After five runnings of the Isle of Man TT electric motorcycle race, four decades of progress had been achieved in four years.
After dominating all three practice sessions for the sixth running of the TT ZERO event setting a new lap record with every session, the Mugen Shinden San electric racebike delivered a clear 1-2 victory. Across the three sessions and race, average speeds have increased 6 mph, surpassing Joey Dunlop's 115.2 mph lap record from 1981 set on a Yamaha TZ750. It is very exciting to watch such massive progress being made in seemingly real time.
With four-time champions MotoCzysz staying away in 2014, the Isle of Man TT Zero race for electric motorcycles finally looks ready to fall to the Mugen Shinden San electric racebike, though the speeds continue to skyrocket past previous lap records with each session.
With two practices down for the 2014 TT Zero race, previous lap records from 1975 (Mick Grant Kawasaki KR750 two-stroke triple) and 1976 (John Williams Suzuki RG500 two-stroke square four) were obliterated.
In the third session, both Mugen teammates (John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey), broke all previous electric bike records with 115.597 mph and 113.642 mph respectively.
McGuinness' time beats both the 1980 and 1981 Joey Dunlop lap records set on a Yamaha TZ750 and Honda RSC1000 and represents a 6 mph improvement over the best time last year.
It's now down to energy management as to how quick the Mugen can go in the race. If it improves 50% as much again over the times posted in Q3, McGuinness or Anstey will reach 1984 levels (Dunlop on a Honda RS500 triple - an identical bike took Freddie Spencer to his first World 500cc title).
If it improves six seconds from Q3 to the race, it will reach 1989 speeds. Quite clearly we're seeing something very special evolve with each session of this event. Mugen is making significant progress every session and thanks to a quirk of fate, we are getting to see how many years of progress is being achieved by comparison with previous lap records.
In the electric bike R&D department, there appears to be massive development and while we know there has been collaboration with Mission Motors, it's not like Mugen doesn't know the odd thing or two about building race bikes. EVERY single part of the 2014 bike is different.
The 100 kW (134 hp) oil-cooled three-phase brushless motor now comes in a package that is lighter (though at 240 kg it’s not light), smaller and with improved aerodynamics.
Mission Motors has apparently been working with Mugen, though the extent of Mission’s involvement with the Mugen Shinden San is unclear.
Last month Mission’s Director of Powertrain Systems Engineering, Mark Sherwood announced the company was introducing some exciting new technology for the Mugen Shinden San race bikes. Sherwood said, "Our engineers have worked alongside Team Mugen Shinden to learn from their race data. For the 2014 Isle of Man TT, we have engaged in rapid new product development that truly raises the bar for electric motorcycles on and off the racetrack.”
The new Mugen Shinden San has an increased battery capacity and new control systems managing the immense torque of the motor which produces 162 ft.-lbs. of torque (220 Nm).
Accordingly, with none of the other elite electric bike teams in attendance, it appears to be a race between Mugen teammates John McGuiness and Bruce Anstey.
The institution that is TT Week on the Island continues and you can watch the action unfold through the official IOM TT site and listen to the races via the streaming TT Live radio.
As far as the evolution of the electric racebike, the lap record of the winning machine this year represents an increase of over 7 mph lap speed average of a 30 mile course - if this rate of progress continues, the electric racing motorcycle should reach parity (at least inside the curious confines of a single 30 mile stretch of road on an island off the coast of England) with the internal combustion engined motorcycle sometime in the next five years.
Power will not be an issue in bridging this gap as electric motors can be far more powerful than they are, far exceeding the 250 hp MotoGP bike output.
The limiting factor is storing the energy to power that engine.
Just a final note that the winning Team Mugen issued a statement to us during the week emphasising that the team is a Mugen internal programme and is not associated with Honda.