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“ReFuel” Minus the “Fuel”

July 9, 2012

By Steve Atlas

Now we’re cookin’ with gas…I mean, now we’re cookin’ without gas! Pun intended. After winning round two of the TTXGP North America Series and getting to back within 5 points of the series lead, which is held by Kenyon Kluge of K Squared Racing, things were starting to really click again on the Empulse RR. After a couple long but cool days filming with team sponsor Icon (video should be out mid-August) at Oregon Raceway Park outside Portland, I shot home for two short days and then headed back up to the Pacific Northwest.

We were headed to Laguna Seca for the ReFuel Time Trial, an event for electric-powered vehicles which is run by Speed Ventures and features several sessions practice as well as a one-lap timed event in the afternoon, the top-three of each winning an award. The event has been run for a few years now and those of you with Jedi super memory will recall we attended last year as well. What a difference a year makes!

At this point last year Team Icon Brammo came to ReFuel aiming, more or less, simply to finish. Now we came to finish first! Last year some software issues were driving the team up the walls at that point and ReFuel was used as simply one of many tests where competing was merely a hope, one which we weren’t able to finish last go-round. How different this year is! The guys at Brammo have worked so hard on this project and put in so many hours these past 365 days it’s amazing! Fast forward to 2012 and problems with the bike’s ability to run properly are a thing of the past. In fact, the bike works so well from time to time I find myself forgetting it’s a one-off prototype from and swear I’m riding a production bike from one of the big-four Japanese manufacturers. It’s that good!

This year we used the event as an opportunity to work on suspension and chassis setup, as well as dial in added motor power, allowing me to work up to speed prior to our next race there in late July, which runs in conjunction with the MotoGP boys and is one of our biggest races of the year. And while running during a GP is awesome, there are a couple downfalls, one being a lack of track time. This is why ReFuel couldn’t have come at a better time.

Three morning sessions of just under 20 minutes each gave as valuable track time, though some interesting moments kept our laps times back a bit. Because this event  caters to all kinds of electrics and anything with two wheels was classified as a motorcycle and ran in the same group as us, well, let’s just say the closing speed were quite eye-opening. With some of these “motorcycles” barely reaching 50 mph, there were times I would pass someone going upwards of 100 mph faster! This meant any of the blind crests had me holding my breath every time over them and made getting a clean lap impossible. Still, the time on track was a great benefit and by the third session I was down to a 1:40.4, faster than I ever did on the 2011 Empulse RR. So going into the time trial, which would be my only clear lap of the day, I was quite optimistic of being well into the 1:30s.

Unfortunately, the timing of the lap didn’t work out well for us and after being held in the starting area for an extended period of time my tires lost all the heat from the warmers and I was unable to get them up to temperature fast enough to push for a full lap and the best I could muster was a 1:40.2. While it was enough to win the TT event that day by a healthy margin, I was a bit disappointed that I was unable to explore the bike’s full potential. Still, the day was a huge benefit in terms of both bike setup and myself getting comfortable and up to speed on the new bike at Laguna. Now we have a test to try a few new parts at Thunderhill in a couple weeks and then it’s back to ‘Seca for the MotoGP weekend and after this past event I can’t wait! Hopefully we’ll see you there. And if you do make it out be sure to stop by and say Hi!