrier will stay in the island’s coffers, as the average lap speed has to be set during official timing, i.e. during a race lap.

More evolution than revolution, it is easy to see the lines of the 2011 MotoCzysz E1pc peaking out from underneath the complex shapes of the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc. Building upon the design that won his company the 2011 SES TT Zero, Michael Czysz says he has finally had time to truly address the aerodynamic aspect of his designs, though he admittedly had to make some aesthetic concessions to find the right aerodynamic package for the job. These concessions cause the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to have a bit of Buck Rogers feel to it at first glance, as the winglets, ducts, and neon colors hit you all at once. While it all seems a bit over the top, there is some method to the madness.

Making its debut at the 2012 Isle of Man TT, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc was unveiled today, ahead of the first TT Zero practice session on Saturday. Campaigned again by the Segway MotoCzysz Racing Team, the 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc is based heavily off its 2011 counterpart, but with obvious aerodynamic changes, as well as subtle system improvements. Boasting 200+ peak horsepower and 14kWh of battery pack, the new MotoCzysz E1pc tips the scales at 525 lbs — a full 45 lbs lighter than its main competitor, the Mugen Shinden. Defending his #1 plate, Michael Rutter returns to Team Segway MotoCzysz, as well as American Mark Miller, who has been with the squad since its first TT race four years ago.

In four months’ time, the Japanese tuning brand, known better for its four-wheeled efforts than its two-wheeled ones, was proving its Mugen Shinden (神電) concept at Motegi with John McGuinness on-board, and had subsequent rounds at Suzuka and Caldwell Park. Mugen had of course been on the Isle of Man for the 2011 SES TT Zero race, and took close notes of its competitors. Admitting that both aerodynamics and stored energy were key factors in its design, Mugen has clearly put more emphasis on the prior. While the team is tight-lipped about how much energy will be available to its 122 hp motor, they have said the battery pack weighs over 100 kg (220 lbs).

Talking to a few of the Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing mechanics this afternoon in the Isle of Man TT paddock, unfortunately it looks like the the team’s electric entry, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev, is going to be a scratch for the 2012 SES TT Zero race.

When asked why the Kawasaki-Zytek entry would not be racing, the team cited the bike not being ready for the 2012 Isle of Man TT, intoning that the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev’s first laps ever would be on the Isle itself. Considering that the Kawasaki electric racing effort has been in the works for over a year now, the news is a bit surprising that it hasn’t been as extensively tested as its Honda Mugen counterpart.

The 2012 SES TT Zero may not exactly be the talk of the TT paddock right now (Conor Cummins’ broken hand is still all the buzz here at the Isle of Man), but if you casually ask those familiar with one of motorcycling’s finest traditions, the Honda Mugen Shinden is a strong favorite to win this year’s premier electric motorcycle race.

You would be hard pressed to find either Mugen or Honda willing to admit Big Red’s involvement with the God of Electricity, as the name translates from Japanese, but it is clear that 17-time TT race winner John McGuinness will be climbing aboard a very competent machine later in this TT fortnight.

While Michael Czysz has been waxing poetic about the razor-like aerodynamical efficiencies the MotoCzysz team has been cooking up in the lab, and is ready to bring to the electric motorcycle racing table this year at the Isle of Man TT, Mugen has clearly chosen a counter-pointed melody with its brute force approach.

There is a good yin & yang dynamic brewing between the TT Zero’s two favored parties, but if the latest photos coming from McGuinness and Mugen can be believed, the Mugen Shinden is one beast of a machine.

With Honda’s electric motorcycle racing effort thinly disguised as the Mugen Shinden and getting a tremendous amount of attention, the motorcycle racing press missed the very subtle joint-entry by Zytek Automotive and Bournemouth Kawasaki Racing into the 2012 TT Zero. Already incorporating one of the most advanced technology groups in electric and hybrid automotive technology, as well as one of the top Isle of Man TT racing teams, the Kawasaki-Zytek ZX10ev race bike also benefits from another important element: the backing of Kawasaki Motors UK.

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.

For 2012, Segway returns as the title sponsor for MotoCzysz’s electric motorcycle racing program, with the team’s first race set to be the TT Zero event at the Isle of Man TT. Continuing the special sauce that lead MotoCzysz to a 1-2 victory at the Isle, Segway Racing hopes to be the first and fastest team to crack the 100 mph average lap speed barrier for electrics on the Mountain Course.

Rumored to be bringing another all-new 2012 MotoCzysz E1pc to the iconic road race, MotoCzysz’s biggest competition will come from a now more-developed Lightning “Flying Banana” and wild card Honda Mugen Shinden. Further entrant announcements are still expected as well.