Steve Rapp and David Salguero on lapping the Mission R on par with 600s

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Two weekends ago, San Francisco-based startup Mission Motors made history when rider Steve Rapp lapped Laguna Seca in 1:31.3. That’s a new record for electric vehicles of any kind and would have put them 5th on that weekend’s AMA Supersport grid. Steve went on to win the race, utterly blowing away competition from MotoCzysz, Lightning and Brammo. Two days ago, we talked to Steve and our old buddy, Mission marketing guru David Salguero, about that achievement.

On finishing 40 seconds ahead of MotoCzysz in an eight lap race.
David: “The Mission R is a bike that was conceived at a system level to perform well at the track. You basically start from a clean sheet and say ‘what is gonna make this bike the fastest?’ Distinct from every other bike on the grid, we do not use any off-the-shelf powertrain components.”

“We’re using our own stuff and our own stuff is about as power and energy dense as it comes. We have 14KwH of battery on that bike, which is 2 less than what’s in a Chevy Volt. It’s a LOT of battery.”

“So James Parker’s Chassis allows for 14kWh of our technology, but it also gives us that 55º of lean angle that Steve uses every degree of. Really you just have to start from the top and use the lightest and most powerful tech or the smallest and more powerful tech.”

“You need a rider that’s really consistent to be able to dial in that powertrain. Steve has ridden everything under the sun and knows how to dial something in and how to be consistent.”

A slow start.
Steve: “The first time I rode the Mission R was at Thunderhill maybe a few months ago and, to be honest with you, I wasn’t impressed at all.”

“They had it setup really mild and they didn’t tell me a lot of stuff at the beginning, cause I don’t need to know everything, they just wanted to make sure everything was working.”

“They said ‘don’t worry, we have it in a safe mode right now. There’s a lot more power we can pull out of it.’”

“So then we rode it at Buttonwillow and it was a lot better than the first time. A lot better. It worked great and they kept adding power to it and all the stuff they needed to do and then we went to an electric vehicle race at Laguna, Refuel, and it really started to come alive there. It was really starting to run fast, and the power was better and we were getting the suspension to work better.”

Electric tuning.
David: “That’s kind of how we develop our electric powertrains. That bike does have our very latest technology in it. When you’re bringing it up, you set a threshold and once everything is running ok, you bring it up a notch and repeat. That’s how we were able to drop a full ten seconds between Refuel and the TTXGP. Every time we hit another threshold reliably, we’d say we can turn up the wick a little bit. We’ve got this stuff called cell-to-server software that looks at all the parameters in real time; the temperature of each battery cell and all that kind of stuff. It’s that kinda game.”

Steve: “It’s unheard of. It’s never happened to me and I’ve never heard of it happening in motorcycle racing, that you can drop ten or eight seconds.”

“In racing, in the past, it’s like you’re looking for tenths and maybe one second at the most, not ten seconds. It’s cool that you can make that much progress.”

Photos: Scott Jones/Mission

David: “Brammo rider Steve Atlas asked us, ‘where the hell did you guys find that many seconds? Where did that come from?’ And we just kinda pointed to our guy that had a laptop connected to the bike and went, ‘Yep, it’s right there.’”

Steve: “I was working on the spring rates and different tire compounds, different brake pads, etc. And, by the end of that electric vehicle challenge at Laguna, I was really feeling good and enjoying riding the bike. Then we rode it one more time at Buttonwillow and they got it going even faster. Then I was really starting to be impressed by it to the point where I wanted to ride it more and more.”

“There’s nothing coming up right now and I’m bummed because I wanna ride the bike because it’s such a fun bike to ride. I like using analogies to compare things, but I can’t because there’s just nothing really like it out there.”

“It’s not the novelty or the newness of it, it’s just how easy it is to ride and the way the power comes on. There’s no shifting with your feet or hands and you have a lot of time just to worry about riding the bike. You’re not worrying about the gearing and all the other things that go with gas bikes.”

Lapping on par with 600s.
David: “I think this was really the year where general motorcycle and vehicle enthusiasts started to take notice. We had our other bike on display all weekend out in front of the Pro Italia booth and people just kept coming up, asking educated questions about kWh, regenerative braking, all those things. People are starting to understand what these things are and it’s no longer people saying things like ‘oh, do you put cards in the spokes?’ and stuff like that. People are genuinely interested and they look at the bike and they’re impressed.”

A little on regen.
David: “We put about one percent of the total energy used back into the pack through the use of regen. That number is particuarly low due to rider preference – Steve asked to have it turned down low. But it’s representative of the fact that, in a race bike application, regen is more for feel and balance than for putting energy back in. It’s really a sort of traditional engine braking kind of feel and that’s a tunable parameter.”

