How the FIM stole electric motorcycle racing

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TTXGP_E1pc.jpgPhoto: Amadeus Photography

Last week, the governing body of international motorcycle racing
announced it was ending its partnership with the TTXGP and launching
its own electric motorcycle road race series dubbed FIM e-Power. But
how’d the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme develop technical
specs and rules for its own electric series so quickly?
Simple, it stole them. >

Take a look at these two press releases from the FIM and note the dates:

June 25. 2009: Following the success of the TTXGP race held on the Isle of Man on June 12, the FIM (Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme) has decided to create a FIM Series for electric bikes in 2010. This new FIM Series will be managed by the Road Racing Commission, a great and innovative project led by Mr Azhar Hussain a UK Entrepreneur founder of the TTXGP.

November 18. 2009: Concerned about the preparation for the future of motorcycle sport and in order to promote Alternative Energies, the FIM is pleased to announce the launch of its new Electric Motorcycles Championship: the FIM e-Power International Championship. FIM is pleased about and proud of the creation of the FIM e-Power International Championship that will be managed by the Road Racing Commission (CCR).

Azhar Hussain — the notable missing party in the second press release — is the man who organized the Isle of Man TTXGP this summer and showed that electric motorcycle racing isn’t just a future possibility, it’s a current reality. He’s done it already – at the Isle of Man TT, the toughest motorcycle race in the world.

To understand the FIM’s sudden interest in electric motorcycles, we need to go back to 2006, when Vito Ippolito was elected its president. One of his first tasks was to get FIM prepared for life after fossil fuels. The newly founded Alternative Energy Working Group (AEWG) was founded to do just that in early 2007. They were supposed to put FIM in pole position for alternative energies, but got off to a bad start. They toured a German biofuels factory and saw the future of MotoGP fuel being made from twigs and branches (literally, that’s how the factory made fuel, from wood). Biofuels could allow FIM to run its money making MotoGP and WSB series more or less the same way as now, but with “green” fuel. This naturally became their preferred alternative energy source since it required the minimum modification to their current practices. If all you have to do to go green is change some gaskets and allow the use of a bigger fuel tank, why look further? Electric motorcycles were hardly even on their radar screen.

June 12, 2009: The TTXGP is held at the Isle of Man TT. 16 motorcycles from six different countries take part in the race. When Azhar Hussain and TTXGP presented the project to the public a year earlier it was a fun idea, but not taken too seriously by anyone (except us). As the TT drew closer it became clear that the race would actually happen. Some of the teams were small backyard projects and some were clearly not competitive, but there were more teams and bikes than anyone had imagined. Some of them would even be fast. It would be motorcycle racing! Motorcycle racing, of course, is what the FIM do. They were initially skeptical about the whole thing, but finally, in what was called a “landslide move,” FIM President Vito Ippolito (reluctantly, according to some sources) gave his support to the TTXGP a few weeks before the race.  

June 25, 2009: The FIM are obviously impressed with what they’ve seen at the Isle of Man. The TTXGP, a tiny race composed of a handful of motorcycles from teams no one has ever heard of, had garnered more mainstream media coverage and public interest than the TT itself. Realizing this was the future of motorcycle racing, the FIM was determined to become part of it. Less than two weeks after the race, FIM and Ippolito announced the 2010 FIM/TTXGP series for electric motorcycles: “I am very happy to welcome this new series, the future of the sport depends on our capacity as well as that of the manufacturers to innovate quickly. We are convinced that very shortly the motorcycle World Championships will be accessible to non-polluting engines as far as gas and sound emissions are concerned. Now that this important decision is taken, we have to work on rules and calendar to be ready to compete in 2010.”

He’s probably right in all of this, but he’s definitely right about the rules. There’s a lot of work to be done on them. FIM have no expertise on electric motorcycles and, for all their claimed work on alternative energy, they had no usable rules and regulations for electric motorcycles. Even FIM themselves admit what they had was useless. “We have an old version, which basically…we should forget (these date back as far as 1996!),” writes their press coordinator when asked for a copy of the current rules. 1996 is pre-history in electric motorcycle terms.

