Historic Wins for Electric Vehicles at the 2013 Pikes Peak

By · July 03, 2013

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Carlin Dunne, riding for Lightning Motorcycles

Electric vehicles are making rapid advances in motorsports, and over the past weekend several electrically powered race vehicles made a great showing at the 2013 Pikes Peak Hill Climb. The wins and other impressive results by electrically powered racers were strong enough to put the motorsports industry on notice: Electric racing is rapidly gaining momentum.

Lightning Motorcycles made history by winning in the motorcycle class, beating the closest competitor by more than 20 seconds—outperforming all the world-class gas-powered bikers, some riding 1200cc superbikes. This marks the first time an electric vehicle won a major international competition. Lightning's rider, Carlin Dunne, is the holder of the current record time for motorcycles on Pikes Peak, with a 9:52.819 lap time he set in 2012 with a Ducati 1200. For the 2013 run, he joined forces with Lightning Motorcycles, spending months working with them on development and testing including spending most of June practicing on the mountain.

The 10:00.694 lap time, 71.917 miles per hour average speed, was good enough to earn them 9th place overall, and first place among the motorcycles. His next closest challenger was Bruno Langlois, riding in the 1200cc class, whose 10:21.323 lap time and 69.529 miles/hr average speed put him well behind Dunne. However, Dunne did not do was beat his own record from 2012.

Cars in the Rain

The electric car racing teams were hampered by weather when a heavy rainstorm broke out just before their start. Both the Mitsubishi and Toyota teams complained about how they had to switch tires at the last minute, and even then, couldn't get good traction. While they didn't achieve an outright win, their results were still impressive.

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The Toyota EV P002

Monster Tajima had the best electric car time, achieving 5th place overall with a 9:46.530 lap time and 73.654 miles an hour average speed. This was within one second of beating the 2012 overall win, by Rhys Millen who had a 9:46.146 lap time in 2012.

The Mitsubishi team had two MiEV Evolution II electric race cars. The fastest, driven by Hiroshi Masuoka, had a 10:21.866 lap time and 69.468 m.p.h. average speed, good enough for 13th place overall, and 2nd in the Electric class. The other, driven by Greg Tracy, had a 10:23.649 lap time and 69.270 average speed, good enough for 14th place overall, and 3rd in the Electric class. Tracy said after the race, “Since I was aiming for the win, I am thoroughly disappointed. Due to the heavy rain that came pouring down just before our run, the conditions were not drivable. With that said, we should probably be satisfied just by finishing safely. Since it was dry during every practice session, we literally had zero time in the car in rainy conditions. However, since the MiEV Evolution II ran so well dry, I really would like to come back to do this again, aiming for the win.”

The Toyota team brought their Toyota EV P002, and driver Rod Millen took 15th place overall, 4th in the electric class, with a 10:24.301 lap time and 69.197 miles an hour average speed. Millen was excited to be part of the Toyota effort and thought he, or one of the other electric cars, had a good shot at taking a top-three overall result. He said, “Let’s face it, there was a chance that if weather had not played a role like it did, we would have seen an electric car in the top-three overall results. And that would have been really impressive. We were lined up, or certainly one of the electric cars was lined up, to do that. This technology is moving very quickly, and for me to be part of all that, and working the Toyota folks on all that, was a real thrill. Of course I would love to do that again.”

Double Wake-Up Call

“This week exceeded all expectations,” said Harlan Flagg of Hollywood Electrics. “We came prepared and ready to race, but were blown away by how smoothly it went all week. Even after several crashes during practices days, one that sent a bike flying off a 15-foot embankment, the motorcycles only suffered superficial damage, a testament to how well designed these machines are by the engineering team at Zero Motorcycles. We came to prove just how much fun and how competitive electric motorcycles can be, especially production-based motorcycles, and I believe we proved a point. A big thanks goes out to all the riders, sponsors and support crews for making this happen. It was truly a historic weekend for electrics and for Zero Motorcycles.”

For an electric motorcycle to win outright on one of the toughest race courses on the planet is a wake-up call to the motorsports industry. Add to that the strong showing by the electric race cars, and we have a double wake-up call. The electrics haven't fully caught up, yet, but a major milestone was reached last weekend.

What this means for the average consumer is that the technology advances being made at the race track will eventually reach the cars and motorcycles sold to the public.

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