Riding an electric through The Corkscrew.
Steve: “Actually, it’s easier to accelerate because you don’t have to shift gears now. There’s nothing hard or awkward. If anything, it’s actually easier to ride because of that. It’s just one gear, smooth power, there’s no hits in the powerband like you have with a gas engine, it’s easy to maintain partial throttle, everything. It’s just so fun to ride.”

“There’s only one difference. And the shifting is no big deal, that’s easy. Anybody can ride a bike and not shift. That wasn’t hard to get used to. Riding the bike, the way it feels, the way it turns, the way it leans, none of that feels out of the ordinary. The only thing that I’ve noticed that would catch anyone off guard is the weight of it [545lbs]. So when you come in to a corner, you definitely notice that you’re braking quite a bit earlier that you normally would.”

“Anybody could jump on the bike and ride it easily, safely and that would be the only thing would really notice. When they came back I bet they’d say, ‘oh, it feels a little heavy when you try to stop it.’ That’s it.”

Electric speed.
David: “The bike is, theoretically, according to all our logging and logarithms and stuff, capable of over 160mph. Again, the electric motorcycle race is basically one big multi-variable mathematical equation where you take into account speed versus corner speed versus range versus all this other kind of stuff, so to say get to a lower top-speed more quickly, is a more efficient way to get good lap times than to go extremely fast and get hard on the brakes. I think the 133 was a safe lower limit of what the bike can do.”

The Mission team, that’s David on Steve’s right.

When you’ll be able to buy one.
David: “There’s no plans right now for a road bike. Mission is all about technology. We got a bunch of people that are doing things here with electric powertrains and batteries and electric motors and software running the stuff that hasn’t been done before. That’s what we do best. We don’t do distribution, we don’t do volume vehicle manufacturing here. It’s just not what we do. We’re not gonna focus on that, we’re just gonna focus on what we do best.”

“We’re really, as a company, focused on the OEM car stuff. We’re getting so much traction there and it’s really actually kind of exciting for us and for a lot of people at this company, which is growing a ton. There’s 35 of us now. People are passionate about making an impact on the world here and getting thousands, or tens of thousands or even more powertrains out there is one way to have a real massive impact for a company of this size, so that’s really what we’re focused on right now.”

What’s next.
David: “Setting AMA 600 lap times was the thing to and we’re just trying to think of what’s next and we think the Mission R is the bike to do it and Steve Rapp is the guy to ride it. We’re gonna keep thinking creatively about that.”

Steve: “What I’ve proposed actually to Edward, who’s the founder and owner of Mission Motors is, ‘We can go race all these other electric bikes, but at this point it’s not really gonna be much of a race.’ I think the next frontier for us is going to a race and racing some gas bikes. I honestly think we can beat them. That’s what I’d like to see.”

“Even at Laguna, before we went out on track, they were joking around over the loudspeaker and then it seems like now, I honestly think that this bike and this company have changed the way everybody thinks. They can’t say anything about a bike that can beat theirs. I honestly think this was an historical event for electrical vehicles in a lot of ways and I think it’s just gonna keep progressing.”

“I could see these bikes in the next five to ten years, maybe less, going faster than some of the fastest gas bikes. Last year the lap record was a 43 and this year we did a 31, so it was 12 seconds in one year. Can you imagine if we did that again? We’d be going faster than the MotoGP bikes.”

  • Sean Smith

    Though the law of diminishing returns almost certainly applies here, I think the Mission is probably the first electric bike to be designed from the ground up to go really fast. Yes, the E1PC is nice to look at, but there are obviously still some big issues if it got beat by 40 seconds. Hopefully the Mission R will force everyone else to step up their game a bit. I wonder what electric racing would be like if Chip Yates decided to build his own chassis?

    • rohorn

      Considering the team that designed and built that bike, we are not looking at a dead end effort that has peaked.

      • Sean Smith

        Exactly why I’m on here stoking the fire. I’m in somewhat of a hurry to get my hands on a 200 mph missile that sounds like a muted tie-fighter crossed with a light cycle.

        • http://www.pedalgents.com holdingfast

          ^this! (!!!!)

          • JaySD

            Curious to see how Brammo? new bike that actually shifts gears ends up comparing

  • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

    Besides being the fastest bike out there at Laguna, the Mission folks were some of the most approachable and hospitable people in the electric paddock. Who else would consider inviting some hack known as “Brammofan” to the company campsite overlooking the corkscrew for a barbecue? David Salguero and Jit Bhattacharya, the CEO, did a stand-up job in the announcer’s booth during qualifying on Saturday. A little bit of Mission PR and a lot of EV education. At one point the announcer said something like, “we’ve basically reached the limit of motor and battery technology and probably can’t get any better than where we’re at.” Jit cut in and said, “Actually, it’s the exact opposite of what you just said…” SNAP. It was a moment for the electric motorcycle racing history books, for sure. So great to be there and feel a part of something bigger than all of us.

