Photo: 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