But Azhar Hussain and TTXGP have what it takes to bring FIM up to date. They’ve invested considerable resources in developing rules, regulations and procedures, they’ve got the expertise and the experience (not much, but more than anyone else) in running an electric motorcycle racing series. That’s exactly what FIM needs. They’ll provide prestige, organization and resources. TTXGP hands their rules and technical regulations over to FIM and starts working with them on the details of what will become the new FIM rules for electric motorcycle racing.

October 30, 2009: The final draft of the FIM rules  — basically identical to the TTXGP-rules — is ready to be sent to members of FIM’s road racing secretariat for approval. Everybody is happy. FIM will get a much needed set of updated rules and regulations and all the green credentials they could ever dream of. Azhar Hussain gets to run a prestigious FIM-sanctioned series. At least that’s what he thinks.

Here’s the proposed FIM rules for electric motorcycle racing:

Here’s the TTXGP’s rules, note that the two are virtually identical:

November 16, 2009: Hussain and TTXGP receive an email from FIM: We are starting our own series without you, and would you please remove any mention of FIM on your website and other documents.

November 18, 2009: FIM officially announces the e-Power International Championship, run by FIM alone. Hussain and TTXGP are no longer needed, but with their help and work, FIM have gone from having absolutely nothing a few months ago to being able to present their own international racing series for electric motorcycles. – “FIM is pleased about and proud of the creation of the FIM e-Power International Championship,” says FIM president Vito Ippolito in the press release, fully aware of how the FIM created the series.  

So did the FIM actually enter into cooperation with Hussain and the TTXGP with the intention of getting what they needed and then launching their own series? Probably not, but that’s how it turned out. Hussain and the TTXGP thought they were getting a powerful partner in the form of the FIM, instead they were duped into helping create a real competitor. The FIM hopes to get 15 bikes on the starting line when e-Power starts racing in four and a half months. TTXGP have a head start with newcomers CRP Racing from Italy announcing their participation in the TTXGP’s eGrandPrix and Team Agni, winners of the inaugural event, committing to racing two bikes for 2010. Several other teams, including household names and American teams, will announce their eGrandPrix participation in the coming weeks. The more teams committing to TTXGP the more difficult it will be for FIM to find the participants they need. A smaller and less prestigious starting field than TTXGP will be very embarrassing.

What’s the result of all this? The FIM has an electric motorcycle racing series sooner than it ever dreamed possible, but, if it’s unable to acquire the loyalty of racing teams in the same way it got its hands on the technical framework for the series, the largest organizer of bike racing in the world could find itself unable to compete with a newly embittered rival.

Ivar Kvadsheim

Editor’s note: this article was written by Ivar Kvadsheim with a small contribution by Wes Siler, a similar article can be found in Norwegian at MC24.no.

  • Matthew

    Yes, but I’m sure Mavizen had something to do with it: http://www.asphaltandrubber.com/oped/thankful-for-the-fim-split-fro-ttxgp/

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I really don’t see a conflict of interest between pioneering electric racing and offering a turn-key solution to teams that want to race. The rules are in no way stacked in favor of the TTX02, so all it’s doing is offering interested parties an easy solution to go electric racing.

    • Watergate

      Mavizen had nothing to do with this. The conclusions in the reference article are complete nonesense. You know the writer is clueless when he claims that the FIM are impartial and in it for the good of the sport.

      The FIM were brazenly greedy and decided to screw TTXGP. I guess TTXGP may have been naive to get involved with the FIM but not sure what choice they would have had.

      I think in the US, the FIM could have been charged under RICO.

  • Matthew

    I’m also wondering what the intellectual property implications are here. Doesn’t the TTXGP have some legal recourse here? Are they already in litigation, or did they just let it go?

  • V

    That was excellent writing, and a nice bit of blow by blow reporting. Now we await the gory details.

  • Tom

    I must admit that I get such a charge out these stories.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Har har har.

  • Telekom

    FIM seem to be such a horrendous organisation. All the crap that hit the fan around F1 this year demonstrates how unstable and mercantile they are. They aren’t a sporting organisation, they’re a giant business conglomerate. So I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when they rip off a small rival with limited resources and a great idea. I hope TTXGP can survive to put on an even better show than they did with their first excellent race in 2009.

    • ben j

      FIM and FIA are different orgs. FIA is really bad, and while this looks like a low blow on FIM’s part, I think it’s probably a better org overall.

