Anyone who’s been paying attention lately knows that electricity ain’t just for golf carts anymore – e-bikes can be seriously fast! But how quick can a podium-finishing Isle of Man TT e-bike get down a quarter-mile dragstrip?
Victory Motorcycles brought us out to Colorado for the 2015 American Victory Rally, which began June 25 at Bandimere Speedway on the outskirts of Denver. AVR was at the dragstrip to welcome a crowd of Victory enthusiasts and to show off its new NHRA Pro Stock dragracing team and its new stunt-riding team, representing Vic’s new focus on “American muscle” and “American performance” – themes you can expect to hear from the company’s PR machine in the future.
While it was fun to see stunters Tony Carbajal and Joe Vertical powersliding supercharged Cross Countrys for the crowd, and it was a deafening delight to see husband-and-wife dragracers Matt and Angie Smith blast down the strip on custom-built dragbikes with Victory Gunner nameplates, it was Victory’s Isle of Man electric racebike that got most of my attention.
Polaris, Victory’s parent company, acquired Brammo’s motorcycle business in January, and it set off to compete in the legendary IoM races as part of the TT Zero class. The category has been dominated of late by the Mugen Honda team, which is blessed with a relatively massive budget, so the pair of Victorys were faced with a steep uphill battle for top-of-the-box honors. While the VicAmmos couldn’t match the pace of the Mugens, they finished best of the rest, with Irishman Lee Johnston taking the third step on the box ahead of TT luminary Guy Martin, who was a last-minute substitution for the injured William Dunlop. Johnston averaged a very respectable 111.620 mph over his lap of the Island; Martin, at 109.717, was just shy of the 110-mph threshold.
The Victory/Brammo racebike is a step ahead of the Brammo Empulse streetbike, using a larger-diameter motor from Parker and a bigger (16.5 kWh) battery pack. The batteries are air-cooled, but the motor and motor controller are liquid-cooled. Victory reps indicate the IoM setup yielded about 110 horsepower at the rear wheel, far from its max output so the bike could complete the nearly 38 miles around the Isle of Man. Range wasn’t a concern over the short sprints of a dragstrip, so engineers cranked up the power to somewhere around its 150-horse maximum.
The TT Zero racebike proved to be a bracket-racer’s ideal mount. Bracket racing is a form of dragracing in which a rider “dials in” his expected best E.T., then aims to get as close to that dial-in number as possible without going quicker. Without a clutch to modulate or a gearbox to time shifts exactly, the twist-and-go TT bike churned out remarkably similar E.T.s over its four runs in Colorado. Incredibly, all its passes were within 0.128 second and just 1.03 mph of each other!
E.T.s in the mid-10-second range are quite stout for a bike launching without the benefit of a clutch dump off the line and a fixed gear ratio suited for the IoM, not a quarter-mile sprint. More impressive are the bike’s trap speeds, in the 140-mph bracket. That’s just a few mph short of trap speeds from stock Hayabusas and ZX-14Rs, and not far off the 149.9-mph speed Johnston set on the IoM’s Sulby Straight.
Meanwhile, the internal-combustion engines at the strip were starving for oxygen at the 5,800-feet-high Bandimere Speedway. The supercharged bagger stunt bikes, despite 160 claimed horsepower, were running best times only in the mid-12-second zone.
As for the NHRA Pro Stock racebike, it’s capable of running in the 6.70 to 6.80 zone at 190 to 195 mph at tracks near sea-level elevation, thanks to its S&S-built, 2600cc 60-degree V-Twin producing about 330 horses at its fat rear tire. At Bandimere, the Smith duo (Matt, a two-time NHRA champ, and spouse, Angie, who has out-raced her husband and won in a 2014 race) could get only into the 7.3-second E.T. zone at 179 mph.
It was a bit of a stretch to see a hopped-up Brammo as an authentic representation of Victory Motorcycles, but Polaris’ purchase of Brammo’s electric-motorcycle assets and the Isle of Man race team surely must point in the direction of a new or revised Empulse coming to the market one day. A 10-second motorcycle would fit nicely in Victory’s new “American performance” mantra.