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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Honda bursts onto the electric motorcycle racing scene at IOM

Electric motorcycle racing became a lot more interesting today when the TT Zero race at the Isle of Man was run and the top three riders all finished at average speeds of more than 100 mph.

The win went to the Segway MotoCzysz team with Michael Rutter (pictured below) producing a lap of 104.56 mph but the extra strong showing of a 102.215 mph lap on the Mugen (Honda) ridden by John McGuinness indicates the electric bike racing scene is going to become very competitive in the near future. Honda rarely fails when it sets its mind to something, and it is the world's largest manufacturer of motorcycles and the current MotoGP champion.

John McGuinness when interviewed after the race, revealed some interesting information. He said he'd ridden most of the race at 50% power but towards the end he was told that he could use 60% power. "So I turned it up to 60% and didn't it go then," he said, indicating that a LOT more power was available for shorter circuits.

For Michael Czysz (pictured), it was his team's third straight IOM TT win and it must have brought mixed feelings. On one hand his work has created the stand-out team in international competition in the pioneering period of the sport, but he now faces, Segway's involvement not withstand, a company that knows the racing business better than any.
Czysz has developed exquisite technology that can rightfully claim to be world beating as of this moment, but Honda is clearly coming after the mantle of the world's fastest EV producer, and it brings with it a full hand of knowledge in a wide range of relevant technologies, and enough money to get the job done, whatever that takes.
Mugen is unquestionably a surrogate Honda team.

Mugen is a company owned by Hirotoshi Honda, the son of Honda founder Soichiro, and currently the largest shareholder of Honda Motor Company. It is a company that has never actually been owned by Honda, but over the last four decades it has worked for no other manufacturer, and certainly does a lot of the bleeding edge performance tuning and race engineering for Honda.

If Team Segway MotoCzysz and German Team Muench (below) have been the big boys on the block for the last few years, they most certainly are no longer, and they face a formidable foe.
It's the beginning of what we expect will be an interesting battle as the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer seeks to dominate electric motorcycle racing as it has done gasoline motorcycle racing
Mugen alone is formidable, being a large, very focussed organisation which acts as Honda's bleeding edge in many forms of motorsport, though not previously on two wheels.
It is a very well funded, race-hardened organisation that has built engines and entire cars for major races series across the globe for decades, including eight years as an engine supplier in Formula One for the likes of Jordan, Ligier, Prost and Lotus during the 1990s.
Its engines have four F1 wins to their credit. It's organizational capacity is also bleeding edge. As McGuinness indicated after his second-placed ride, "they didn't just turn up here, they've been here before", and he also indicated obvious respect that the bike worked straight out of the box and ran flawlessly.
Just how closely related the motorcycle we saw on Honda's stand in the Tokyo Motor Show last November is to the Mugen is anybody's guess.
There are some similarities between the two machines, but the sideplates on the Mugen are obviously there to stop people from seeing inside so we may never know what has been borrowed and from where.

Indeed, Honda's omnidirectional wheel as first seen in the U3-X might yet turn out to be one of the engineering breakthroughs of the century, so there's obviously a lot of work being done in different corners of the company on electric motors and controllers.

Honda has known it would be going electric motorcycle racing for at least a decade, and it jealously guards its motorcycle racing heritage. That's why it spends hundreds of millions on its superbike and MotoGP racing efforts and employs Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa to ride Honda motorcycles and win world championships.
It is the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer and the moment we have waited for since Azhar Hussain kicked off TTX four years ago is finally here.


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