Performance electric motorcycles passed a milestone this weekend at about 158 miles per hour. That's the top speed hit by Chip Yates as he pulled podium positions in not one, but two races at the WERA West Sportsman Series in Fontana, CA. The results were more than a pleasant surprise for the owner/rider, as he had modestly stated earlier he expected to finish around mid-pack.
The week leading up to this first big battle was a busy one for both the bike and team. Since the initial round of track testing, the machine went through something of a transformation. The huge 180 lb battery pack, which had been sitting directly behind the rider, had a third of its mass moved under the gas tank. The original configuration had made it look like he might use it to deliver pizza while it handled as though he was trying to race with a passenger. The revised edition still seemed to have some handling issues, though much improved, and the pizza box out back looked a lot more integrated and aerodynamic.
[Source: Asphalt and Rubber / Swigz Pro Racing]
Practice day certainly didn't put anyone's mind at ease. The team was only able to get in six laps in the morning because of red flags, then, one of their 102 lithium ion polymer pouch cells failed – in a non dramatic fashion, thank you – forcing them to return to the shop to tear the battery down and replace the defective piece.
As for the races themselves, the first of which was the Heavyweight Twins Superbike Expert contest, the results tell the story. Yates started off easy but eventually turned his 7th starting position into a 3rd as he took on riders aboard the likes of Ducatis and KTMs. You can see exactly how he does it in the video of the first two laps waiting below.
The second race was with the Heavyweight Twins Superstock Experts and resulted in reaching the 2nd step of the podium, beaten only by a 5-second-faster Ducati 1000. Despite the Italian machine's ability to achieve a faster average speed overall, the electric superbike actually had the fastest lap, by a fraction of a second. We're hoping more video surfaces, as well as news of the teams future plans. In the meantime, checkout the great footage we do have below along with the official press release. Congratulations, Chip!
SWIGZ® ELECTRIC SUPERBIKE MAKES HISTORY ON ITS GLOBAL RACING DEBUT
- Chip Yates grabs two podium spots on the way to making history at Auto Club Speedway in California
- SWIGZ electric superbike matches gasoline-powered pace achieving a fastest lap of the race along with a 158mph top speed
- Promise to match gasoline lap times delivered in thrilling fashion
Despite only six laps of pre-race testing from Saturday's practice session and a cold and overcast day, the privately owned and developed machine exceeded all expectations in its two race outings during Sunday racing action. Yates achieved an astonishing third place in the premier WERA Heavyweight Twins Superbike race having started on the third row of the grid, and unbelievably went one better in the WERA Heavyweight Twins Superstock race to finish second and post the fastest lap of the race at a 1:39.792. The all-electric machine was recorded at 158 mph on the straight and appeared visibly quicker to spectators, compared to even the 1,000cc Japanese superbikes from the other top WERA superbike classes.
Chip Yates said: "This was an absolutely epic race weekend for our team; we had to overcome some technical difficulties on Saturday but we fixed everything and came back Sunday to score two podiums, a huge top speed, and post competitive gasoline bike lap times with no further technical issues to slow us down. What a humbling experience for our small team to develop and build a superbike that can beat gasoline bikes from the top manufacturers on their own terms – I was nearly brought to tears as I crossed the finish line both times!"
Many within the sport have viewed the success of Yates and the SWIGZ team with complete astonishment. Yates continues: "We are a small and entirely self-funded team, and together with a small group of very loyal sponsors, are solely responsible for the development, patenting and building of this superbike."
The bike has been developed with all new technology and software, in less than one year, and after extensive simulation testing, worked right out of the box from day one to beat bikes made by the world's best known Italian and Japanese manufacturers.
Yates and his skunk works team of key engineers Ben Ingram and Robert Ussery have quickly developed an industry-leading understanding of electric powertrain technology and development, and the motorcycle is an absolute showcase of the team's specialist capabilities in extreme electric vehicle consulting as most of it was built in-house including the advanced lithium-ion polymer battery packs. The lap times achieved on the bikes first competitive outing validate the team's assertion that its bike is vastly superior in technology and performance to any other electric bike and can demonstrably take the fight to conventional gasoline machines.
"We have to thank WERA Motorcycle Roadracing and Evelyne Clarke for their graciousness and vision in welcoming our electric superbike to their nationwide gasoline race series", said Yates. "Out of courtesy to the regular WERA racers, we forfeited the championship points we accumulated today so as not to interfere with the gasoline bike season results and a lot of those racers visited our pits to voice their support of our program!"