Wednesday, July 1, 2009

America’s Independence and America’s Independent Racing Motorcycle

This is a monster week in motorcycle roadracing for US fans... The Red Bull USGP is in Laguna Seca (Mazda Raceway) this weekend. There will be boat loads of coverage on the web and on Speed Channel, so make sure you have your TiVo warmed up and ready to record MotoGP qualifying and all of the race coverage. If you caught the Casey Stoner versus Valentino Rossi battle last year, you will know why this race is not to be missed.

I am sad and embarrassed to say that we have not been back to Laguna Seca since the inaugural Red Bull USGP in 2005. The race did not disappoint. Particularly since we were based in Kentucky at the time and our man, the ‘Kentucky Kid’, Nicky Hayden won the race.

The entire MotoGP atmosphere is indescribable. If you haven’t been to a large international motorcycle roadrace before, you need to go. Do it. As we made our way west from Nashville, we started seeing more and more fans at our airport layovers. A Rossi hat here, a Respol jersey there… worn by people speaking languages you can’t quite place. You start to feel the excitement build before you even set foot in California.

You become part of a world wide pilgrimage to a holy shrine of moto-goodness.

As hardcore fans we held paddock passes for the weekend. Wanting to absorb every last drop of moto-ambiance and catch a glimpse of our favorite MotoGP rock stars. I have weeks worth of stories I could tell.

Most interesting to look back upon was a small display in the paddock. A gleaming silver racebike sitting on a stand with a half dozen or so people standing around it. The words MotoCzysz emblazoned on nearly everything in sight, and a massive mural on the side of the tent. On the table in front of the tent were stacks of posters with a beautiful side shot the same bike. It was the revolutionary MotoCzysz C1 990, and Laguna was its official public introduction. A world stage for a little known American motorcycle company.

I had read about the C1 and its creator, Michael Czysz beforehand. I had seen the solid models of the longitudinally placed, ultra-narrow V-4 and its counter-rotating crankshafts.

The C1 was, and still is, a mind-blowing and impressive piece of engineering.

In truth, I looked the bike over at the time and being the hardened mechanical engineer and roadracing fan I am, I dismissed it. Not from a technological standpoint, but from a feasibility of ever entering a race standpoint. I considered it a paper tiger.

Understand that John Britten is a hero of mine, and I could not imagine anyone else, not even Michael Czysz, accomplish what John had done in his short life with the Britten V1000, more than a decade before. That is: Design and build a world class, winning, racing motorcycle from scratch.

I would be happy to eat my words, but unfortunately the C1 never did make it to MotoGP. Politically and financially it is just a massive undertaking. Even the true insider that Kenny Roberts Sr. is, he and his KR race team couldn’t keep up with silly changes in technical rules, and sourcing the funds required to design and develop a machine, pay personnel, and move everything around the world on a near-weekly basis. MotoGP is a piranha.

However, MotoGP’s loss has turned out to be a gain for the rest of the world. Late last year, Michael Czysz and MotoCzysz made a decision to go in another direction. Through a cryptic blog post in March, 2009, Czysz effectively said if there is no interest in a dead-dinosaur powered machine, he’d go electric.

Development of the MotoCzysz E1pc D1g1tal Superbike began as 2008 came to a close. Sights were set on the inaugural TTXGP on the Isle of Man TT Circuit in June of 2009. The race to have the best electric racing motorcycle in the world, in the first zero-carbon motorcycle road race in the world, was on.

Mere months later, the bike was unveiled. Aesthetically, the E1pc did not disappoint. It looked every bit as incredible as the C1 990 did 4 years prior. A sexy racing machine with fit and finish rivaling the best of MotoGP, maybe even better.

Over the course of the TTXGP week, there were plenty of technical issues and teething pains. Not unexpected nor out of the question for a bike with ridiculously expedited development and construction. Even though it failed to finish the TTXGP, the E1pc and Team MotoCzysz made its presence felt. When it was running properly, it was incredible. No one was left questioning the future capabilities and potential of the E1pc.

If you are at Laguna Seca this weekend, and happen to see a silver and orange race bike with the name, MotoCzysz written on the side: Do not dismiss it as I had done 4 years ago. This machine, the man behind it, and the team who supports it are the real deal. Keep an eye on the MotoCzysz E1pc. You will be seeing more of it very soon.

First Photo: The MotoCzysz C1 990 MotoGP machine, via MotoCzysz
Second Photo: John Britten and the Britten V1000, via Britten
Third Photo: The Team KR, KR212V race bike, via TeamKR
Last Photo: The MotoCzysz E1pc, via MotoCzysz

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