(Editor’s note: Azhar Hussain, the organizer of the TTXGP racing series, has requested that I run the following response to an article by Jensen Beeler of Asphalt & Rubber, titled “For the Sake of the Game.” For more information on the race and the facts noted herein, search on Asphalt & Rubber, HellforLeather, and Plugbike.com, all great sources of information on this subject.)
Dear Mr. Beeler:
Conflict of Interest (COI) in motorcycle racing was a serious concern of mine when we decided to make the TTXGP a reality, and avoiding even the appearance of a COI continues to be one of our main concerns. Your article raises some troubling questions about how we’ve addressed those concerns and I am writing this to respond to them. I will not, however, comment on the circumstances behind the parting of the ways that occurred between the FIM and TTXGP, because I am hopeful that one day we can work together again. Calling it a “scandal” may be good for increasing web hits (for all of us), but history will likely show this as no more than a bump on the road to the worldwide acceptance of electric motorcycle racing as a credible sport.
Filling the grid
It is no secret that TTXGP has contractual requirements to fill the racing grid. While ICE moto faces its own problems in this area, it also has the benefit of several large manufacturers who have deep pockets, existing products, and proven technology, that can run factory teams. Electric bikes have a formidable barrier of entry into the sport – the batteries are expensive, the technology is evolving every day, and there are no manufacturers the size of, say, Honda, offering a ready-made platform. For any team to enter, they have to effectively climb a MotoGP sized hurdle and build from the ground up. That is the reason behind the TTX02 bike by Mavizen. Zero Motorcycles are interested in two of them, minus the batteries and motors, to field its team. Without the TTX02, would they have entered the series? I don’t know, but I think that companies like Zero and Brammo, early in the roll outs of their production bikes, probably operate on razor thin margins that preclude participation in something like the TTXGP, which might be seen by share holders or VC groups as an extravagance. But you are correct in noting that filling the grid does not excuse a conflict of interest. That is why we have safeguards in place.
Proprietary Designs and Technical Scrutineering
You wrote that you were worried about what Zero and Mission Motors might have signed themselves up for, given that they might have to disclose some of their proprietary battery and motor designs to TTXGP to see whether they violate the racing series rules. You wrote, “in TTXGP, the party handling that inquiry is the same party that’s developing competing technology.”
To me, this is the most troubling and disturbing accusation you make. Its inaccuracy and the ease with which you could have verified it can not be excused by labeling your article as an “op-ed.” A&R is widely respected in this field as a source for accurate information. Even an opinion piece must be supported by facts. Your excellent series “Tradition is not a Business Model” was filled with your opinions and facts that supported it. These two opinion pieces about TTXGP and FIM, they do A&R a disservice.
I regret my earlier outburst towards you and I want to apologize to you and your readers. Whatever justification I had was undermined by how I reacted. As a journal of record, I would suggest that you may also be diluting your arguments by misrepresenting underlying facts, but I would leave that for your readers to decide.
Technical scrutineering for the TTXGP has been outsourced to the Institute of Engineering and Technology, an affiliation prominently displayed on the “partners” section of the eGrandPrix website and featured on our “Frequently Asked Questions” page:
“Note that all information provided will be treated in strictest confidence. It will be accessed only by the IET Advisory Technical Panel to TTXGP, all members of which have signed legally binding commercial confidentiality undertakings.”
To clarify: I have no access to view any data submitted to the Technical Advisory Panel. Nobody at Mavizen has anything to do with the Technical Advisory Panel. Furthermore, Mavizen and TTXGP don’t share any offices or personnel other than my leadership. The structure of the technical scrutiny has been designed to exclude me from the process. This structure has been in place since the start of TTXGP.
The IET also judges the TTXGP rules, and has been doing so since the beginning. Again, this is a fact which could have, and should have, been verified before you claimed that a COI existed. The rules are published in the prior year and changes are heavily trailed. We talked about the possibility of battery swaps in 2008 when we announced the race, but did not implement it the first year, ironically because we could not find a manufacturer to do this. It’s an extraordinary achievement that MotoCzysz was able to pull this together in the first year and we hope more follow. Battery swap is crucial not just for the race but for the underlying commercial realities that link teams, riders, promoters, track owners and of course the fans.
The Pit Stop Issue
We have never hidden our desire to extend the run times during a track day. Current battery technology obviously limits the range these bikes can travel. They take an average of three hours to recharge, once depleted. The ability to swap out batteries provides more options for the racing teams. The rules, however, do not mandate a pit stop. Teams can do as they wish, depending on the capabilities of their platform. For example, they may choose to include more cells to increase the range, trading off the increased weight for the time savings of not having to swap the battery pack out during a pit stop. It’s far from clear that, as you wrote, “Mavizen and MotoCzysz [have] a de facto advantage based on the ease of battery swapping.” And your statement “what a happy coincidence that Mavizen is one of the two platforms currently capable of such a feat” implies a profit and victory-driven megalomania that just doesn’t exist. Remember, the TTX02 is based on the KTM RC8 production bike and a team could easily acquire that frame from someone other than Mavizen and adapt a quick change pack on their own. Or, as I noted, above, they could load more cells and trade the weight for the range. There are so many options available to the teams, that it is impossible to predict who may end up on the podium.
Without Mavizen’s involvement, I know it would have been unlikely that CRP Racing would have entered the electric motorcycle racing fray as the first Italian manufacturer committed to building a bike exclusively for the TTXGP series, as reported by A&R. I have been directly involved in helping them and will continue to offer them and others as much support as possible in return for building TTXGP. There are real and tangible instances of aid that we have extended to many people involved in the TTXGP eco-system which, over time, will become public. But to suggest as you do, that Mavizen is our attempt to lock users into our TTX02 platform, without evidence or request for comment from us, has been disappointing.
There may come a time when the TTXGP becomes so big that my involvement with it and with Mavizen will force me to choose one or the other, and frankly that would be a great day and an awesome problem to fix. Until then, I think that I have done everything possible to meet the challenging goals of growing the market for the series and maintaining the integrity of the TTXGP.
TTXGP exists because of the goodwill, support and momentum of many many people and companies. I foresee no circumstances under which we would ever want to jeopardize that. If I may say, a lesson that has stood us well over the years that may also benefit A&R is relationships outlast the deal. Always.
Thank you, Jensen, for your interest in and coverage of TTXGP. We invite you and your readers to join us on the journey as we embark on not just the next generation of motorsports, but also developing technologies and processes that will help define how we partner with the natural world around us.
TTXGP – The eGrandPrix