Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sun 1st May, 2011

TTXGP Round 1 - Wakefield Park

On Saturday afternoon I rode up to Wakefield Park for the first round of the TTXGP in Australia - the electric motorbike racing series. I joined Tony, who is also building an electric motorbike and who had ridden up the day before. (Aside: riding the GS-500 long distance isn't really comfortable, and what is it with all these people that do 120Km/hr? Here's a hint, going that much faster will get you a fine and waste a lot of petrol but won't get you there any appreciable amount faster). We were staying at the on-site cabins, a cheap accomodation for race crews, which was simple, clean and pretty decent. The Formule One is not as nice, and a bit more expensive. But anyway.

I got to meet the team from Catavolt, who've been putting together a race bike and had set the record (for a while) for land speed on an electric motorbike. They're running a forced-air cooled version of the Enertrac hub motor I'm using, and are looking at the dual coil version. Team Ripperton lead by Daniel (who finally got sick of all the usual hassles of petrol engines and decided to go electric) was also there, as was Anthony, the guy (I think) who's making the electric drag car up in Sydney. Going out to dinner with them was an experience - this is car talk as you'd hear in any Goulburn pub, but fully technical and all about electricity and construction. Then back to the cabin to talk more technical stuff before bed.

Next day after a cobbled-together breakfast I walked down to where the two groups had set up. There was a lot of checking chargers, checking voltages, checking duct-tape (called 'race tape' to make it sound more authentic) and general talk. The two teams knew eachother fairly well and they obviously got on together. The biggest problem was trying to get a good supply of power - the various circuit breakers on power boards and in the shed kept on tripping as the chargers sucked down the power, competing with the tyre warmers and compressors and so forth. Finally (oh, the irony) they set up a petrol-driven generator to get clean, reliable power.

The really interesting thing was that each group had many things in common but many differences. Ripperton's bike is a Mars brushless DC motor with an A123 60AH battery pack; Catavolt uses the Enertrac motor with a Headway 38120S pack. Voltron over in Perth runs two Agni brushed DC motors with a prefabbed pouch cell battery. I suspect as we get more entries - and I'm told there will (hopefully) be six different teams competing in the next race event - we'll just see more combinations of motors, battery technologies and controllers. That's the fun of it!

The actual racing was, let's be honest, not particularly exciting. Two bikes on a 2.2Km circuit was never really going to be dramatic, and with both teams running fairly conservative throttle limits, the acceleration and top speed were sedate compared to the regular petrol bikes - around 110Km/hr top speed and 1:22 lap times for the Ripperton bike. There were a few worrying things - the Enertrac motor heating up enough to smoke the anti-corrosion compound in the motor, the controllers switching off for a variety of reasons - that made all of us that were really keen to see the bikes do well cringe momentarily. Yet for the most part it seems to have gone quite well - both crews had literally finalised their bikes in the last week before the race and were trying new things, and with no major component failures or crashes they'll be improving and perfecting for next time.

And I have to say that if that's the future of racing, then bring it on! A race where I can speak at a normal volume while competitors fly by six feet away? Awesome! The Catavolt made the barest whisper of tyre and slip-stream noise as it went by - the Ripperton bike with its chain drive was only slightly noisier. We've come to see howling exhausts as a manifestation of power, but really that's just lots of wasted energy. Light the tyres up in burn-outs, pull wheelies on the straight, and do faster times than other people - that's the real show of power. It's going to be awesome!

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