  • http://krtong.com KR Tong

    The technological achievement is awesome, but a 545 lb bike lapping laguna seca in 1:31? Not for 18 laps. Even if you had the battery power, what about the rider? I just don’t believe it.

    Also im curious who Mission’s industrial design team is, because that bike sure is pretty. And has the technology in batteries plateaued? I’ve heard a lot of people say we’ve reached the end of the line.

    • Joe

      Maybe traditional lithium ion batteries (thats a big maybe), but battery technology as a whole have potential that is just now being explored. Just like lithium ion replaced nickel hydride, we will see a ton of cool stuff come out with different battery compounds and materials.

      To say batteries have reached the end of the line today would be like saying that internal combustion engines reached their peak in 1910.

      • Sauciér

        Why not explore a wireless induction system? On a track (which is the perfect environment) such a system would be great to cut down on weight and get the bike around for the requisite number of laps.

        Check out: http://tinyurl.com/3tpepab

        • http://krtong.com KR Tong

          Thats what im stirring the pot for! There’s other battery technology, but for consumers it does seem like lithium-ion is the end of the road. Wireless electricity on a track seems like it COULD be possible. Here’s that talk on TED

          • Samuel

            End of the road? That is ridiculous. Development of technology throughout history follows the same path. Breakthrough, incremental improvements, breakthrough, incremental improvements…

            There are small improvements to Li-Ion being discovered in universities and labs all over the world that will continue to improve the technology at a steady pace, particualarly for the consumer.

            Computers were once considered “Business Machines” because they would never be affordable for the general consumer. Ask Steve Jobs or Bill Gates how they made out betting against that one.

    • Sean Smith

      I’m sure it’s quite a bit different than riding a 545 lb bike that weighs that much because there’s a passenger on the back of it. Just run slightly wider bars and take appropriate lines. So long as the tires hold up, it shouldn’t be much of a challenge.

      • http://krtong.com KR Tong

        True. I have a 610 lb bike and the bars make a difference, but so does it’s soft suspension, low ground clearance, and skinny tires, so its hard to imagine it ever running as fast as my F4i. Is there any precedence for any bike of that weight running as fast as an AMA 600? Serious question. Cant find anything about it on the googles.

  • LawBreaker

    The Mission R was awesome to watch at Laguna. Quite simply put.. “That bitch rips”..!

    • Sean Smith

      Hey! New username! That’s the first step to becoming a regular commenter.

  • Erok

    I’m glad there is something out there that is competing against the e1pc, and winning. You never know what’s going to happen, adds an element to this burgeoning sport!

  • Dylan

    I was working the corner at the entrance to turn 3 and it was absolutely amazing to see the Mission R lap. Before the race started all the other guys in my corner kept making many of the same jokes as in this article. “they better put playing cards between the spokes otherwise we wont know its a hot track till they are on us!” Of course we all laughed, only having the previous years performances to judge off of. You should have seen the looks on everyones faces when #17 comes ripping out of turn 2 faster than anyone expected. Honestly one of the best moments of the trip haha.

  • Scott-jay

    Mission makes sense.
    Thank-you, Steve & David.
    Turn-on its traction control technology!

  • super20

    545 is a bit porky for a race bike but I’m guessing the handling doesn’t change as the “tank” drains like on a gas bike.

  • Rick

    Mission seems to have the best e-bike out there presently, and they certainly have the field’s top rider in Steve Rapp- given identical machinery he’d be SECONDS per lap faster than Mike Czysz, maybe many seconds. I think a fair percentage of that laptime reduction belongs to simple rider talent!

    • Dylan

      You do know that Michael Czysz is/was an instructor at the Skip Barber Superbike School which is held at Laguna Seca right? Hes definitely no slouch and I think the parity between those riders would be quite different then you think

      • Rick

        Even so, he’s probably 3-4 seconds a lap slower around Laguna Seca than Rapp…minimum. A professional racer’s edge will be sharper than someone who is on the track part-time. That isn’t being disrespectful, just realistic.

      • Sean Smith

        Back in 2000, Steve Rapp rode a Vance & Hines built Ducati 996 AMA superbike abound Willow Springs in 1:19:029.

        To put into perspective just how blazing fast that is, that was back when superbike racing was 750 fours and 1000cc twins. Eleven years later, when 220 hp BMWs are running around out in beautiful Rosamond, that time still stands.

        That’s not to say Michael Czysz is a talentless hack (he’s not), just that Steve Rapp’s ability shouldn’t be discounted.

  • michael

    Steve definitely rode better than I did at Laguna, Though we were faster on the straights, his corner speed was higher… at Laguna, that is key.