      • Telekom

        My mistake Ben. Misread it and shot my mouth off without checking. Apologies to FIM’s lawyers, who are all really nice guys apparently. I guess I’ve been a little stressed lately, and I took it out on FIM. Sorry FIM. Sorry FIM Legal Department. I’ve let you all down. Sorry. I still think you all should have been a bit nicer to Mr Hussain and the other TTXGP folk though.

        But FIA… now they really are a bunch of twats.

  • Isaac

    Classic ‘Big Guy vs. Little Guy’ stuff.

  • AceCafeClipOns

    Somethings are for sure: An Honda engine will get Moto2 championship next year. FIM sucks. Isle of Man TT doesn’t.

  • AceCafeClipOns

    FIM sucks as much as Honda (Aprilia doesn’t)

  • DoctorNine

    As I understand it, TTGXP can still do what they do. I will watch their race, since it was really interesting first time around. One of the best shows this last year, in my humble estimation. By contrast, I don’t have much knowledge of what kind of e-racing venues FIM is going to do in the upcoming year. But more racing is better than less, and they have mechanisms to organize a large set of contests. Which is a good thing. I am frankly happy to see both groups going at it. Kind of reminds one of the plethora of boxing organizations…

  • Chris

    Interesting (and shocking — sorry, couldn’t resist) to see another sanctioning body as screwed up as AMA Pro Racing brought to you by Daytona Motorsports Group.

  • dimitri

    I do not see any surprise here. FIM has been dealing like this for decades. They have never put their head on the block to initiate something new. Once it was there and becoming a succes( supermotard racing for instance)they embrace it like it was their own. I very much understand the chagrin of the Flamini brothers towards FIM and the Moto2 format.

  • Mike J

    For all those who “don’t see a conflict of interests” here; between the organisers/rule-makers of a sporting event also being, potentially, one of the largest commercial suppliers to competitors in that event. Please just take a few moments to think about this years AMA/DMG racing series and the litany of dubious decisions and dodgy shenanigans that seem to have surrounded the series like a rancid fog of farts. And that’s just because of a perceived nationalistic interest in one particular manufacturer by the organisers. Imagine the potential conflict that could arise when that investment is both personal and financial.

    Now I’m not saying that the TTXGP/Mavizen interconnection represents any deliberate impropriety on Azhar Hussain’s part, but it defiantly presents the potential for it. Bringing the administration under the banner of the FIM effectively neutralises this, whilst also allowing any potential series to easily access a huge range of pre-existing events alongside existing series: more effectively promoting technical interaction between them. My only problem with this decision is that the FIM’s attitude to the TT has, for some time, been to treat it like some sort of unwelcome uncle – to be tolerated once a year at the holidays – and, as a TT fan, I for one was more than happy to see the future of motorcycle racing debut at the world’s oldest and greatest motorcycle races, and am keen to see it continue to have a presence there.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      I think you’re a little confused there.

      First, it’ll be the TTXGP, not the FIM that will hold electric races at the TT going forward.

      Second, electric racing is tiny. Very tiny. So tiny in fact only 16 bikes have ever participated. The Mavizen wasn’t conceived as a money-maker, but rather as something to fill a need. People were approaching the TTXGP and asking for help with bikes. Maybe they were a team with no technical expertise, maybe they could make a chassis, but not batteries, maybe vice versa. All Mavizen is doing is enabling those people to race when no one else could do so. More bikes on the grid is good.

      Third, there’s no rules or anything stacked in the Mavizen’s favor. It’s a good chassis and the same powertrain that won June’s TTXGP. That’s it, no magic there, simply a competitive platform.

      Fourth, all those concerns you raise are applicable to the FIM, not TTXGP. It’s FIM that’s turning 250GP into the Honda four-stoke cup. It’s FIM that serves the manufacturer’s interests above those of fans.

      • Mike J

        I don’t wish to come across as sarcastic Wess but I think you’ll find that it’s you who’s confused about what I said re the TT the FIM and TTXGP.

