In a rare example of electric and internal-combustion motorcycles competing head-to-head, two teams will field electric motorcycles this weekend in the Roland Sands Designs 2022 Super Hooligan National Championship as part of the MotoAmerica round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
After test sessions last week, MotoAmerica cleared two teams to run electric bikes in the third and final roadrace in the Super Hooligan series. Tytlers Cycle Racing will field an Energica Eva Ribelle RS piloted by Stefano Mesa, while Zero Motorcycles engineer Kenyon Kluge will compete aboard a modified Zero SR/F. The race will mark two firsts for MotoAmerica: the first time electric motorcycles will race and the first time electric bikes will compete against gas-powered machines, said MotoAmerica spokesperson Sean Bice.
The new electric Energica and Zero entrants will contend with internal-combustion, twin-cylinder naked bikes that usually compete in the series, such as the KTM 890 Duke, Ducati Hypermotard 950 SP and Indian FTR 1200. Andy DiBrino on a KTM narrowly leads the series over Cory West and Tyler O'Hara on Indians.
Neither of the electric entries are official factory efforts by Energica or Zero, but both are experienced. The Energica Eva Ribelle RS piloted by Mesa, a past race winner in the MotoAmerica Supersport class, is supported by Tytlers Cycle Racing, a new Energica dealer located in Wisconsin that has joined the MotoAmerica series in a big way in 2022. Energica is lending some technical advice to Tytlers, brought over from its experience as the first supplier to the MotoE racing series that runs in conjunction with MotoGP. As for the Zero entry, Kluge has been racing his electric race bike in amateur series. Though it's not a factory effort, the company said in a statement that "Zero has always supported the grassroots racing activities of our employees."
While it's too late in the season for the electric teams to vie for the 2022 Super Hooligans National Championship, they will be competing straight up against the gas-powered bikes in the race. The Super Hooligans race will take place at noon Sunday Pacific time and you can watch it for free at MotoAmerica's Facebook page or at motoamerica.tv.
More E in 2023?
The debut of electric motorcycles in a MotoAmerica race is certainly novel but will it lead to more electric competition in the future? MotoAmerica spokesperson Bice said there are no firm plans — as of yet — for expanded participation of electric bikes or a separate class for the 2023 season.
Though an electric Alta raced against an internal-combustion bike in Red Bull Straight Rhythm years ago, and Monster Energy Supercross switched its junior invitational program to the electric KTM SX-E-5 in 2021, AMA-sanctioned motorcycle racing in this country is still largely an octane-only affair. The most visible electric motorcycle racing is the FIM MotoE Worldcup, an all-electric class connected to MotoGP. Energica is winding down its status as the spec supplier to that series this year. Ducati will take over with its own MotoE spec bike in 2023.
Whatever shakes out with MotoAmerica, the debut of e-powered racers this weekend will feature somewhere on the timeline of the electrification of motorcycling. When I began covering electric motorcycles in 2018, Energica and Zero were largely under-the-radar startups, somewhat distant from the mainstream motorcycle industry. Energica had a small garage outside San Francisco with three bikes. Zero was a quiet company in Scotts Valley, California that sent me out on a test ride with two employees on their lunch break.
That bikes made by both companies will race at Laguna Seca against KTMs and Indians this weekend says something about the forward momentum of electric motorcycles.