    First- Steve is a professional racer and not the team owner, I on the other hand, am the team owner (amongst other company duties like CEO and tire carrier) and not a professional racer. But the greatest disparity in our lap times came down to testing and development. Mission’s bike was completed before I even started the design on the 011′ E1pc (which occurred over the Christmas break in 2010) we never rode the machine until the IOM and I only rode the new bike once during a test we had at PIR just before Laguna, all in all, the bike and had less than 30 miles together before the race. I believe if we would have had one more session I could have at least cut the deficit in half as the settings on the bike were still not ideal during the race.

    While at Laguna we experienced all the typical set backs and more; no/intermittent brakes during Q (and had the save of the weekend thru the T1 gravel trap at 150mph) and had to work thru tires and suspension settings in two short sessions. As some of you may know the suspension on this years E1 is totally new and it took some time for me to feel confident/believe in the front (always a problem when you are the designer…doubt can creep in and problem solving can take over, needless to say a little distracting when racing) All that said and excuses aside, I think the greatest difference between Rapp and I was context, or should I say ‘historical perspective’. Rapp coming fresh of lapping his BMW S1000RR was probably riding around thinking ‘I can’t believe how slow I am going’, I on the other hand, having ridden eMotos from the beginning (i.e. slow ones) rode around thinking ‘I can’t believe how fast we are going’. I had a blast and would not have wanted to give up my seat during such a great race weekend for anything.

    Prior to The next race we will get another 15 laps of testing in, additionally I will have a friend/professional on the bike at Miller, allowing both of us to fully concentrate on our own individual tasks at hand. I hope all the teams will come to Miller, I expect an even greater battle and… a different outcome.

    Michael Czysz

    • Rick

      Very candid! The rider is such a big variable in motorcycle racing.

    • Dr. Gellar

      Great news to hear that you guys will be in Utah for the TTXGP finale. Best of luck to you!

    • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

      awesome! I’m so glad you’ll have the bike at Miller. I wish I could be there.

    • T Diver

      Are you still working on gas bikes? (I saw the special about you on TV a year or two ago. It was one of the most inspiring things I have seen. Ever. Keep it up.) And send some pick of people doing wheelies on the bike. Everybody likes wheelies.

    • Zach

      Can’t wait to see EV racing at Miller.

  • Dr. Gellar

    I’m very impressed by what Mission and Steve Rapp have done. Watching the electric race at Laguna near Turn 4, it was stunning how fast Rapp had the Mission R flying through that corner, and how badly he was beating everyone else. As a MotoCzysz fan, I’m hoping this defeat will push MotoCzysz, and the other top teams as well, up to the next level and match the performance of Mission’s effort. It will only make electric road-racing that much better.

    Pretty cool too to see a rider the caliber of Rapp excited by the potential of what may soon come from electric racing motorcycles.

  • Devin

    Any word on how Michael U’s Amarak motorcycle did? I thought they were going to debut it at Laguna.

    • http://www.brammofan.com Brammofan

      Amarok was not at Laguna, unfortunately.

      • Clark

        Any word on his plans?
        I am excited to see how he does. I like his philosophy very much.

        • T Diver

          Me too. Could they not get the triple clamp made? WTF.

  • http://www.firstgenerationmotors.blogspot.com Emmet

    So James Parker is on the team? Does that mean we can expect an ebike with RADD front suspension? :D

  • http://www.postpixel.com.au mugget

    Awesome to see how far EV performance has come in one year. And great to see a talented and dedicated team pushing it even further… but no plan for road bikes? Will they sell components/bikes to another company for distribution? Because this all means absolutely nothing to me if I can’t buy one…

  • Isaac

    @mugget

    Totally agreed, I’d be happy with a Mission R or a Czysz E1 in my garage.

  • http://pinkyracer.com pinkyracer

    Great interview, Sean! I’m concerned about their focus on selling IP. So they sell this great powertrain to one of the Big 5. Then, as has happened many times in the past, that automaker could just sit on it until gas hits $20/gallon or never. Meanwhile, those of us who want fast electric motorcycles are left out in the cold while the hottest new tech becomes obsolete. They won’t be “changing the world” unless their contracts clearly stipulate when/how the patents they sell are to be used. Better to do like Brammo and partner with larger suppliers and manufacturers.

  • CG

    It was interesting to see the difference a real racer makes, but, as one who was there, god what a dull race after the 2 lap bemusement factor ended. It was fun to try to come up with the music that the bikes should be playing since all you could hear was chain noise. Of course, if they were blasting music over built in stereos, it would have been a four lap race. Maybe next year force all the teams to hire pro racers so the last place rider won’t look like he is riding like I do (virgin knee pucks!).

    • protomech

      Electric motorcycle racing will survive the lack of engine noise, though it certainly changes the nature of the spectacle. Some fans of gas bikes will never be interested, and the sport will pick up fans that would never be interested in gas bikes. And that’s fine.

      Luge, tennis, soccer, bicycle racing.. none of these things have high-volume noise (fan noise, yes!), yet they can be deeply engrossing to observe.