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Taking a Step Up at Round 1.

Jayson Uribe at speed during round 1 of the combined AFM/AHRMA race weekend at Buttonwillow Raceway. Photo: Josh Alvarez

As we ended our 2023 season at Barber Motorsports Park last October, our collective feeling was that the 2024 season might have to be a “light” year of racing due to individual and professional commitments that had been piling up.   However, over the course of the off-season, a few things broke our way and we found ourselves heading into Round 1 of the AFM Racing season with 2 factory bikes and a renewed commitment to moving our performance to the next step.  Much of this was due to the awesome support provided by our primary sponsor, Farasis Energy, who continue to make improvements in the world-leading lithium-ion battery cells that enable this whole project.  While the advantage for us is obvious, they also benefit from us pushing the cells a bit further than most in an effort to continuously improve our performance.  Naturally, the knowledge and data we gain is passed along to aid in their understanding and development of future lithium-ion chemistries. It’s a rare thing these days to find a company so open to developing their technology at the racetrack, and we are incredibly grateful! 


A new addition to our team.

In discussions with our primary sponsor about what the team needed as a next step, a second factory bike and rider came up as likely providing the biggest benefit to double our quantity of data and feedback. After watching Jayson Uribe excel in the AFM racing paddock for years, and feeling we were ready for a Pro-level rider to try the bike, I worked up the courage to ask Jayson if he’d like to give Lightfighter a go. Troy’s work to refine the set-up over the past 4 seasons gave us confidence that we’d chased the majority of the gremlins from the package.  Timing is everything, and Jayson was between Pro-racing commitments and working as a licensed electrician (as well as a firefighter and vehicular accident specialist).  He had noticed our development over the past several seasons and it was enough to pique his interest to see what this electric thing is all about… 

Jayson Uribe has joined our team for the '24 season and we couldn't be more excited. We'll hold onto him as long as we can keep the Pro teams at bay...

Meanwhile, we weren't the only ones welcoming a new addition to the team. Lightfighter racer Nick Lambert and wife Whitney welcomed a beautiful baby girl to world in February. Nick would have his hands full this year becoming a Dad, so I kindly offered to keep his bike warm for him by using it as our second factory bike (actually this was all Nick's idea).


Troy Siahaan was facing an increased workload in his day job at Motorcycle.com, but upon hearing about Jayson’s interest in the program, it seemed to ignite both a journalistic interest to see how a Pro rider would react to the bike we’ve been developing as well as a competitive spark to have a new measuring stick for his own performance. 


We conducted a single test in March at Buttonwillow, dodging questionable weather and cool track conditions to get Jayson his first laps on the Lightfighter.  He was quick from the first session, making very few changes to the setup and instead focusing on learning the intricacies of the power delivery and getting used to having a rear brake lever where the clutch normally sits on a gas bike.  As I did with v1 back in 2019 with Troy, I asked Jayson that most important question at the end of the day… “So… Do you still want to race it?”.  “Hell yeah!”....Sweet.


Troy was getting acclimated to Nick's bike and the various power mapping we'd be playing with this season. We had made some suspension updates since Barber to try to move both bikes closer to a common factory setting. Troy ended the test with a smile on his face and some strong lap times to boot... mission accomplished.


Some photos from our first test in March, courtesy of Karen Ott Photography.


Rolling into the combined AFM/AHRMA race round as our season opener felt important.  For those that asked, I likened it to when Ducati signed Rossi… it’s a double-edged sword.  If you sign the fastest rider in the paddock and he doesn’t get results on your bike, you can be pretty darn sure it’s not Rossi that’s the problem…  I’m not saying Jayson is Valentino Rossi, but to me, he may as well have been.  If he struggled to find pace with the bike, it would poke some serious holes in our founding principles for building the world’s fastest electric race bike.


