Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TTXGP announces entrants for 2012 TTXGP Season opener at Infineon Raceway

A couple days the TTXGP crew announced the entry list for this weekends TTXGP 2012 season opener at the Infineon Raceway.  The lineup shows some familiar teams, we expect a battle royale between Lightning Motorcycles and Brammo, and there is a surprise that may delight us.

The entry list (see image below) has:-
  • One bike from Brammo, Steve Atlas riding
  • Two bikes from Lightning Motors, Michael Barnes and Tim Hunt riding
  • One bike from Virginia Tech, Tim Hunt riding
  • One bike built and ridden by Jeremiah Johnson (see previous coverage here)  UPDATE: JJ just notified me he wasn't able to finish building the bike, and will not be entering
  • Four bikes from Zero Motorcycles, with Kenyon Kluge, Jason Lauritzen (picture below), Jennifer Lauritzen (picture below), and Martin Szwarc riding
The lineup is unsurprising, especially after we learned the other day that Team Moto-Electra would not be participating.  Mission Motors would be hoped to race, especially as their offices are just a few miles away, but that company has made it clear they have little interest in doing much racing, they're way too busy selling components to OEM customers.

The four bikes from Zero Motorcycles is what constitutes the surprise.  They are lumped together into what the TTXGP office is calling a "category" named the "TTXGP eSuperStock".  The TTXGP press release describes this as: "Infineon Raceway's season opener will kick off with a number of Zero S models adapted for racing by their team owners, promising close and exciting racing action as well a cost effective entry option to the race series, joining the the grid without the expense of building a prototype machine."

For a year or so the TTXGP staff has been pondering "should there be a 'spec class' within the TTXGP" so that more teams could participate.  The eSuperStock category is the first attempt at a spec class, but it isn't a proper class that is delineated in the TTXGP rules book.  The TTXGP office sent me a clarification email describing it as an "award" and not a "class," in that during the awards ceremony the four teams racing in the eSuperStock group will be eligible to win in this separate award category.

The definition of eSuperStock is any manufactured motorcycle where a minimum of 25 units/motorcycles have been sold to the public.  The Zero S is the only electric motorcycle, that could be competitive in TTXGP racing, for which this is true.  Brammo's Empulse is, at this time, a preproduction prototype and is not being sold to the public.  While Lightning Motorcycles says they'll sell race bikes to anybody, their production capacity is not "25 or more".

One might think from reading TTXGP's statement on eSuperStock, that these are four individual Zero S owners who have each modified their Zero S's to be race ready.  However a bit of searching turns up a different story.  First, Kenyon Kluge is a Zero Motorcycles employee who is an AMA pro racer, racing under the name KSquared Racing, and has raced in several TTXGP events under that team name.  Next, we should note that Jason Lauritzen rode for Native Motorcycles (Electric Motorsport) in the 2010 TTXGP at Infineon.  Lastly,  I found Facebook postings by Jason Lauritzen and Martin Szwarc thanking Zero Motorcycles for providing bikes so they can race in the TTXGP.

It would seem, then, that these four bikes were provided by Zero Motorcycles, and that Jason, Jennifer and Marc are simply riders for a what is essentially a factory team.  Not that there is anything wrong with this arrangement in the slightest.  At the 2011 Infineon, a team called Volt Motorcycles participated with a modified Zero S, the team was led by college student who was at the time interning for Zero Motorcycles, and Kenyon Kluge was in the paddock helping prep the bike.  At the 2011 Laguna Seca race Kenyon was back, racing under his own name as KSquared Racing.  At the 2011 REFUEL race a whole flotilla of Zero Motorcycles employees were racing with a varied of hacked up Zero S bikes.  This is how Zero participates in the races, not directly as Zero Motorcycles, but indirectly by allowing employees the time to prep bikes and race.

The TTX75 was, last year, a "class" but this year is an "award" as well.  It was an experiment last year that didn't exactly pan out as expected.

The idea for both the TTX75 and eSuperStock awards is to reduce the cost to race enough so that we have a large grid on the track.  As we can see with this line-up, 6 of the 9 entrants into one of the two categories.

At the high end of the spectrum we have Brammo and Lightning Motorcycles pairing up for a rematch. Clearly these two teams will be fielding the fastest bikes, and this is where the battle for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place spots on the podium will be.

Last year Brammo won the TTXGP North American series, largely because Lightning Motorcycles didn't race at Infineon.  In every other race last season Lightning beat Brammo badly, due to having a much more powerful bike.  Neither of these teams will have spent the winter twiddling their thumbs.  Instead they will have both ramped up their game considerably.

In an interview sent by the Infineon Raceway, Brian Wisman said: "For 2012, Brammo has focused on upgrading the powertrain of the bike to a new, more powerful Parker-Hannifin motor along with a physically smaller and lighter motor controller/inverter. The chassis and battery technology remain largely unchanged from last season as we were quite happy with their performance and credit the bike’s handling and durability with helping us bring home our first championship in 2011."

While I have talked with Richard Hatfield (Lightning Motorcycles) I do not have any information that can be shared publicly.  Let's just say that what he shared is amazing, and if it works out as he says the two bikes they'll bring will be amazing.

My prediction?  Lightning Motorcycles will take 1st and 2nd, and Brammo 3rd.  Kenyon Kluge will likely win the eSuperStock.  Jeremiah Johnson Tim Hunt will likely win the TTX75.


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