Zero hero Road bike sixth in TT
A slice of history was made by the Energica Ego and MCN at the TT. Here’s how it happened
Energica’s UK importer, Motocorsa, and MCN wanted to be the first team to race an electric production bike at the TT. Until this year all entries for the TT Zero have been prototypes; no-one had competed on a bike that can be bought for road use. Using a near-standard Energica Ego (price, £26,999) from Motocorsa, our aim was to qualify for the TT Zero and then, fingers crossed, complete the one-lap race itself. That done, we planned to go to the pub
No matter what bike you’re riding, there’s no getting away from the dangers of the TT. The lampposts, stone walls and houses don’t bend or hurt any less just because you’re on an electric bike. And the 120mph entry into the village of Kirk Michael still takes absolute concentration, especially as the Energica Ego weighs 258kg, as much as a BMW R1200GS in full touring spec.
On the start line I see Bruce Anstey, who’ll be chasing the first 120mph electric lap on the Mugen Shinden Go, plus Guy Martin on the sister Mugen followed by TT winner Dean Harrison on the beautiful Sarolea. I’m in good company. Tension builds as we inch to the line. There’s no turning back.
As I throw a leg over our near-silent Ego I can hear the crowd and even the commentary. “Go on Chad!” shouts injured TT legend John Mcguinness, who is waving from the side of the road.
Up to the line I’m now just 10 seconds away, waiting for the final tap on my shoulder and to start the plunge down Bray Hill. Oh, my god!
It’s a race against time
Less than a week ago I rode the standard Energica Ego road bike into the TT scrutineering bay and said: “We want to race this, please.” The technicians looked a little bemused but to their credit applauded our idea, giving tips on how to make the bike race ready.
This left us only a few hours to get the Ego prepared for that evening’s practice. It was all hands to the pump as TT privateer Dave Hewson and his willing team helped to convert the bike into a racer. We removed the Ego’s headlights, mirrors, number plate, sidestand and indicators. We also needed to make and fit a shark’s fin, which sits just in
front of the rear sprocket, plus a small catch tank. While we fitted the catch tank, we also lockwired a few parts and triple-checked everything.
Our backers, Energica importers Motocorsa, had already fitted an essential emergency stop button and Metzeler race rubber, and the bike breezed through scrutineering at the first attempt. Up on its stands and wearing race numbers, it didn’t look too out of place in the paddock – in fact it turned more than a few heads. The organisers came over to inform us we would start last for first practice, which suited us as we didn’t even know if the Ego would complete the 37.73-mile lap.
Riding the TT is hard enough, especially the first few miles, as you have to recalibrate your brain to the sheer speed of it, use both side of the road and convince yourself no cars are coming the other way. Add the new-to-me near silence of an electric bike and the complications of having to monitor and constantly adjust your riding to the battery power available – and the task is even harder.
There’s a clever percentage readout on the Ego’s full colour dash that informs you how much battery is left and allowed me to work out how much power I needed to complete the lap. I felt like Carol Vorderman, furiously calculating battery percentage against miles completed, while also trying to ride a fast lap. I needed 50% battery to get over the Mountain, which meant I needed over 60% in the bank at Ballaugh Bridge and 55% at the end of Sulby Straight. Still with me? After the 32nd Milestone it was all downhill, which meant I only needed 20% to get down off the Mountain to the finish.
Thankfully, the Energica performed admirably. The Brembo brakes were more than strong enough and fade- free; all those 258 kilos were noticeable during fast direction changes but never overwhelming; and stability was perfect even through the notoriously bumpy section from Ginger Hall to Ramsey.
Just completing a lap in practice felt good. On the first night I exited Creg-ny-baa with 25% battery left and knew, after weeks of wondering if the Ego could do it, that we’d be home safe. As I crossed the line for the first time my makeshift team cheered from pit wall, which made me a little emotional.
In parc ferme only three bikes had completed a lap: our road-going Ego and the two Mugens ridden by Anstey and Martin. As we all parked up together the TT stars couldn’t resist coming over for a look. We set a benchmark of 74.79mph – the first ever lap of the TT course by a production electric bike. The next night we lapped at 79.63mph and then 80.72mph on the third lap of practice. Our best lap would have
‘The TT stars couldn’t resist coming over for a look at the Ego’
placed the Ego second in the first-ever electric race at the TT.
Practice had gone well and now our race lap was coming together. I’d already caught Matthew Rees on the University of Bath bike early in the lap, but knew I needed retirements to move up the leader board. Through Ginger Hall the Ego sounded terrible as the lack of engine noise meant I could hear the suspension, the chain and sprockets, and even the pads on their discs moaning and groaning. It sounded like the bike was falling apart.
As I exited Parliament Square I got a pit board from James Hillier’s team – position 7th plus 14 seconds. I knew seventh was mine; I just needed to bring her home. With my head in battery conservation mode I was too steady over the Mountain when I should have been pushing for a fast lap time.
On the exit of the Creg I parp’ed the horn and waved to the crowd as I knew I was nearly home. On the exit of the last corner the marshals and crowd waved, too. It was a special moment as I crossed the line with 17% battery left, clocking 100.47mph through the speed trap and finishing sixth. The Ego and I will probably never be winners but we made a little bit of TT history.
‘It sounded like the bike was falling apart’
Chad prepares to make TT history on the Energica
On the warmers and plugged in to the charger… Mugen boys Martin and Anstey can’t help taking a look