During a weekend that was everything we thought it would be, Steve Rapp handed Mission Motors a very convincing win at the TTXGP/FIM e-Power International Championship race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The 39.995 seconds that separated him from the 2nd-place finisher at the end of the contest underlined the dominance of the Mission R over the entire weekend, while his best lap of 1:31.376 – set during Saturday's qualifying – crushed the record that he himself had set just a few weeks ago.
This amazing lap time would have placed him in 5th position on the grid for the AMA
Even though the owner of the first position seemed clear by the end of the first lap, it was a great race. Michael Czysz rode the 2011 version of his own MotoCzysz E1pc to a second place finish when he, as he did last year, slowly reeled in, then passed Michael Barnes on the Lightning Motors entry on the final bit of tarmac before the checkered flag. Despite having to settle for the low step on the podium, Barnes distinguished himself with the fastest maximum speed of all the electrics, hitting 134.96 miles per hour (217.2 km/h) along the front straight.
There was a close three-way battle for fourth position the entire race, with Steve Atlas on the Brammo Empulse RR moving from 6th place on the third lap, to 4th on the sixth of eight laps. Meanwhile, the Italian Alessandro Brannetti on the CRP Racing eCRP 1.4 managed to stay ahead of his constant rival Matthias Himmelmann of Münch Racing for 5th place. It is well worth noting that the top six finishers all ran laps faster than the fastest lap time in last year's contest here.
Riding for Moto Electra, Thad Wolff owned 7th position over the entire distance. Excepting the sixth lap, he got progressively faster as the race went on, with his best lap time of 1:48.530 coming on the final loop. Clearly though, he enjoyed himself and made an enthusiastic gesture for the crowd as he passed through the corkscrew on the parade lap after the contest. In return, the gathered masses roared their approval for the rider on Norton-inspired design.
Shelina Moreda, the only girl on the grid, finished 8th. It was the California native's first time riding an electric and her first appearance at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Besides a spirited performance on the track, she also put on an enthusiastic show in the paddock, happily chatting up the many folks who stopped by to check out the pair of CRP Racing machines.
The Spanish team LGN Racing finished the race in last position in what was only their second event ever. Clearly, the newcomers will have to pick up the pace somewhat if they want to contend for podium positions in the future. Still, they brought an attractive bike with a unique chassis, learned some lessons and finished the race. No small feat in itself.
The same can not be said of the modified Zero S that Kenyon Kluge (rhymes with blue-jay) rode for K Squared Racing in the TTX75 division. While there's no doubt the team left Laguna smarter than when they arrived, we're also pretty sure they were disappointed to have only raced one lap before being forced to retire. Still, they did get to show off their bike, with its snappy Zero Motorcycles livery, during the free practice and qualifying on what is perhaps the best-loved track in the United States. Just for that fact alone, we're very jealous.
The one person who benefitted from Kluge's early retirement was Ely Schless. The Proto Moto Racing rider was the only entry in the TTX75 division to cross the finish after Lightning Motorcyles decided not to enter a machine as they had originaly intended and focused 100 per cent of their energy on the "open" class. To his credit, he not only finished the race but did so ahead of the LGN Racing effort.
Overall, the event was an unqualified success. The spectators – there was a record crowd of 150,000 – definitely took notice of the electrics and gave them a much warmer reception than in times past. Sure, there were grumbles that the "e-bikes" were too quiet but others, impressed by the speed of the top machines, seemed to freely accept that the electrics had a place in racing and welcomed the development.
We can only hope that this first co-event will help resolve remaining differences between the TTXGP and FIM organizers. If ever there was a happening that demonstrated what could be accomplished by combining their strengths, this was it. Working in tandem, they attracted a strong grid of polished machines and made a positive contribution to the development of racing. For that, they should be proud and take inspiration as they move forward. Together.
We will have plenty of pics of the action both on the track and in the paddocks to show you soon and we are also hoping race footage will become available. For now though, we can share with you video from a qualifying lap from Steve Rapp on the race-winning Mission R to whet your appetite..