Updated: Jan 17
First things first. If you don't know who Rennie is, check out his 2019 record breaking run to win the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m857jNlBwp4
We ran into Rennie at the Buttonwillow WERA race this year where he was racing a 2009 HRC factory prepped Supersport bike. The motorcycle industry is a small world, so we're run in similar circles (Pikes Peak in 2016 and again in 2019), but never worked directly with one another. Rennie is good buddies with Troy, having ridden together in a multitude of press launch events for their respective motorcycle publications - CycleNews and Motorcycle.com. They also raced a Kramer HKR EVO2 bike in an endurance event together last year. So... Rennie naturally stopped by during the WERA weekend to see what Troy had gotten himself into. Rennie's never been a huge fan of electric motorcycles, and was fresh off a luke warm experience with the Harley LiveWire press bike, but he was intrigued by the Lightfighter and said "I'd love to ride that thing." It took a couple of months of back-and-forth to figure out a time that worked for everyone, but we were finally able to make it happen as a part of TrackDaz annual "TurkeyDaz" track day at Buttonwillow Raceway in California... Rennie would go on to celebrate with wheelies... ;)
While we had plenty of time between the last test with Troy and this one, getting ready for it was not without some last minute drama. I like to leave the battery at around 50% SOC (State-of-Charge) while the bike is being stored and serviced as it is best for capacity retention and aging. Because of this, I typically charge the bike the day before heading out to the track so that I can roll the bike out with close to a full charge to start the day. Unfortunately, during that charge, I made a mistake and damaged the off-board charger. With less than 24 hours to the test, I had to call in a favor from Ely and my father to drive down the "spare" Manzanita Micro charger from Ashland, Oregon. Luckily, Joe Wismann is retired and was looking for an excuse to get out of hanging X-mas lights, so about 8 hours after the incident, we were back in business! We booked our trusty RV spot at the track well in advance, so we knew we'd have access to a 50A outlet for charging through the day. Troy, Paul Taylor, and a few other friends even agreed to meet us out at the track for a last hoorah for 2020.
Besides getting a new rider on the bike, we did have one trick new piece of kit to test - a ceramic coated aluminum and carbon fiber rear sprocket, courtesy of Ceracarbon Racing from the Netherlands. This sprocket is not only more durable than other aluminum race sprockets, but it's also lighter than the lightest units we've ever run.
Rolling up at the track on Sunday morning was a bit of a surprise for me. Having spent several weekends where the temps crested 100F over the course of the summer at Buttonwillow, it was a surprise to show up and have it be... quite chilly! Given the lack of track temperature, Rennie wasn't chomping at the bit to get out on track in the first session, which was all fine and good since we had some charging left to do.
With cold tires, cold track, cold battery, and cold rider, Rennie went out in the second A group session to get his first taste of the bike. I always hold my breath when the rider comes around after the out lap to see if he/she is comfortable enough to stay out on track and keep doing laps. Rennie went by in a technicolor blur (check out those leathers!)... Whew! Not only did he not stop on the first lap, he went on to complete the full session.
With the first session complete, and no changes to set-up requested (we eventually removed 1 turn of pre-load on the front from the two I had added from Troy's setting), Rennie went back out in the second session to pick up the pace and have some fun chasing down the gas bikes. "He's having fun now" said Troy Siahaan, our regular racer who was relegated to picture taking duties for this test. "He just better not lap faster than me." Troy didn't need to worry, with a cold track and the trackday traffic, his race laptimes never came under any real threat. That said, Rennie looked immediately comfortable on the bike and obviously had enough confidence to make some impressive passes - even overtaking 3 riders into turn 1. Rennie's helmet cam video of this session should feature in his video review to be posted over at CycleNews.
I wish I could've captured his expression when he rolled back onto the hot pit following this session! His first comment after popping his visor was something to the effect of... "This thing is f*cking awesome!", which brought me back to that first test with Troy on the first version of Lightfighter at this same track at the start of 2019.
After four solid sessions and about 25 laps on-board the Lightfighter, here's what an unfiltered Rennie thought of the experience...
There will be more video and photos to come, but the day really couldn't have gone any better. I hate to admit it, but I'm already looking forward to being back here at this sweltering dust bowl of a track next year to keep the momentum going. ;)
Mission accomplished. Turned a skeptic into a believer that the future of our sport may sound a bit quieter, but it won't be any less fun...