Friday, August 13, 2010

When Worlds Collide

What is it really
That's going on here
You've got your system for total control
So is there really anybody out there
Now watch us suffer cause we can't go
What is it really that is in your head
What little life that you had just died
I'm gonna be the one that's takin over
Now this is what it's like when worlds collide
- Powerman 5000, “When Worlds Collide”

Last week Hell for Leather Magazine published a great piece by Ivar Kvadsheim on why we need a single eMoto road racing series. EnvironMoto is in total agreement on the subject. So I wrote a response in the comments which more or less details my concerns for the future if the current situation continues, and what should happen in order for TTXGP and the FIM to devise a contiguous electric motorcycle roadracing series.

The FIM may not be pure evil as I have made them out to be in the past, but they sure do love money. I do believe that the FIM intends to keep the e-Power series alive so that they may entice the major motorcycle manufacturers (the guys with lots of money) with a politically positive option. “Look Yamaha, we have a prĂȘt-a-porter racing series that will highlight how green (blue for you Europeans) your product line is.”

Anyway, I am posting the response as it reads in the HFL comment area. I figure that I might as well post it here and invite agreement, indifference, or flaming criticism. Here it is:

I’m trying to think a decade into the future while composing my thoughts on the state of electric road racing and its two competing series. Here’s my two cents:

The FIM has the power to make things happen. Not only that, but when they have proper motivation (i.e. money) they really know how to make things happen (like Honda-sourced spec engines for Moto2). In the FIM e-Power series’ current state, I have to believe that they aren’t going to truly push down the electric racing path without either massive outside backing or significant fan/consumer interest (or if Valentino Rossi suddenly decides he will race an electric bike next year).

That being said, I have to believe that the big established motorcycle manufacturers are lurking in the background, waiting for the technology to advance and consumer demand to show up on their radar before they jump in. WHEN the big Japanese or European IC bike manufacturers start building serious electric motorcycles and want to race them, the FIM is going to do everything they can to cater to them.

I am sure that today the FIM is glad to have the cottage industry builders participating in e-Power (even the stupid scooters), but the way the FIM works, those little guys will be cast aside like yesterdays news as soon as companies like Honda and Yamaha decide they want to race electric motorcycles. I am sure that is what the FIM are waiting/hoping for. I think that the small manufacturers currently in the e-Power series should read the writing on the wall. If they are relying on the FIM to give them special preference ten years from now, they are delusional. Unless by chance one of the builders currently racing in e-Power strikes it big and becomes a major manufacturer, they are going to be SOL (shit outta luck) in a few years.

For the most part, I believe in the TTXGP organizational concept (, TEO). Beyond just the crowd sourced technical rules (the eGrandprix rules wiki), I believe in the philosophy that benefits the manufacturers who participate in the races. The greater a builder’s involvement is, the more ownership they take. Theoretically; a manufacturer who commits to the series and begins racing this season could always potentially own a greater stake in the organization than even Honda would, even if Honda decided to enter next year. The concept could help keep the little guys relevant and not kicked to the curb once bigger players emerge.

I am pretty amazed that more of the independent manufacturers have not embraced this idea at least partially. Maybe next year will be a different story. No one currently involved in electric racing has the shear financial power of a company like Honda. The TTXGP format allows anyone from a garage builder on up to MotoCzysz to come in and have influence on the direction of the sport, and have a vested interest in its success.

The biggest concern with the current TTXGP organization is Azhar’s dual role as organizer and manufacturer. We know that some other manufacturers have a problem with this as well. Personally, I see that being a major limiting factor in the growth of TTXGP. To grow TTXGP (or partner with the FIM), Azhar is going to have to seriously consider where he wants to position himself in the organization. Despite the TEO concept of reduced ownership of the original investors over time (I assume that includes Azhar), the perception of a conflict of interest will remain.

In a nutshell, I agree with Ivar. Competition and technology will suffer without a unified sanctioning entity. The creation of a successful solitary series is a must, in order to advance the sport and the technology which trickles down from it. There must be a melding of the FIM’s established credibility and ability to coordinate big time venues, sponsors, and exposure with TTXGP’s innovation and enthusiasm. The FIM have to be willing to loosen their grip on their old-school organizational model and help TTXGP refine the TEO concept and rules for classes (yes that is plural). Azhar would (and I think should) have to completely separate himself from Mavizen and continue to be the face (and father) of electric motorcycle racing. I think the organization side needs Azhar far more than the manufacturing side, and I also believe the long term rewards for him will be far greater.

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