Guest Blog: Mat Oxley - After the first MotoE race, it’s not the present that really matters — it’s the future

MotoMatters.com is delighted to feature the work of iconic MotoGP writer Mat Oxley. Oxley is a former racer, TT winner and highly respected author of biographies of world champions Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi, and currently writes for Motor Sport Magazine, where he is MotoGP correspondent. We are featuring sections from Oxley's blogs, which are posted in full on the Motor Sport Magazine website.


After the first MotoE race, it’s not the present that really matters — it’s the future

Sunday’s historic electric first MotoE race at a grand prix event was only the very beginning of EV motorcycle racing

MotoGP’s first MotoE weekend was certainly historic. I’m 100 per cent certain that during the entire history of motorcycle grand prix racing there’s never been so many painful puns broadcast by commentators: the charge to the first corner was awesome, the racing was electrifying and there were plenty of shock overtakes. I could go on, but I’ll save you.

Seriously though, what to make of grand prix racing’s first-ever electric race? Well, it was a motorcycle race and if you had watched the shortened five-lap dash with the sound down you’d most likely never have guessed that the bikes were powered by electricity and not by gasoline. Riders crashed, tyres were smoked and there was plenty of bumping and barging. What’s not to like?

Paddock opinion is split three ways about this new way of racing motorcycles around in circles: some people love change; others hate it and others don’t really care either way.

This dislike of change is nothing new. When grand prix two-strokes arrived in the 1960s many race fans hated their ear-splitting shriek and clouds of choking smoke. But they grew to love them. Then when the MotoGP four-strokes replaced 500cc two-strokes in the early 2000s many fans wailed and gnashed their teeth because their noses missed the smell of burnt two-stroke oil and their ears missed the crackle of expansion-chamber music.

Roughly speaking, it’s a generational split: those who grew up smoking fags and drinking heavily are less into the idea of electric-vehicle racing than those who grew up with iPads and energy drinks. Carlo Pernat, the oldest of the paddock’s old guard, has zero interest in MotoE. “They may be the future,” he hissed thought a cloud of cigarette smoke. “But they’re not my future.”

Mugen’s TT Zero winner Michael Rutter sums up the reality better than most. “It’s going to happen whether you like it or not, so you may as well embrace it,” he says.

Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.

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Total votes: 12
Total votes: 11

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Before the on-air types pointed to deflating air fence as the red flag culprit, they stated that the regular corner workers were waiting for a specialized collection crew to come handle the crashed bike.

Is this real? 

If so, are the special handlers stationed at every normal workers location? Didn't seem so on sunday. Also, if em's become the norm, are they going to require similarly specialized cw's at my local?

Also...I'm nearing 60 and I Iove both the idea and the sound. Not for a purpose. I just like new and different...in everything. 

Total votes: 11

As I understand it there is an indicator light on the sides of the bikes. If this shows green it can be handled by the corner workers as usual (with a "little" extra weight to lift). However if the lights show red then there is the possibility of the bike being dangerous to handle so an additional level of care is required - i.e. the special handlers. 

 

Total votes: 3

The commentators were saying that they have a special truck that has a crane to lift the bikes out of the gravel and presumably gloved operators that know what to touch, where! They also mentioned that the bikes have red/green lights on each side of them to indicate if the battery has been compromised and it's not safe to try and pick the things up. At 300kg a piece, I think I'd wait for the crane anyway! It's an interesting class, but still has a long way to go before it starts to threaten MotoGP.

Total votes: 5

When the rules were expanded to include 4 strokes beginning in 2002 the 4 strokes completely dominated and won every race since. It would be interesting to watch the transition from gas to electric take place more gradually. If only, in the future when electric powered prototype motorcycles become more competitive and lighter, the MotoGP rules could be expanded to include electrics before they would dominate the class. Then we could watch gas vs electric battle for awhile.

Total votes: 3

To be correct, four-strokes were always included in the GP rules, in all classes. They just were not competitive anymore under equal terms regarding capacity, so after Honda's brave attempts with the NR500 in 1979-81, nobody tried anymore. So for 2002 the rules were changed to allow for 990cc four-strokes to compete against 500cc two-strokes. And just to be sure, the four-strokes could have more than 4 cylinders too, which Honda used to good effect with their V5 RC211V. Next to that, all factories put their best riders on the new 990 four-strokes, so it would have been extremely embarrassing if the 500 two-strokes had still won.

