Victory Motorcycles have stunned the world with the announcement that they will contest this year’s Isle of Man SES TT Zero electric race with an all-new prototype race bike.
“Everyone has told us we’re too late to be going to the island, but that just makes us want to do it more,” said Victory Director of Motorcycle Product, Gary Gray, speaking to MCN.
Victory Racing’s participation in the SES TT Zero will mark the first time that the firm have entered a professional motorcycle racing event in Europe, and it will be the global debut for an electric Victory motorcycle. While electric powertrains are entirely new for Victory, they are drawing heavily on the technology they acquired through their takeover of Brammo’s motorcycle division in January this year, fuelling speculation that this was the motivation behind the deal.
“No, not initially,” says Gray. “It just fits really well into what we do. We love the TT, even here in America the Isle of Man has a great place in our hearts, and it’s something we’ve always wanted to do. We’re proving performance every day; we’ve already got an NHRA drag racing team, and we’ve got the Project 156 Pike’s Peak bike (see right) running a prototype Victory racing engine, too. When you think about it, Victory will be competing in two of the greatest races in the world in June – one with a gas [petrol] powered prototype and one electric prototype. The hairs on my arms are standing up as I talk about it. It’s the most amazing thing we could do to show what Victory is capable of – we’ve got a lot to be proud of.
“We are completely focused on the Victory brand, and what better way to do that than hitting the Mountain course against the world’s best? The bike is making over 150bhp, over 160ftlb torque, and the top speed will be over 165mph. The engineering team are doing everything they can to make the bike as fast as possible, and as light as possible.”
‘It’s a massive challenge’
“We are definitely going to be extremely competitive, and we’d be happy with a spot on the podium, but we’re not naïve to the competition and how much time we’ve had to get ready.
“Our bike is built to be competitive at multiple tracks, it’s not purpose-built for the TT, so our greatest strength is that we’re going to be very lightweight, be able to carry a lot of corner speed, and be very nimble. It’s a great-handling bike with very strong braking. Our basic challenge is how much battery we can force into that package. It’s going to be a faster race speed this year, I think it’s going to have to be around 120mph, maybe faster, maybe even 125mph. Certainly from 117 in 2014 to 120mph in 2015 feels about right.
“The bike weighs 217kg, so it should do really well in the corners. We’ve worked hard on battery life and output, and we’re getting 355 volts and 17kW hours. Of course you never know what the weather is going to do, but with the SES Zero TT only being one lap we can select our tyres based on the conditions just before the race starts.
“We’ve not tested the bike at the Island, but we’ve ridden it at tracks here in the States, and Lee Johnston has just been over to ride the bike, but we’ll be doing a lot of the set-up when we arrive at the Isle of Man. The two bikes will be identical, the only difference being the two set-ups.
Fast and silent
“We’re so excited to have William and Lee. We wanted to be very competitive, and to have no excuses. Lee is amazingly fast, and a small guy, and any way you can take weight out of the race package is good. And then William; he’s an amazing racer, he’s got tons of experience on the island, and will be reliable and professional. To have two such amazing riders is so exciting.
“Lee was amazed that you could go that fast that silently. He was in awe. Motorcycling is like having the freedom of flying, and when it’s silent it makes it even more like you’re flying.”
Despite the enormous scale of Victory parent company Polaris Industries, the team behind this ground-breaking project is very small: “It’s less than 10 people, and we’ll have maybe five people at the TT who will work on the bikes. We do everything pretty lean.”
Land of the brave
“Of all the things that keep us awake at night, I guess the first thing is keeping the riders safe,” says Gray. “It’s a weird word in racing, but there are reasonable risks, and these guys are going to put these bikes beyond the abilities of 99.9% of people, so we need to make sure they’ll be safe. We don’t want to show up to a race and be embarrassed. We’re not arrogant enough to say that we’re going to turn up and dominate, but we expect to be competitive.
“We’ve got to prove our ethos of ‘American Performance’, and you can’t do that by sitting back and being timid, you’ve got to be aggressive and go after big races. This is what gets us up in the morning – it’s really exciting working on a project that we’re going to take to the TT.”