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Electric Racing — A Year In Review – Renewable Energy

Electric Racing — A Year In Review


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2023 has made it clear that electrified motorsports are here to stay, from pushing the boundaries on technology to putting on a great show, EV racing is taking a leadership role among all of elite sport — particularly in proving that these mass market, high drama sporting events can function sustainably and still be fun. As this motorsport season comes to an end and the year draws to a close, this is the best time to review some of the biggest milestones of the year for electrics in racing.

First, it is worth noting the single manufacture responsibilities of MotoE fell to the motorcycle powerhouse of Ducati. With this marquee at the helm came many benefits for the contest, including the appeal to bigger names in racing, thus elevating the competition. Because of this increase, they have attracted the participation of a greater number of venues, and with more venues comes more races contested, which has transformed the World Cup series into a full-blown World Championship. This rating change also serves to increase the cache among fans as well as attracting bigger talent and a larger pool of sponsorship dollars. Ducati has been able to field a stable of very competitive machines, and this year has seen a decrease in lap times while the racing competition has heated up. It was a win all the way around for MotoE.

While in four-wheel news, the Formula E season begins with an international seat at the table, as the organizing body and FIM have sent a delegation representing the series, its teams, and partners to attend the UN COP28 summit. They aim to call on all leaders in elite sport to “give it everything” in transitioning toward sustainability.

According to Formula E CEO Jeff Dodds, “Elite sport reaches a global audience of billions every week, athletes are among the most followed and influential people on the planet. Collectively, we have the potential to make positive changes for a more sustainable future and encourage fans to do the same. To use popular football manager parlance, we need to ‘give it everything’.”

With Formula E, the development of electric automotive and sustainability technologies has been pushed forward by leaps and bounds, with power output increased by some 75%, and these advancements are trickling down to consumer products, particularly through Jaguar and Audi. Not only this, but they have managed to put on a pretty good show in the process. Last season, they saw ever decreasing lap times, shattered records in overtakes and top speeds, and increased all-important attendance.

Arguably, however, the most impressive improvement in the world of electric motorsport was the outstanding success of Stefano Mesa on his Energica Eva Ribelle RS. What prompted a team like Tytlers Cycle Racing to choose to compete in a new racing class made for conventional gas-powered motorcycle is anyone’s guess. But compete they did, in the Super Hooligans class of naked standard motorcycles that run without the benefit of aerodynamics and is populated primarily by large displacement internal combustion machines manufactured by the likes of Harley Davidson, Indian, and KTM. This plucky little upstart of a racing team brought a Colombian national to the United States to race an electric bike against all these ICE cycles and created a sensation.

In the first set of races at the world-renowned Laguna Secca Raceway, Mesa qualified sixth on his Energica machine, putting him on the second row in front of so many of the other gas-driven motorcycles. Now come lights out on race day and Stefano Mesa on the #137 machine using the benefit of that instant electric power delivery to rocket himself to the front of the pack, getting the holeshot and becoming the first electric motorcycle to lead a race in front of internal combustion bikes. This was a huge step forward, not just for the electric racing contingent, but for the recognition of the competitiveness of the electric driven cycles in the racing world. Ultimately, Mesa was able to bring the race home in p6, maybe not the result he was working for, but still proving that he could hold his own on the track without the benefit of aerodynamic body work.

Stefano Mesa, on the Energica Eva Ribelle (#137), leading the pack at Laguna Seca.

This was a fantastic achievement, but not so fantastic as in the next outing, when in the heat of the Texas summer sun, Mesa and the Energica Ribelle RS were able to push themselves to a podium finish, a second-place finish that was achieved through grit and determination. Holding off large displacement racing machines and keeping himself in a position to capitalize on a late crash from one of the leading title contenders, he was able to step on the second step of the podium. This is the first time in the history of racing that an electric powered motorcycle was able to fight to the finish with the more conventional machines.

Overall, it was a great year for electrified motorsport. We have even seen the announcement from the NHRA (the official drag racing organization) that it will be bringing an electric class to its quarter-mile offerings very soon. So, it might be an appropriate time for all EV fans to get out there and find their local motorsport park or drag strip and support some electric vehicle racing.

By Michael Blaustein

Featured photo: The GENBETA electric race car set a new Guinness record this year for the fastest speed achieved by a vehicle indoors, with an assist from sustainable plastics from SABIC (photo courtesy of SABIC).

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