Announcing eMotoRacing’s 2015 Varsity Challenge

Press Release

Announcing eMotoRacing’s 2015 Varsity Challenge

New Jersey Motorsports Park and eMotoRacing are pleased to announce that electric racebikes engineered and built by university students are invited to compete in the 2015 “Varsity Challenge” event held July 11 and 12.

Several engineering colleges around the nation are using the platform of zero emissions motorcycle racing to hone skills and advance technologies. eMotoRacing offers the opportunity for these students to compete on a big stage. The crucible of racing brings out our best.

There will be a $1,000 scholarship awarded to the winning team as recognition of their success.

During the 2014 season, Virginia Tech and the University of Calgary each fielded racebikes in eMotoRacing events; the teams and their racebikes were an exciting addition to these AHRMA sanctioned events.

The series travels to 10 of America’s finest racetracks, with the NJMP selected as a focal point for the collegiate teams.

NJMP hosts the 3rd Annual Vintage Motorcycle Festival that weekend, featuring road races, bike shows and a fine swap meet.

Be sure to save the dates and make plans to enjoy this one-of-a-kind “Varsity Challenge” eMotoRacing event…it should be interesting.

[cryout-button-color url=”″ color=”#47AFFF”]CLICK HERE to Register[/cryout-button-color]

A special thank you to the two teams which participated last year!  We look forward to seeing many more teams join the fray this year!

VT Bolt Riding Impressions

VT Bolt Riding Impressions
– July 2014

~By Arthur Kowitz

A zero-emissions bike hand-built by a team of engineers dedicated to perfection.

A zero-emissions bike hand-built by a team of engineers dedicated to perfection.

The Virginia Tech Bolt II Racing Team boldly rolled onto the New Jersey Motorsports Park roadrace track after a two year build and modest trackday testing…bringing with them some high expectations.

NJMP is a modern racetrack that poses the challenges of several tight and twisty sections, a few infield straights, plus a long front straight.

As the eMotoRacing series founder, promoter, and a series competitor, I was extremely excited to see the VT Team at our event.
Even though the competition in the ebike classes is a field of smaller bikes with limited power, roadracing rewards many things besides raw power.

The 3 day event consisted of a full practice day Friday, and a bit of practice Saturday morning followed by the race in the afternoon. Sunday’s schedule was like Saturday.

I watched the VT Team in practice from the seat of my Kawasaki Superbike, which was in the same practice group as the Bolt…it was clearly a struggle for the Bolt rider to keep roll speed up in any of the corners. Once momentum is lost in the corners, the speed potential of the ensuing straight is ruined. The Bolt was obviously fast, but lap times were slow.

Late in the day Saturday, after a 3rd place finish, the VT Team asked me to ride their bike and see what a rider with 40 years of racing experience could share with them.
I agreed.

Upon looking at the bike, it was clear that the front tire was not heating up…a quick tire temp check revealed a malfunctioning front tire warmer (whose job it is to pre-heat the tire before going onto the track, until racing action keeps it hot). Also noteworthy was that the rear tire was up to temperature, but not having power applied very hard while leaned over.
A quick visual inspection also revealed excess weight that could be trimmed. Items such as the thick and beefy rear brake rotor, which is barely used on a roadracer. Extra weight costs every time we accelerate, brake, turn, or even adjust a racing line.

My first laps on the Bolt were emphatic…3 things leaped out at me.

  1. This bike is very FAST
  2. The front brake rotors are bad…they chatter, eliminating any potential feel of the tire on pavement…unsuitable at a racing pace.
  3. The throttle transition from off to on was overly abrupt…a struggle to keep steady throttle.

Until the brakes are fixed, there will be no hard braking done while the bike is leaned over…which wastes much time as it requires braking to be done upright, hence shortening the straightaways and lengthening the corners.

Also important, when the bike is leaned hard into a corner and steady throttle needs to maintained, the bike wants to either go hard or decel hard making cornering clumsy and slow.

The Team took this feedback and reduced the regenerative braking by a whopping 75% to soften the abrupt throttle…much better, and now rideable. However, unsure if it is a side effect of the adjustments or if it existed before, a pronounced lag of a second or so exists upon opening the throttle, making it lazy off corners, and the coresponding lag of a second when cutting the throttle.

