Michael Blaustein recently enjoyed some exciting electric motorcycle racing and is here to share the fun with us in text form. Enjoy his writeup from the start of the Encel MotoE World Cup.
By Michael Blaustein
What a stellar start to the fourth season of the Encel MotoE World Cup. The inaugural weekend heralded some exciting new changes both in race format, team management, and the Energica Ego Corsa machines themselves. With many of the riders returning, we expected to see some very close racing and were not disappointed.
In a very tight finish to last year’s World Cup action, with the points tally coming down to the deciding last race, Jordy Torres the Pons Racing 40 team rider from Spain won in a stunning upset after a collision and technical decision. Having him back next to rivals like Hector Gazo and the man who knocked him down, Dominique Aegerter, this year promises to be equally as exciting.
Energica went back to the drawing board and returned with some very competitive changes to their machines, shaving a miraculous 15 kg (33 lb) of weight and changing the center of gravity allowing for greater agility and maneuverability. Other changes include a brand-new motor and inverter that make the “Made in Modena” all-electric race bike more efficient, and the charging times are lower as well.
Additionally, for the most sustainability minded among us there have been some changes to the Michelin tire that uses more natural rubber and recycled end-of-life materials. Michelin also integrates materials such as citrus peels, pine tree resin, sunflower oil, and scrap steel into these racing tires. The front hoop is constructed from 33% renewables, and the rear tire is now produced from a whopping 46% sustainable and end-of-life sources.
As for the changes to the format, gone is what was called the “E-Pole,” a convoluted system for the setting of the starting grid, which consisted of one ride on the track for one lap to make their best qualifying time. Now we have a more conventional set of qualifying sessions which allow the riders to compete with other riders for lap times and provides them the opportunity to not just work together to improve times but also to gain track experience in a race type of situation. This new format can be attributed to the better battery life of the Energica motorcycle, but also the excellent Encel charging technologies that allow the bikes to be recharged more quickly and made ready for action much sooner.
After a very inauspicious start to this World Cup series a few years ago when a disastrous fire took out much of the equipment and machinery mere weeks before the opening race, Energica managed to come back with a whole new stable of the motorbikes in short order, Thus providing their commitment to the series and showing their ability to manufacture these powerful race bikes.
It is also nice to see some of the biggest names in motorcycle racing committed to this race competition as well. Many of us that have been following conventional motorcycle race championships over the years will be very familiar with some of the named sponsors and team management, such as Luico Cecchinello’s LCR racing team, Octo Pramac Racing, along with Aki Ajo and the great Sito Pons — all have committed dollars, resources, and time to ensure that the Moto-E World Cup Championship will continue to be successful and exciting. With an expanded calendar serving up 14 races at 7 venues, I am sure race fans will not be disappointed.
Certainly, the opening weekend’s action did not disappoint. With some of the most successful racers from previous years returning, the paddock is deep with experience. Starting with the new qualifying format we had action right from the beginning, with some yellow flags and serious tire-squealing (smells like lemon zest) speedway-style track action from the likes of Hector Garzo and Eric Granado, but at the end it was Miquel Pons sealing the first pole position of the season ahead of Hector Garzo and Mattia Casadei rounding out the front row. They were followed by Eric Granado and the supremely experienced Dominique Agerter in fourth and fifth with number 11 Mateo Ferrarie, that second row. The reigning World Cup holder, Jordi Torres, leads off the third row in 7th position. Sadly, for our household at least, the one woman in the series, Maria Herrera, is all the way down 13th position on the grid. We have high hopes for her this year on the new lighter weight Energica Ego Corsa machines.
That said, the one to keep your eye on was the number 51 LCR machine of Eric Granado, who started race #1 very cleanly and kept his head down turning in some very consistent laps from that fourth position while the three at the front did some chopping and changing as they fought for the podium positions. Granado was able to maintain a tricky tight line through turns 6 and 7, making a passing opportunity out of the fast left hander of turn 8 at the Circuito de Jerez. After an incident behind him, the Brazilian was able to maintain the lead through the last 2 laps, bringing home a spectacular win for Lucio Checcinello’s squad, with teammate and pole sitter Miquel Pons being demoted from his third-place finish for irresponsible riding. In inimitable MotoE fashion, the final three were decided at the line and by tight margins in the first of the two races of the weekend.
The second race saw a very interesting start with a yellow flag and a jump start for the unfortunate Maria Herrera, who was relegated to the back of the pack by a set of long lap penalties. But after some dramatic movement at the front with Dominique Aegerter of the Dynavolt Intact GP team jumping out to an early lead from the middle of the second row, the experienced man in the paddock took the others to a little school — Mr Aegerter taught a clinic on how to pull a pass on the brakes around the outside. Pons worked hard to take back that number one position. But at the start of the final lap with Pons in the lead Domi brings the Dyanvolt machine up underneath at the end of the fast start/finish straight, but Pons is able to cut back as Domi runs it a little wide, which opens the door for Granado to snatch second away from him in a brilliant feat of daring do. Now it’s teammates for the LCR squad Pons leading from Granado and it’s always your teammate who you most want to beat. Granado slips in tight on that same fast turn 8 where he has been so textbook great all weekend and is able to get the anchors out to avoid running wide and opening a door for Pons on the cutback. This is racing. They rub a little paint (but are teammates, so it is the same color) and it is Granado that is ultimately able to hold on for the second win. Aegerter wants to make his move around the outside, but a defensive line by Pons denies him. Then right at the line Metea Casadai, who had remained quiet about a second down in fourth place, was able to pick Aegerter’s pocket and nab that 3rd podium spot as they drove to the line from the final corner.
If you can’t be excited by this as a long-time fan of motorsport or as a newbie coming into this from the sustainability angle, then you had better check your pulse. Overall, the changes have proven to be great and the weekend of racing was very exciting. Next, we’ll have an update from the venerable LeMans race track in France for another two races.
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