Updated: Oct 15, 2020
One of our primary goals has been to race the Lightfighter head-to-head with comparable race prepared gas bikes, preferably 600cc Supersports. To me, this class of bike has always represented the perfect compromise between power/handling and ease of maintenance for a club racer and provides a fantastic value for the money invested. In the right hands, these bikes can post times very close to the best that a 1000+cc Superbike monster can achieve. While various electric prototype race bikes since 2011 have come close to achieving this (a great subject for a future blog post), none have done it in direct head-to-head competition or with the consistency needed to truly claim we've reached parity.
When we raced the v1 with AHRMA last season, we put the bike up against some formidable competition, but the series doesn't have a true Supersport class and instead focuses on a multitude of classes for vintage bikes and large displacement twins. For season 2 (before Coronavirus restrictions wreaked havoc on the world), we planned to run the bike with AFM, WERA, and other clubs that have true Supersport classes to put our goal to the test.
With events being cancelled, v2 running a bit late, and personal schedules getting in the way, we quickly began running out of opportunities to race in 2020. So, with only a couple of test days under our belt, we headed to Buttonwillow to race with the WERA organization in the heat of August in California's central valley. The Lightfighter was working well in the last test, an AFM racers test day, but we wouldn't really know where we stood until we put it into the heat of battle...
Side note here that working on this new chassis and bike architecture has been a dream compared to v1 of the bike. For a purpose-built club racer, the bike comes apart and goes back together quite easily. It's a subtlety of our efforts that simultaneously to building a fast bike, we're also trying to build a bike that can be supported in the rapid-fire, quick turnaround, limited support environment of club racing. For many club racers, they are single-handedly performing truck driver, logistics, bike mechanic, crew chief, and rider roles. All while thinking about being ready for their day jobs on Monday. If the Lightfighter can fit into this environment, it represents a significant step forward from the team supported electric prototype bikes of the last decade and those racing professionally in MotoE.
No fancy garages for this operation! Often times, the need for a high power RV outlet decides where we pit for us. On this occasion, we were on the side of the on-site tire shop that operates during the race weekend. I always lay down a small strip of carpet under the bike and am surprised that so few others do so. Without the benefit of a lift, you can spend a lot of time kneeling down and doing so on carpet just makes it slightly easier on man and machine... but I digress.
Having never raced with WERA before, our entry was treated with a bit of understandable trepidation from the organizers, but their intrigue ultimately outweighed their concern. We were initially entered in the Formula 2 and C Superbike classes, with Formula 2 being a bit of a test race to ensure we deserved to be out there with the faster 4-stroke, multi-cylinder superbikes. At the start of the Formula 2 race, Troy quickly grabbed the hole shot from the back row of the experts and went on to clear out to a pretty massive margin of victory. Here's a video of the start - The Lightfighter's neon orange fairing is easy to spot.
With our test completed and passed, we started charging and looking forward to the more competitive C Superbike race to be run in the early afternoon. We can typically get the bike fully charged in about 1.5 hours from a typical Nema 14-50 RV outlet. Unfortunately, while trying to get the bike charged, I noticed that the charger had begun throttling back it's current, and indication that it was overheating in the 100+ degree mid-day heat. I aimed a fan directly at the charger, but I could tell that we were going to run out of time to make the intended race...
After petitioning the organizers, we were allowed to bump up to race in the "B Superbike" class which includes 4-stroke, 4-cylinder bikes up to 750cc. The bulk of the entries are race-prepped 600cc bikes, however - many looking to score additional points. This was perfect for our race debut against these bikes as the field was competitive, but relatively small. The photo below shows the Lightfighter on track leading 2 Yamaha R6s on the warm-up lap. In the race, Troy would finish in 3rd behind these two competitors.
Troy and the Lightfighter got a strong launch off the line, but ran into a wardrobe malfunction before turn 1 as his left knee slider puck flew off and onto the track. With that slightly lower confidence on left hand corners, Troy watched the top two riders sail away into the distance and preserved his podium position for the remainder of the race. While we didn't quite hit our targets for lap times, we did put the bike into a Supersport race and showed that we belonged to be there with a lonely, but solid 3rd place finish.
We left with 2 trophies, bike and rider intact, and a much better idea of the work ahead of us if we want to be truly competitive with the various classes of superbikes when racing hopefully gets back to normal next season. I'm proud of the team for what we achieved, but already looking forward to the next test as we've got some ideas we'd like to try... ;)
Special thanks to Bobby Loo from Motorrev Suspension Tuning for working with us on suspension setup on race day!