Which they almost did anyway; in Assen 2002 Alex Barros led most of the race on his NSR500, but lost out on mainly one corner exit, the last chicane. And on the Sachsenring a two-stroke would have won, if not for the fact that TWO of them were comfortably leading the race and eliminating eachother, because both Barros and Olivier Jacque really, really wanted to grab that oportunity (in fact it was Barros who took them both out in the first corner. Such a shame, also for the history books). Oh and at Phillip Island that year, Jeremy McWilliams on the three-cylinder Proton 500 took a brilliant pole, with four (!) 500's on the front row: Garry McCoy on the YZR500, Nobu Aoki on the second Proton and Jurgen van den Goorbergh on an NSR500... All this in spite of the double capacity and top riders on the MotoGP four-strokes. So even though the new four-strokes won every race, I'd say the 500's were still pretty competitive - and took quite a few podiums that year.

Man, I still miss those wonderful bikes. I wonder what for instance Honda, Yamaha or Aprilia could build nowadays, with all the modern electronics and tyres, and general mechanical progress...

Sorry, was this article about electric bikes..? I got carried away ;-)

Total votes: 10

So much “ like” for this post!
I vividly recall willing Barros and Jacque on, like the fox(s) with the hounds at their heels. There was a massive feeling of an era passing at the exact point they crashed.....I was crushed.

Total votes: 3

Charging, amped 100% ready for a zap. A short, sharp shock.

Other times discharged, disappointed & down in the dumps with a mountain of toxic e-waste to climb. Deeply discharged & feeling a little flat and lifeless.

Lithium ?

Is the summer break over yet?

Total votes: 6

"It's going to happen whether you like it or not"

What a load of nonsense! I don't mind EVs or bikes but the cult around them is incredibly annoying. There is nothing futuristic about it either, EVs are already widely available and have their specific uses and advantages. They will start getting more and more market share and that's good, alternatives and competition are great.

Electric bikes are pointless. They are heavy, dangerous and slow. That's not gonna change, whether you like it or not.

Total votes: 10

I'd really like to hear the bikes as a pack and one on one, on the track at speed. But, the announcers yelled into their mics through the entire event, covering any other sound. And no change of camera available in the smart TV app, so I get to listen to the screaming banter. 

Good little sprint race for an intro of the series. I'm sure they will slowly get all the kinks worked out in the presentation. Maybe, just maybe MotoGP will see their way to giving some sound options. 

 

 

Total votes: 4

Engine noise is a big part of any racing. Listening to the difference between the Honda screamer and the Yamaha cross-plane engines is sheer pleasure. Same goes for the Suzuki and the Ducati. I have been to six MotoGp races, the last being at Austin this year. I met a friend there that I had not seen in 25 years. I had told him that regardless of how many loud Harleys he may have heard on the street, he was to experience noise coming out of a motorcycle he couldn't imagine. It raises the hair on the back of your neck. I cannot imagine listening to near silence while watching a race. Any race, car or motorcycle. Having owned a 3 cylinder motorcycle I could not wait to hear the Moto 2 Triumphs. I was not disappointed. What a sound. MotoGp bikes on TV sound muted but still enjoyable. Anyone who has not attended a MotoGp race should really make an effort to if possible. It is mind bending for sure. The visual of Moto-E is great, but I cannot see it ever being the new thing.

Total votes: 7

I can’t help feeling we’re leaping much too far ahead. It’s not that long ago we were talking about peak oil, which has obviously faded as shale gas/frac’ing etc rewrote energy reserves and hydrocarbons have become “energy non grata”. So batteries are the way of the future? But how much lithium is there? It’s one thing to have oil/gas platforms out of sight out of mind over the horizon but clean energy or not it’s a whole different kettle of kippers when we need to start digging up much more visible countryside. And aren’t we just swapping one finite resource for another? So saying “electric bikes are the future” is actually a little limiting. Ebikes are only one possible option with hydrogen and other developing technologies less reliant on very finite resource. And who’s to say ebikes will EVER really challenge the energy density of dino-bikes? Sure they are progressing at a rapid rate (Rutter’s interview re the Mugen/Moto Cyz and associated history at IOM is fascinating) but there is no guarantee they will ever surpass dino-bikes in pure performance/weight terms. Even doubling the recent planned ebike race distance makes for a very short race distance.

Time will obviously tell but it’s far too early to call time on dino-juice and proclaim electric bikes the soon-to-be-king.

Total votes: 7

Holler at me when they can last MotoGP race distance and be recharged in the time it takes to pour a jug of fuel into the M1, GP19 in under a minute.  Gonna be many many years.  And I could see a full scale switch to electric machinery completely destroy the sport as interest would go the way of the dodo. 

Total votes: 0