For Troy, his job in our season opener was 2-fold – 1. To collect some data on a bike running our new Motec control system that would be needed for our next factory build and 2. To prove that even a de-tuned Lightfighter in the hands of a lightweight superbike expert (Troy has well established his skill at hustling his personal Kramer Evo2-690R race bike to class wins) could get the job done. 


Knowing this event was crucial to our overall program, naturally I called in the calvary.  Bobby Loo of Motorrev Suspension Tuning drove up with his rolling suspension development workshop to dedicate his time and skills to the team.   Robert of Skwid Media was out from Texas to capture as much of the shenanigans on camera as possible.  And Josh Alvarez offered to capture photos, having proven his talent behind the lens at multiple Laguna races in our recent seasons.  Finally, I brought out Tucker Swanson, a former AFM racer himself, to help me spin wrenches and stay on top of the charging and tire changes.  And of course, my Dad was on point providing the RV for creature comfort and a reliable supply of hot dogs at lunch! We’d be debuting our new team gear along with our 10x20’ pop-up tent courtesy of Flex Racing, so it was fun to finally look like a “real” race team. 


Having an extra set of hands over the course of the weekend was amazing! Special thanks to Tucker and Bobby for their help!

Rolling through tech inspection is always a test to see how quickly the inspector realizes they are inspecting an electric bike...


The 750 Superbike was our first race for Jayson and first real test to see what he and the bike could do against the Supersport competition, which included Brenden Ketelsen, a pro-level rider on his Graves Kawasaki ZX6-RR.  Jayson got a perfect launch and led the full first lap as Brenden picked through traffic to end up right on his tail heading into T1.  Brenden moved past on lap 2, but Jayson kept him honest for the remainder of the race as the two picked through the Novice Open Superbikes (1000s) and much of the Expert Superbike field as well.  A second-place finish in 750 Superbikes to get things rolling for the weekend was a pretty good start.  Jayson’s fastest lap in the race was his second to last and got us oh so close to finally being in the 49s.  We were optimistic heading into the Formula 1 race later in the day. 



Immediately following Jayson’s race, Troy gridded up for the Lightweight Superbike race with about 39 other riders.  He managed to launch himself to the front by T1 and put on a masterclass, setting fastest lap on his way to the first win of the season!  His 1:54 lap was pretty impressive considering he was running in the Twins “Map 2” which caps both peak torque and power.




(Almost) A perfect race.


With Bobby on hand this race weekend, we were able to make some pretty big changes to get the bike set up suited to Jayson's riding style. We ended making the biggest changes on the front end, increasing the spring rate twice to provide better support under heavy braking as well as valving changes to increase the damping at the rear. With each change, Jayson gained a little more confidence and went a bit quicker.


Based on Jayson’s performance earlier in the day, we thought we had a shot for another podium finish in Formula 1.  This class allows fully race-prepped and purpose-built four-cylinder bikes up to 750cc and twins up to 1000cc, so is often one of the fastest classes outside of the Superbikes. If I told you that Jayson blasted off the start, built a sizeable gap to 2nd and proceeded to lead nearly every lap of the race all while setting the fastest lap overall, it would sound like we had a pretty good race, huh?   Well… those things happened, but so did a red flag thrown after the first lap, which led to a 7-minute clean-up, and then a full lap count restart.  Jayson knew it would be tricky to get the bike to the finish and he did back off a bit, but it just wasn’t enough.  With the 2 warm-ups and the full count re-start, we had 9 laps on the battery when he hit the low voltage limit on the last lap of the race while leading.  A heartbreaker for sure, but I took away that the potential for a win is there and even with Jayson being a bit conservative, he still managed to get firmly into the 1:49s and set the fastest lap of the race.  An actual victory would have felt better, but clearly we made progress and achieved one of our primary goals of showing that the bike is capable of matching lap times of some very fast riders and machines. 


Photos credit: Josh Alvarez



In our last race for the day, Troy put on another show in the Formula IV class, winning easily and setting fastest lap for the entire field. 

Troy handed it to the Lightweight classes with his detuned Lightfighter taking wins in Lightweight Superbike & Formula IV. Photo: Josh Alvarez

The dream start ends prematurely. 

