Today saw two milestones at the famous Isle of Man TT. The first was the 22nd race win for John McGuiness as he marches closer to matching the record 26 victories of the late Joey Dunlop. The second was the 18′.58″ lap time and 119 mph (190km/h) average lap speed he set for an electric motorcycle, beating the previous record he set last year by 2 seconds. For comparison, the fastest gasoline powered RST superbike time was by Bruce Antsey aboard a Honda CBR1000RR, with an average lap speed of 131 mph (209 km/h), and a lap time of 17’10”.
Riding the 148 hp Shinden Yon, prototypes developed by Japanese Honda tuning specialist Mugen, he and his teammate Antsey clearly demonstrated their class domination around the 37.7 mile (60km) course, recording a top speed through the Selby straight of 163 mph (260km/h). Third place went to Victory Motorcycle’s Lee Johnston, who completed the race 9 seconds back with an average lap speed of 111 mph (178 km/h). Guy Martin, a last minute entry as Johnston’s teammate, was fourth a couple of seconds behind.
“This race may not be everyone’s cup of tea but the technology is so impressive and the bike is really fun to ride,” McGuiness told the BBC.
“It’s the future!” Exclaimed Martin, after getting off the bike.
The Isle of Man TT races last two weeks, and include dozens of classes of event that cover the range of motorcycle technologies, from superbikes to two-strokes, sidecars and since 2009 electric powered prototypes as well. The electric race, known as the TT Zero (as in zero tail-pipe emissions) is notable because in it’s short six year existence, it has garnered more media attention outside the motorcycle specialty press than any other event on two wheels, inspiring a feature length film, and motivating major manufacturers to develop electric drive trains.
The Victory entry is a rebadged and reworked Empulse RR electric race bike from Brammo, a company that Victory’s parent company Polaris acquired last year. The Mugen is a thinly disguised Honda development project. Although officially denied by both Honda and Mugen, the effort, scale and cooperation between Mugen and the plethora of Honda subsidiaries (including using John McGuiness, a dedicated factory Honda rider) suggest otherwise.
Ten teams were entered in this year’s TT Zero, 6 of which completed the event. Five of those managed average lap speeds above 100 mph (160 km/h), considered a benchmark of high performance and credibility. The Belgian Sarolea team scored fifth with Rob Wilson on board, while the University of Nottingham entry closed out the race in sixth.
Since electric bikes first appeared on the Island in 2009, lap times have dropped by 7 minutes, and lap speeds increased by a third.