Heading down the track at 130+mph toward the sharp 90 degree right hand turn at the end, closing the throttle and waiting a second or 2 until the motor starts to drop power is unnerving. This condition seems to worsen a bit as the bike heats up…it could be that I was pressing harder on track and becoming more demanding.

Crisp and accurate operations are not only essential to control the bike, but give the rider confidence that he can do what is needed at any time…racing is a head game, and confidence rules.

There are several ways to steer a motorcycle: turn the handlebars, adjust throttle, apply footpeg pressure, apply (front or rear) brakes, adjust lean angle, and alter body position. With throttle adjustment and brake application untrustworthy, the other techniques would be used to maintain control. Too many compromises.

This is a big, fast bike…which suits me fine. My daily streetbike is a Kawasaki 1400 Concours which feels similar in size, heft, and power. I have hustled that Kawi around many mountain roads over the years and am comfortable doing so. Although the Bolt requires heavy force to turn the handlebars while cornering, it feels steady and stable. Once the throttle response issues are corrected, I believe it will corner fine with appropriate technique.

Now, to power and speed…the absence of a tachometer is detrimental. The motor feels as if it is just hitting its stride when it is time to shut off throttle for the next corner. Run the bike on a dyno…graph the power/rpm relationship, and gear it to maximize the rpm range. Otherwise the rider is guessing. I think it is over-geared and will accelerate better, cover ground faster, and have higher top speed with shorter gearing…but I’m still guessing without a dyno chart and tachometer.

Lastly, once the rider gets onto the bike, the sequence of powering up is too chancey…it would benefit from lights that prompt the process, avoiding any contactor or powering up issues.

In my opinion, it is a resounding success when a handbuilt prototype can go to a track, compete in battle, keep running all weekend, and improve from Friday morning through Sunday afternoon. Expecting perfection the first time out is lofty, but unrealistic.

Yes, we did grid up Sunday afternoon for the weekend finale. Most of the ebike field had left the event early for various reasons, so I was relegated to mostly racing 750cc gas bikes…OK with me.

Green flag is dropped and I jet away with all that power. Nice. As there was only a few bikes on the track, I could concentrate on the Bolt…each lap was a second faster than the one before, down to 1:48, which would have won the Saturday race. The VT Team was happy, I was happy, the Bolt was still in good shape…a good day at the track.

Riding and racing the VT Bolt was a challenge and a joy…hopefully I can do it again.

This bike has real potential.

~Arthur Kowitz

UPDATE: Check out the final results HERE!

About Arthur Kowitz: Kowitz was a pioneer and competitive privateer in AMA Superbike racing from the class’ inception in 1976 until 1982. A quarter-century later, he rode his venerable Kawasaki Z1 to the 2008 AHRMA Vintage Superbike Heavyweight Championship. In 2013, he competed on an electric Brammo Empulse TTX in the FIM eWorldCup Series at Laguna Seca Raceway and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

About Team Bolt as described on their website: “The BOLT team is dedicated to evolving electric vehicle technology through design, construction, and demonstration of a high performance electric motorcycle and as a competition based team strives for nothing but the best performance on the track. By challenging the standards of performance the team expects to increase the visibility of clean emissions motorsports while proving the viability of the technology itself.”

Race Results for New Jersey Motorsports Park

The Results for Race #7 Are In!

1st place….Arthur Kowitz, Brammo TTX, best lap time 1:49.290

2nd place…William Himmelsbach, Brammo TTX, best 1:50.362: 3.794 sec back

3rd place…Pete Nicolosi, Brammo Empulse R, best 1:50.608: 5.308 sec back from winner

4th place…Daniel Grabowski, VT Bolt prototype, best time N/A: 5.327 sec behind winner

5th place…Andrew Cowell, Brammo Empulse R, best time 1:50.105, crash lap 3

DNS…David Sadowski, Brammo Empulse R

CLICK HERE to read a pretty nifty Race Report on the first day by the leader of the pack

Bolting for the Hills…

Grabbing an Early Lead

We’re waiting for final results on this weekend’s races, but here is a fantastic video which showcases the power of the zero-emissions motorcycle built by the Virginia Tech’s BOLT team of engineers.  They started out strong, but did they hold the lead?  Find out soon!

CLICK HERE to check out more on Virginia Tech’s BOLT team at their facebook page.

