Last weekend, the Team Icon Brammo and Team Parker Brammo squads competed against their gas-powered counterparts, which you can read about here. Now, let’s take a closer look at just how far e-bike technology has progressed since Brammo — and Lightning — last raced at Sonoma Raceway, exactly one year ago.
At the AFM races this year, Team Icon Brammo riders Steve Atlas and Eric Bostrom raced their Empulse RR machines against 600cc and 750cc Inline-Fours, and even a few liter-class V-Twins. While their finishes may not have been what the team was hoping for, a look at the best lap times and their overall race length is revealing.
Last year at this time, E-Boz wasn’t even a part of the team, leaving Steve Atlas with all the testing and racing duties. However, in practice last year, Atlas had a big highside that left him unable to participate the rest of the weekend. The team then drafted veteran Steve Rapp to fill the void, though he would later crash in the same spot as Atlas, breaking his wrist and leaving him unable to continue his primary AMA duties.
With two injured riders and a mangled motorcycle, the team decided to withdraw from the race (the issue was later traced to a leaking coolant hose). Before Rapp’s crash however, his fastest qualifying time was a 1:57.133, according to TTXGP. Compare this with Michael Barnes’ pole-winning lap time of 1:47.553 and the gap between the two teams is almost ten seconds. An eternity in racing.
Without any threat from Brammo, Barnes only had to contend with his teammate that weekend, Tim Hunt, as the rest of the field was comprised of Zero S models competing in the e-Superstock class for production-based motorcycles. Barnes handily cruised to victory as Hunt retired early, with a total race duration of 15:46.948 and a best lap of 1:51.548.
Looking at Brammo’s 2013 times shows just how far the team have come. Eric Bostrom’s best time of 1:48.993, set during Saturday practice, mean the team have made up massive ground with the Empulse RR in the past year. Atlas’ best of 1:50.153 means the time was no fluke.
In the end, E-Boz’s total race time in the one race he’s credited as completing, 750 Superbike, was 14:37.831. Atlas finished in 14:52.550. As both the AFM and TTXGP races were eight laps, using the same track configuration, this allows us to make some interesting observations.
First and foremost is the amount of ground the team have made up. Finding almost ten seconds of speed within a year is unheard of with gas bikes. Especially now, but even during the infancy of gas-powered motorcycles. Second, comparing overall race times, both Bostrom and Atlas would have finished ahead of the Lightning-mounted Barnes had they been racing together. Of course, it’s probably safe to assume Barnes left plenty in reserve en route to his victory last year, considering there was nobody to challenge him and his quickest race lap was four seconds slower than his overall fast lap of the weekend.
That’s not all. Team Parker Brammo also fielded Shelina Moreda aboard the Empulse TTX this weekend in 250 Superbike, where she finished an impressive 7th after starting 14th on the grid. Her total race time of 16:05.9 would have seen her a mere 20 seconds behind Barnes at the end of eight laps. An impressive feat considering the discrepancy in performance between the two motorcycles.
For kicks, Moreda also raced the Brammo Engage Supermotard prototype in the all-women’s Supermoto class, finishing 4th. “She pushed to get us to bring the bike, so she deserves much credit for that near podium finish,” says Brian Wismann, Brammo Racing team manager. “I’m guessing this won’t be the last time she asks to race Supermoto with the bike!”
It’s natural to want to compare the current crop of e-bikes to their gas counterparts, but the truth is there’s still a sizable gap to close between the two. The consensus is Lightning and Motoczysz have the two machines able to give gas bikes a run for their money, but Brammo is becoming a name to throw in the conversation. The good news is that all three machines are only getting faster, and the days where e-bikes are racing at the pointy end with gas motorcycles is not too far in the future.