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.
How I ride a TT Zero electric motorbike: Michael Rutter
Just over one week before MotoGP’s first MotoE race we find out how the world’s top electric motorcycle racer wins with sparks instead of explosions
Motorcycle racing’s first major electric championship gets underway at next weekend’s German Grand Prix, a decade after the sport’s first major electric race.
The Isle of Man TT staged that historic EV (electric vehicle) event in June 2009, when the winning speed for the one-lap race was 87.4mph. Three weeks ago the 2019 TT Zero race was won at a speed of 121.9mph. That’s some progress. If superbikes had improved at the same rate the outright TT lap record would now stand at 183.6mph.
Ironically, TT Zero is the MotoGP of electric racing, featuring money-no-object prototype bikes, while MotoE is the World Superbike Championship of electric racing, using street-based machines. The reason for this is simple: MotoE needs a full grid of competitive bikes and currently the only way to attain that goal is by using pimped-up production bikes, like MotoE’s Energica Ego.
The TT Zero is totally dominated by the Mugen Shinden, which this year lapped the TT course three minutes faster than its closest rival. If MotoE pursued the same formula there wouldn’t be much racing worth watching.
The Shinden is built by the performance company founded by Hirotoshi Honda, son of Soichiro. Mugen builds two Shindens each year, so the bikes are even more exclusive than an RC213V MotoGP machine. Mugen has won every Zero TT since 2014, during which time the company has greatly improved battery efficiency as well as overall performance. When Mugen began its TT project in 2012 it took eight hours to charge the Shinden’s batteries; now it takes 80 or 90 minutes.
The Shinden is very trick. Mugen can adjust the power output around the 37.75-mile TT course via GPS, onboard data or rider-controlled boost button. At maximum output the oil-cooled, three-phase, brushless motor produces the equivalent of 200 horsepower.
Mugen’s 2019 winner was veteran racer Michael Rutter, son of four-time TT F2 world champion Tony. The 47-year-old Midlander also rode three other bikes: an RC213V-S in the Superbike and Senior races, a BMW S1000RR in the Superstock race and a KMR Kawasaki ER-6 in the Lightweight.
Rutter has contested five TT Zero events and won them all; the first three on the American MotoCzysz, the last two on the Mugen. No one knows more about racing electric bikes, so this is how Rutter does it…
Read the rest of Mat Oxley's blog on the Motor Sport Magazine website.