Once we got Jayson’s bike back from the crash truck, I knew the battery was toast.   The voltage was just driven too low in the attempt to limp the bike home.   We discussed conducting a battery swap from Troy’s bike, but I opted against it knowing that it would be possible to make a mistake and end up with 2 broken bikes rather than just one.   Troy would race with AHRMA on Sunday, but Jayson would be a spectator and offered to help out with anything he could. 

 

Troy represents against the big bikes.

Given that Jayson was out for day 2 of racing with the AHRMA series, Troy would have to represent for the team in the Formula Thunder and SOT2 classes. Given that we were running with big displacement V-twins like Ducati Panigales and a KTM 1290 Super Duke, Troy got the nod to bump the bike up to Map 3, which expands the torque and power to nearly full. I'm pretty sure I heard Troy giggle when he hit the switch. ;)

Using the bike's ability to launch like a rocket, Troy led the opening lap of the Formula Thunder race over Steve Metz (race winner) and Eric Gulbrasen (2nd). Photo: Caliphotography

With the expanded power map and some fast competition to contend with allowed Troy to get back into the 1:51s, a lap time we hadn't seen for him since prior to our setbacks in 2022. A podium finish was awesome, but it was even better to see Troy clearly having fun and riding with renewed confidence!




Troy took the momentum from the FT race into the final race of the weekend and walked away with his 3rd victory over the 2-day stretch. Not only did he collect some great data for the team, he also finished all 4 races "on the box". Not a bad way to start the season. Bravo!

Perfect?

To say I was pleased with how our opening race weekend for 2024 went would be a massive understatement. Racing can be a cruel mistress sometimes, and I'm still pinching myself that we were able to put all the pieces together to achieve our collective goals. Sure, not everything went perfectly, but on the whole, it was a perfect weekend with great people. We only get so many of those in life. Best to celebrate them when they come...

These two (Troy Siahaan (L), Jayson Uribe (R)) rode the wheels off their Lightfighters in Round 1. Let's see what else they can accomplish this season! Photo: Josh Alvarez



3 Lightfighters racing at the same track at the same time! Steven O'Brien and wife Grace (also a racer) made it down from Canada to thaw in the NorCal sun and get their race season started. Awesome weekend! L-to-R: Joe Wismann, Bobby Loo, Troy Siahaan, Steven O'Brien, Grace O'Brien, Brian Wismann, Tucker Swanson, Jayson Uribe Photo: Josh Alvarez


 Thanks to all our families, friends, sponsors, and followers! We appreciate your support for our program and look forward to bringing you more stories as our 2024 season unfolds.




 

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I don't know if you are able to comment on if you have to do cell cooling. I know the electric cars like Tesla run water cooling of the cells. Do you do anything between the cells or just using the battery box to draw heat out of the cells. Are your races short enough that it is not a factor. Love the post. Keep up the great work.

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Thanks for the kind words, Charlie. The cells are actively air-cooled across the cell tabs as well as conductively coupled to the case through aluminum bulkheads and backplate. The races are 10-15 minutes typically.

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So happy for you and your team, Brian. I hope, someday, to make it out and spend some time chatting and watching amazing racing.

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Thanks, Harry! I'd love to catch up with you at one of the races. If you'd like an event that makes the trip worthwhile, I would highly recommend the AHRMA Barber races in October. Great racing, great venue, and the museum is worth the trip alone.

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Great write up! To see bikes that were built from the ground up compete (and win) against manufacturers with teams of engineers is pretty rad to watch.

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Thanks, Robert! Building a purpose-built race bike is also a double-edged sword. If it's not competitive, you can't really claim it's because it wasn't built for that... ;) I'm very grateful to have the support of a lot of knowledgeable folks in the gas bike racing world that have helped us bridge the gap as a small team of enthusiasts.

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Great report! Keep it up!

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Thanks, Nick! We'll keep pushing...

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