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Movie Review: Charge
Zero Emissions, Maximum Speed
Mark Neale, the garrulous Brit responsible for the movie Faster and The Doctor, the Tornado and the Kentucky Kid, recently sprung his newest motion picture, Charge, for the motorcycle racing crowd. Unlike Neale’s previous films, chock-full of MotoGP awesomeness, Charge focuses on motorcycle racing’s red-headed stepchild, TTXGP, the zero-emissions grand prix.
Charge documents the inaugural grand prix for electric motorcycle racing at the venerable Isle of Man TT. Choosing the IoM as the GP debut for electric motorcycle racing both solidified the class as a credible racing format as well as ostracized it among racing traditionalists.
“This is the TT, it’s recognized throughout the world. They’ve come to see hard men ride hard motorcycles, not piss about on battery-powered scrap.” The quote is knee-slappin’ hysterical heard from an Englishman’s mouth early in the movie, but his comment defines the majority-view of electric motorcycle racing in 2009.
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Michael Czysz, the one-time-wannabe-MotoGP-prototype-constructor-turned-electric-motorcycle-developer, piqued Neale’s interest in this unique upstart racing class making its grand prix debut at the IoM. With no previous interest in, or understanding of, electric motorcycles, Neale accepted the challenge.
“I made it clear to Michael that the only way I’d do the movie is if I could film the entirety of the event,” says Neale. “I wasn’t interested in filming a PR piece for MotoCzysz.”
MotoCzysz does receive a lot of camera time, but that’s largely due to the drama and hardships the MotoCzysz team experienced participating in their first GP. “If MotoCzysz hadn’t failed in 2009, the story wouldn’t be as good as it is,” Neale’s quick to point out.
Charge also introduces many lesser known teams and electric bike players participating at the 2009 IoM including Agni, Tork and Kingston University. If the documentary had a starring role, though, it would definitely be Cedric Lynch. The eccentric Lynch is the mind behind Agni Motors, the electric motor powering the majority of motorcycles competing in the event. Lynch’s mannerisms define him as the nicest, mad-scientist, hippie a person could ever want to meet.
In addition to telling the story of electric motorcycle racing’s first grand prix, Charge helps convey a basic understanding of how kilowatt hours (KwH), volts and amps relate to horsepower in a world of internal combustion engines. Cameo appearances include racing dignitaries Valentino Rossi and Giacomo Agostini, while Ewan McGregor lends his voice to narrating the film, which the motorcycle enthusiast and star of the Long Way Around has done for all Neale’s movies.
Now in its third season as a World Championship series recognized and supported by the FIM, TTXGP remains on the fringe of acceptability and interest of traditional race fans around the globe. However, at this year’s MotoGP race at Laguna Seca the fastest electric bike, the Mission R, lapped the dry lake bed track a scant 10 seconds off the multi-million-dollar four-stroke GP bikes, demonstrating the e-bike’s amazingly quick rate of progress.
Electric motorcycles may not make cool noises, but their speed is undeniable. At their current pace of development, electric motorcycle racing is getting closer to the mainstream than the mainstream realizes. Charge provides insight into this development while also entertaining the viewer.
A copy of the DVD can be purchased at the Charge website, chargemovie.com.
Neale is currently editing Fastest, the sequel to Faster, the movie that made him famous among racing enthusiasts. Look for it to be available for purchase in late 2011.