Race #7 Report – First Day

New Jersey Motorsports Park, 1st Day
– July 12, 2014

~By Arthur Kowitz

New Jersey Motorsports Park is on a rural peninsula that looks more like North Florida than the New York-like place I expected. The locals were friendly, the racetrack facility was awesome, and the course was technical and grippy…my kind of place. Even though this was my first visit to NJMP, one practice day was enough to get up to pretty good speed, as the track is easy to learn the basics…late apex, decreasing radius. To really get good at it another practice day or 2 would help…oh well, I’ll do my best with one day.

With a few of our series regulars experiencing mishaps at the last race in Michigan, we didn’t expect many eMotoRacing entrants. To my pleasure and surprise there were a few last minute entrants, making for an interesting field.

There was a mix of Brammo Empulse Rs and TTXs, plus the exotic Virginia Tech Bolt II prototype. This beautiful e-racebike was built over a 2 year period by engineering students at VT.

A couple of the competitors were regulars at this track and were going real fast from the start, others had to learn the course, and a couple machines needed tweaking and tuning. Practice all day Friday and Saturday morning provided the opportunity.

Our eMotoRacing event was Saturday mid-afternoon. Two rows of electric bikes lined up in the second wave behind the first wave of 750cc gas-powered racers.

The first green flag is waved and the 750s roar away, we wait 10 seconds (seems like 5 minutes) before we get our flag to start…….WOW, what a sobering sight…most of us leap off the line in a very spunky and competitive group, but that ‘Bolt jets away from the line like a missle !!…not even close, that thing is FAST!

The rest of our fairly even group of ebikes takes only a few corners before we start catching the back markers of the 1st wave…as we close in and pick spots for passing, things get tense. Some of the gas bikes are searching for a fast line, while our pack of ebikes joust each other, trying to avoid a mishap with the gassers. We all want to clear traffic and chase after the ‘Bolt…this is big fun.

My reflex was to be very aggressive and push my way through, take a few risks and go after the ‘Bolt…but I resist, concluding that an 8 lap race need not be won on the 1st lap or 2, just don’t lose sight of the leader. My prudence hurts in the short run as 3 of the other Brammos push by me… I was blocked in by a bellowing pair of gassers.

Two or three corners later the gassers are dispatched and I set after the ebikes ahead of me…one was run down on the front straight, I drafted the next one and passed him at the top end of the straight…the TTX ahead of me and the ‘Bolt were still moving out, but within reach…remain disciplined I reminded myself, race the track, not the people…good advice until you get into traffic.

I could see the ‘Bolt was having trouble managing the tight esses and switchbacks that comprise much of the course. The TTX rider stalked him and passed for the lead, I followed around the ‘Bolt as well.

By now, a couple of laps have passed and we come up onto more 750cc gassers from wave one. As I worked the traffic and watched the TTX ahead of me, it appeared that the experienced pro rider on the TTX was getting into a groove with clear track ahead. Still half a race left, and some work yet to do.

One of the safest places to pass a fast rider is on the inside at end of a straight. Pull along side and see who gets out of the throttle first…hold it WFO, wait until your foe cuts the throttle, hold it a flash longer and take his line into the corner at the straight’s end. This doesn’t always work…if he holds it open real deep, taking the upper hand going into the corner, his cutting across my front wheel could crash me out while not upsetting himself…can’t let that happen. I pull along inside him, commited to out-waiting him. He doesn’t expect me to be there…

Arthur Kowitz on his Brammo TTX

Arthur Kowitz on his Brammo TTX

I have now had my Brammo TTX for a full year and have massaged it to my liking. It works just the way I want… accurate, sharp, and predictable.

He checks up, I hold it open and take the lead…this is what I was working for, a clear track ahead. No distractions, remain focused and disciplined…This is fun, tucking in tight behind the fairing, scrubing speed by throwing the bike sideways going into turns, using body english to control sharp lines on corner exit…just feeling good and enjoying the moment.

Thanks for coming along with me on this exciting 20 mile ride!
We have another round tomorrow, who knows what that will bring…

~Arthur Kowitz

UPDATE: Check out the final results HERE!

About Arthur Kowitz: Kowitz was a pioneer and competitive privateer in AMA Superbike racing from the class’ inception in 1976 until 1982. A quarter-century later, he rode his venerable Kawasaki Z1 to the 2008 AHRMA Vintage Superbike Heavyweight Championship. In 2013, he competed on an electric Brammo Empulse TTX in the FIM eWorldCup Series at Laguna Seca Raceway and at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.