By Steve Atlas
Without question the Laguna Seca round of the TTXGP Championship is one of, if not the biggest and most important single race of the series for Team Icon Brammo. Being run in conjunction with the worldwide FIM E-Power Series and during the MotoGP weekend puts us in front of nearly a hundred thousand live spectators and diehard race fans. So while it’s big for our team, it’s even bigger for the growth of electric road racing as a whole. Adding to the pressure for the crew was the addition of a second rider in the form of none other than Eric Bostrom. Laguna is E Boz’s home track and one which he has had a lot of success at, so it was a perfect time for him to join the team. But this didn’t make getting a second bike built any less work and it was downright impressive that the crew made it happen. I know for a fact there wasn’t much sleep had in the week leading up to the race. Adding to the fun was a pair of shiny new Parker GVM motors in both machines, and all the work associated with installing those.
With only so many hours in a day there were bound to be a few teething issues come first practice Friday afternoon. A small software glitch kept Eric off the track all together, while I had what felt like a strange clunking from the front end under braking that I thought was a loose triple clamp. Brammo had upgraded the front end of my machine with a beautiful Ohlins fork for Laguna and with it came new and different front brake rotors. As it turned out the clunking was the floating rotors being far looser than I was used to, or like, so for Saturday a new set of the Brembo rotors I was used to were installed. I was also only able to do three laps in the opening session as they didn’t have time to get the battery fully charged. Even so, we were into the 1:39s for the first time and things for the Empulse RR were looking promising for Saturday qualifying.
Because the electric bikes are still in their infancy and play a very supporting roll to the MotoGP boys, track time is extremely limited. We are given thirty minutes of practice Friday, a thirty minute qualifying session Saturday and then the 9-lap race Sunday, and that’s all she wrote. While this isn’t ideal considering the amount of new parts/rider Brammo introduced for this race, it’s the same for everyone so we had to make the most of every lap. For this reason we had planned to use qualifying as a second practice and do as many laps and make as many improvements as possible. Unfortunately, things rarely go as planned; especially in E-Power racing!
With new Pirelli slicks mounted and the brake problem fixed, everything felt great on the out lap in qualifying. The first half of my opening fast lap felt great as well. Too bad we only completed half of the lap. On the run up the hill to the Corkscrew a 15 cent fuse shorted out and my qualifying was over. Because the bike stopped where it did and with the session only being thirty minutes long, there was no way to get it back to the pits and fixed in time to go back out. Thankfully, my warm-up lap was a 1:41 and good enough to put us fifth on the grid. On the other hand, we were going into the race having only completed four laps of practice. To say I was a little uneasy prior to the start would be an understatement.
On the plus side, because Eric was able to get in a full session and make some headway, on top of him qualifying second, the team was able to use his data and feedback to make a good gearing change for the race, something we wouldn’t have had time to figure out with only one bike. I guess having a teammate could be a good thing after all?
Sunday rolled around and we were scheduled to be the first race of the day at 10:25 a.m., but Laguna being Laguna, the marine layer pushed the GP and AMA boys’ practices back and thus our race was moved to the lunch break at 12:25 p.m.. One of the perks of e-bikes being so quite meant we could race during the normally quite mandated lunch time. This actually worked out perfectly as it gave the spectators time to get to the track and because we were now right before the MotoGP race, it meant the stands were packed as we rolled out to the grid.
After a quick warm-up lap we staged up and as the two red lights on rider’s right went out the race was on. I made the most of the new gearing and a bit of a start trick I had figured out and I jumped up from fifth to second as we crested the hill over Turn One and on to the brakes hard into Turn Two. But my second position didn’t last long, as my new teammate out-braked me around the outside as we dived to the apex of Turn Two. Pole sitter Michael Barnes led from the drop of the green flag, with Eric second and yours truly now third as we completed the opening lap of the 9-lap final.
Barnes, or Barney as he’s more commonly know, used the sizeable power of his Lightning machine to push out a two to three second gap over Eric early on, while I stayed glued to his rear wheel for the opening few laps as I adjusted to the heightened pace. We were quickly into the 1:36s, some three seconds faster than I had ever been around the former dry lakebed-based circuit on the Icon Brammo Empulse RR, so it took a couple laps for me to get comfortable. But despite the faster pace, by lap three I felt the Empulse was capable of more and while Barney continued to inch out his lead I knew I needed to find a way around Eric soon or victory was out of the question. It was just about this time that Eric suffered a small bike hiccup, causing him to hesitate growing down into Rainey curve, allowing me to slip by on the inside into second position.
This was just as we completed the fourth lap, marking the halfway point of the race. Barney had stretched out just over a four-second lead at this point, so I had some work to do. And work is what I did. The next three laps were my quickest of the race, all of them in the 1:35s, the best a 35.6, as I got back to with a second of Barnes. There was even a point with two laps to go where a win felt like it wasn’t out of the question. But Barney rode awesome and stepped his pace back up at the end, his quickest lap a 1:35.3, while also using lapped traffic well to hold us off. A close call while lapping one of the Munch bikes on the final lap got the blood pumping and probably cost us a second, but even so we finished a mere 2.9 seconds back of Barnes in second, while Eric rounded out the podium in third!
This was an awesome result for our first weekend as a two-rider team, especially when one factors in just how last-minute everything went together. But hats off to all the Brammo guys; they all put in countless hours to make this weekend happen. And while it wasn’t without its hiccups, to end up with both bikes on the podium and to be within 0.3 seconds of the quickest lap of the race was just awesome. And the cherry on top? We now lead the TTXGP Championship points by seven over both Kenyon Kluge and Barnes going into the final round of the North American series at Miller Motorsports Park later this month! So it’s back to work testing more new parts as we attempt to repeat as series champions in a few weeks’ time. No rest for the weary – or us road racers at least…