In an unprecedented move, the American Federation of Motorcyclists (AFM) is allowing electric motorcycles to compete head-to-head on track with conventional internal-combustion-powered machinery.
According to AFM President Berto Wooldridge, Oregon-based Brammo was looking for a way to showcase
its new Empulse sportbike. “They wanted to compete within the existing class structure against gas-powered bikes with similar power-to-weight ratios and performance,” he said. “We believe this is a historic moment in motorcycle racing, and we are happy to have made it possible.”
Staging nearly silent electric motorcycles alongside screaming 600s is going to cause a ruckus. Having raced both types of machines, I am well aware of the rush of adrenalin that comes from the sound emitted by a high-rpm four-stroke. Electric-bike racers, however, may view that ear-splitting noise as an annoying distraction.
Electric bikes lack the traditional aural response of internal-combustion engines, such as the change in rpm that occurs with on-throttle wheelspin. I had to overcome this when pushing to the edge of traction on the Brammos that I’ve raced. On the other hand, feel for the road is unparalleled. Also, the controls deliver more direct feedback; even the jangling of floating brake rotors can be heard. Overall, the effect is greatly enhanced concentration on lines, braking points and the like, which means ICE racers may have to develop eyes in the back of their heads.
Still, the top 600s are going to be difficult to beat. Brammo’s Director of Product Development, Brian Wismann, was candid about the job ahead. “It’s going to be a challenge to be competitive,” he said. “Gas bikes have many years of development time. But we’re excited to pit our Empulse against the best efforts from Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha.”
So, will an army of ICEs prevail? Or will the victor be a foreign invader, diving, unannounced, up the inside of an established inline-Four? Battle lines are drawn for a merging of these very different worlds.
AFM races are webcast live at: http://www.axialvideo.com/afm-races-live/cat_25.html
2013 AFM Race Schedule (subject to change)
|March 2-3||Buttonwillow Raceway Park|
|May 4-5||Infineon Raceway|
|June 1-2||Thunderhill Park|
|July 6-7||Thunderhill Park|
|August 3-4||Thunderhill Park|
|August 31/September 1||Infineon Raceway|
|October 5-6||Thunderhill Park|