        My point was that although, in general principle, I support the administration of electric motorcycle racing being brought under the banner of the FIM, the FIM have had little practical interest in the TT, apart from sanctioning them as international events, since it lost its world championship status in 1990. Hence if the FIM succeeds in shouldering out TTXGP it’ll be down to the ACU and the IOM organisers to continue to run any electric TT as a stand alone event, without any direct support from or connection to the organisation of any international series. In this event, unless there was significant support, I don’t think an electric TT would continue, which I for one would find regrettable.

        In short whilst in principle I support the notion of bringing the admin under FIM control I don’t think it will be good for the electric TT.

        As for your other points: Yes electric motorcycle racing is tiny at the moment, but it has the potential to grow very large very quickly: just look at the growth in interest we’ve seen this year on the hard stuff and the dirt. As I said in my post I don’t think Azhar Hussain is deliberately trying to manipulate TTXGP for his own commercial ends, merely that the potential currently exists where the largest, and currently only, commercial producer of electric racing motorcycles controls the administration of the sport.

        I fully take your point re the FIM and MotoGP2, it should have been an open engine format, or at least a neutral supplier. Indeed the example I used of the AMA/DMG debacle amply illustrates that governing bodies can easily get there heads suck up their arses when they flirt with manufacturers, commercialism, and favouritism. And you only have to look at the FIA to see how bad that can get. But that’s sort of my point. With TTXGP/Mavizen we run the risk of developing a racing formula with the potential for that bias inherent from its inception, and surely that’s a worry.

        Cheers..!

        • Riddick

          Mike, Your point would only make sense if they were many companies selling electric racing bikes. If TTXGP policy is to allow anybody to race and the rules are open then where is the bias? Seems to me if Hussain didn’t have bikes to offer, he may not be able to support a series either.
          Whether its a smart move or not, time will tell. But it was proberbly a necessary one.

          FIM are bunch of sharks. the e-power championship deserves to fail. Everybody associated with it should be ashamed. This development is too important and too fragile to become victims of FIM bullsh*t.

  • St_Elmo's_Fire

    What strikes me is that if they could do this to TTXGP then why would they not to do this to anybody else?

    I don’t much care electric motorcycling have always loved World Superbikes) but you have to hand it to TTXGP for actually delivering.

    Thing is if the FIM is successful in shutting down TTXGP, then the idea that all we are left with is the FIM to try and develop this new sport is pretty bleak. At least the TTXGP crew are motivated to make this a success. The FIM, not so sure.

    To any teams who are considering joining the FIM, be careful making the pact with the beast. Given how they played Hussain, I imagine they would play anybody else too.

    Actually the more I think about it, the more it makes sense that the FIM fail for the good of the sport. It looks like if they had to steal to get it started then is that the kind of governing body who should be representing motorcycling?

  • http://muthalovin.com the_doctor

    Why anyone would pay to see a 2 wheel g-wiz race other g-wizes (hehe) is beyond me.

    /sarcasm

    FIM is scrupulous and dastardly. I only wish that Azhar Hussain would have realized that before doing all that work.

  • http://www.brammofan.com/ Brammofan

    My two favorite online motorcycle mags seem to be at odds with each other. Hellforleather seems pro-ttxgp, and asphalt&rubber seems, well, anti-ttxgp.
    I’m so confused.
    I just hope that Azhar doesn’t have a one-car accident some night after a fight with his wife. If that happens, then there is no Santa Claus.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      Well I think that’s symptomatic of the level of insight, knowledge and professionalism we apply to Hell For Leather.

      • http://www.brammofan.com/ Brammofan

        Oh, and don’t forget “modesty.” ;)

    • Manona Mission

      Anybody who has a clue about the FIM knows that the Asphalt & Rubber piece reads like it was written by somebody who was high. Surreal to read what sounded like a love note to the FIM.

      Was looking forward to some entertainment, but the A&R people seem to have shut up shop after Hussain’s rant. He sounded high too calling the writer a moron. Funny though.

  • http://www.suspectsunlimited.com Cru Jones

    While I can see valid points from both HfL’s and A&R’s views the reality is that none of us know the legality of the previous FIM/TTXGP partnership. Unless someone here is privy to that information then we’re all just speculating. While it would seem a bit strange of the FIM to decide to go it alone I’m surprised they formed the partnership in the first place. The FIM surely has the resources to quickly and easily get their regs and specs up to date. Apparently they’ve found a quicker, albeit shadier way.

    • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

      That’s not correct, since we interviewed both parties we are able to offer real insight into the partnership in the article above.

      • http://www.suspectsunlimited.com Cru Jones

        You were presented the legal docs pertaining to the partnership? I highly doubt that Wes. You may have more information than most, but I doubt you had access to the legal docs. If you did then I’ll kindly shut my mouth, otherwise, you’re just reinforcing my previous comment.

        • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

          Unfortunately I don’t think I can’t disclose what I have or have not seen, but the information in this article came from somewhere and specifically references that material. Sorry for the cloak and daggers, just protecting our asses and that of our source.

          • http://www.suspectsunlimited.com Cru Jones

            Well, I’ll end with this; if FIM did indeed ‘steal’ the series from TTXGP then there will legal ramifications. I’ll believe your claim when/if TTXGP has a legal suit successfully decided in their favor against the FIM. So, far I haven’t heard anything about legal actions, so that speaks for itself IMO.

            • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

              Well, I think we all know that the legal system doesn’t always work like it’s supposed to. Who can afford better lawyers, FIM or TTXGP? Something tells me TTXGP is going to focus on racing electric motorcycles, not spending years in court.

              • http://www.suspectsunlimited.com Cru Jones

                I was expecting that response and would have been disappointed if you hadn’t. ;) My response to your reply is this: That’s life. Deal with it. If TTXGP weren’t prepared for that then they shouldn’t have partnered with the FIM in the first place. IMO the TTXGP are either naive or incompetent not to think the FIM wouldn’t pull this kind of thing. Still, I’d expect TTXGP to at least get a small settlement if they had a decent legal agreement (which I’m still unconvinced of) and an ok lawyer.

                • http://hellforleathermagazine.com Wes Siler

                  Hey, I enjoy the conversations!

                  TTXGP is new to all this, they made a serious mistake partnering with FIM and it’s going to hurt them. But I know who I’m rooting for. (Hint: it’s not the same guys bringing us Moto2/The Honda Cup).

                • http://www.suspectsunlimited.com Cru Jones

                  “But I know who I’m rooting for. (Hint: it’s not the same guys bringing us Moto2/The Honda Cup).” That makes two of us. :)

  • Doug

    It’s clear the TTXGP’s inaugural season was a success. Undoubtedly, it’s considered the premier forum for electric motorcycle racing after just one season.

    The FIM has just two confirmed events and two events still in the air for 2010. It has no confirmed racers. It’s like they just woke up one November morning and decided to throw together a racing series.

    My money is with TTXGP.

  • http://www.electricbikeworld.co.uk Tim @ electric bikes

    I think they will lose a lot of respect from racing teams, and they will have a job finding sponsors too. Not many are going to want to sponsor a company that stabs people in the back.

  • George McGregor Wilson

    FIM stole the treasure bag (rules etc) and left TTXGP the treasure as all the major and the minor electric motorcycle manufacturers are coming on board wholesale. Financial blackmail of 500,000euros by FIM should match a settlement on intellectual property with TTXGP and a sensible uniting of both parties with the FIM still looking like fools.

  • http://www.waepoint.com/ waepoint

    Today’s rules, while important, are simply a starting point. Or more likely, an inflection point. eBike racing will have to evolve quickly and smartly to accommodate (and spur) innovation, while also promoting competitive races. It’s not a lock on who will be more successful in that effort, but I’d put my money on the enthusiasts (TTXGP) to move the sport forward successfully, and I’d expect the corporatists (FIM) to resist change or bungle the rules to favor select interests.

  • msc

    the future is electric…we’re all short-sighted with short memories…so i’m sure this all will pass (in time) and everyone will eventually be behind the singular organization that comes out on top….reminiscing about the TTXGP vs FIM vs TT Zero battle on the ‘Hell for Fuel Cell’ blog…hehe

  • http://akiza.com/java-egitimi james java kursu teacher

    The future is electric…we’re all short-sighted with short memories…so i’m sure this all will pass (in time) and everyone will eventually be behind the singular organization that comes out on top….reminiscing about the TTXGP vs FIM vs TT Zero battle on the ‘Hell for Fuel Cell’ blog…hehe

    just as !