TTXGP: The Eco-Isle of Man

TTXGPJune 12th, 2009 comes like a postcard from the future.  On the Isle of Man bikes charge down a straight, throttles full open, riders fully focuses, and the crowd cheering on the entrants.  There’s something missing though, you can hear the sound of tires on tarmac, but were is the thunder of twins and raw-whine of inline fours at full chat… they’ve been replaced with the whir and instantaneous torque of racing gone electric.  Welcome to the Isle of Man, home of the TTXGP the first “World’s First Zero Carbon, Clean Emission Grand Prix” –  in short, electric.

The race isn’t long, one lap of the Isle of Man TT’s 37.75 mile/60.72 km Mountain Circuit.  For new technologies though that could be a challenge.  The course ranging the isles public roads is composed of over 200 corners, and rises to over 422m above sea level between the Bungalow and Hailwood’s Rise on the A18.

Two classes of eco-bike will be racing.  The pro class will feature corporately backed, those no holds bared research and development department bids for the hearts of future consumers.  Here is the cutting edge of innovation, slicing through corners in silence and carrying the huge burden of unanswered questions.  Did these companies, in a quest to create a consumable product, stray to far from the tried and true essence of motorcycling – handling, acceleration, traction?  Are these bikes ikea showroom pieces, feats of engineering, or real world provocateurs of motorcycling passion?

Then there’s the Open Class feature amateurs with a maximum 30,000 pound budget.  Garage and backyard shed innovation, culminating in a bid to capture a piece of history, first place at the first TTXGP.  And perhaps be the first charging into a brave new world of racing and riding.

And charge they will, organizer Aznar Hussain estimates the average speed to be between 128km/h (80mph) and 144km/h (90mph) with peaks of 160km/h (100mph).  Mild by comparison to the TTXGP’s petro-head counterparts, who in 2007 set an average pace of 209km/h (130mph).  History though has a tendency to repeat itself though.

So, keep in mind the average speed for the first Isle of Man TT in 1907 was a whopping 61.5km/h (38.21mph).  By analogy the TTXGP points the way to an exciting future though, because three years later the TT’s average pace had increased by over 30% to 85.5km/h (53.15mph) due to changes in regulations and technologies.

Just because the speeds expected are relatively, that doesn’t mean there won’t be good racing.  The drama is now influenced by a plethora of concerns that harken back to the first days of racing.  Will the bike hold together?  Will new technologies hold?  Will the batteries last the race? How will the chassis handle on an open road course, rather than the test tracks surface?

These are modern day analogues to the early days of motorcycle racing.  Callbacks to event’s that started legacies like the 1905 Gordon Bennett Eliminating Trial, the forefather of the current Isle of Man TT which took root two years later.  The importance of the TTXGP is that it has the potential to start another legacy of racing that faces a host of new challenges.  June 12th then may not be a postcard then, so much as the first clear glimpse of motorcycling’s future.

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