Refuel 2012: An EV Lover's Favorite Day Of The Year
This post was written by Brandon Miller, a member of the Electric Cowboys EV racing team. Brandon was at this weekend’s REFUEL event, a racing event at the famed Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca for electric vehicles only. This is his firsthand account of the action.
As the “Bike of Doom” rider Luke put it, “Refuel is the best day of the year, even better than the day that fat ol’ guy in the red suit slides down the chimney”. It started off with a gray sky and some light drizzling, and I was worried about what kind of condition the track was going to be in. My business partners and I hauled our two Zero motorcycles to the the track for the event, and when we arrived, I was astounded with the sheer number of electric vehicles present of all makes and models This was indeed the best day of the year for EV enthusiasts.
Among the contenders there were formula style prototype EVs, conversions, karts, production cars and motorcycles from all of the top brands, and everyone was really excited to be there! We set up our pit right next to the hot pit entry, which was great for me later in the day as we were affixing some new prototype technology we developed to my bike at the last second. Had I not been so close may have missed some track time. Speed Ventures really did a great job of taking care of us, making sure we all had power and were set up to have one heck of a great day.
A Part Of Something Special
Everyone was quite busy, including my team, however in between our practice sessions for the TT, we did manage to find time go around and talk with some of the other drivers and crews. My partner, Michael Sabuda at Diginow.it, found himself rooting for one particular conversion most of the day. It was an old Pontiac Fiero conversion that didn’t really look that fancy until you got a peek under the hood. Mike was very pleased to see the driver up on the podium at the awards ceremony when the day was over. It was really something to see that driver up there, you really got an appreciation for the fact that we are at the beginning of a new era in racing and transportation.
We all felt lucky to be there, as we imagined 15 years from now when all the vehicles on the track ( 2, 3, and 4 wheels ) would all be production level pretty machines built from the ground up for performance and looks, similar to the large group of Teslas that came to represent and enjoy the day at Mazda Raceway. We knew sights like this would not be possible in that future, all of the involved parties and people at the event are pioneers in the future of racing and transportation as we will come to know it.
It is a great feeling to be a part of that. I especially felt lucky that I was able to race on the world famous Laguna Seca… for $10 bucks! That alone should be enough for anyone to go get an EV in my book ( hurry, go buy one NOW so you can race next year! ). But it wasn’t all fun and games, my racing partner. John Lazear and I together are the Electric Cowboys Racing Team, and we were both supposed to participate in the event. Unfortunately a mechanical issue prevented him from being able to run, though we both got a real welcome to the race world, a mix of pleasure and pain as can only be brought on by something you are truely obsessed and in love with.
Ready, Set, Race!
The race day started with an average orientation meeting… but really this was not so average, the room was packed with a melting pot of EV racers, some with no track experience, some long time experts, and riding all sorts of vehicles from 2 to 4 wheels. The number of racers was both amazing and inspiring, but really all I could think about getting out there and going fast. As the first bike practice session started we all lined up and waited with electrified excitement to twist the throttle for the first time at the event. We waited, and waited, thought we were going to go and then waited some more, it was really terribly difficult to be gridded up for so long thinking about what was in store just over that first crest. Then it happened, we got waved out, on with the throttle, and go go GO!
There were so many bikes gridded up it was an awesome start! I quickly started passing the slower prototype bikes and scooters that were in front of me and did my best not to run off this new-to-me track. It was exhilarating, being so close to so many other electric bikes on the track was a dream come true. I did my best to take it slow to warm up tires a little bit, but by the time the pack I was riding with got up to the corkscrew for the first time, I began to feel the undeniable need to go faster and lean farther.
Good thing too, because you can’t see whats going on in the corkscrew, it has two major drops in altitude that hide the track in front of you, and when the track reveals itself to you and you realize you are going way too fast, you feel a little pucker in your shorts, and lean that baby over as you get off the bike as far as possible so you don’t run into the sand and end your day with a magnificent crash smashing your high voltage powerhouse into a wall or worse yet, someone else in the pack. My first time around the track, I matched the time of the last record holder Ian Lebov at 2:25, thanks to help from him directly on my suspension.
The TT itself was a blast, we had to wait a long time to get on the track after all of the cars, However it was worth it. Steve Atlas on the Brammo RR was the only bike that got a warm up lap due to time constraints, but that was of no consequence to the rest of us, we just wanted to push it any way we were afforded the opportunity to do so. We each went out with a decent buffer between us to prevent traffic, and we all had a blast. It was a great moment when we all started to take off, wishing each other luck, giving thumbs ups and words of encouragement to each other no matter the team, or bike you were riding. It was a comradery that can only be felt this unanimously when history is being made.When my turn came, I tucked in as much as possible, my helmet hitting my handlebars occasionally, and used my three turn warm up to get my tires as ready as possible. Going around turn 11 onto the start finish, I found Foxie’s sweet spot ( Foxie is my motorcycle’s name, her on board brain actually has its own Twitter & FB that she tweets/posts to that you can follow here. I got her up as fast as I could before my time started, and held it that way as much as possible. The corkscrew was a blast this way! Then I approached the tightest turn of the track, 11, I held the speed as long as I could, popped up for some air drag at the last second with a fist full of front brake and hoped to god when I let go and leaned her over I wouldn’t run off the track. I must have slowed down pretty good because I hit the corner just right and barreled on through the start finish for my cool down turns, again for times sake no full lap.
They didn’t reveal the actual TT times for cars or bikes until the awards ceremony where they announced them one by one to give us all our little spot of recognition. Watching each of the winners go up for every class made me want to be up there too, but I knew I had a few 2012 Zeros ahead of me and Foxie. We came in 5th place at 2:21, 4 seconds faster than the record set last year for a 2011 Zero S. No surprise to anyone, last years winner Ian Lebov again set a new record this year for the 2012 Zero S of 2:08 I believe. I look forward to doing this with Ian again on an evenly matched bike and doing my best to compete with him.
Everyone was so cool at the event, I can’t wait to do it again, and really hope we get even more people to come next year. This year Speed Venture had to limit the number of entries, but hope that next year they will be able to support many more EV owners and producers, I really look forward to the popularity growth of our sport in the next few years and hope that we all do everything in our power to help spread truthful and accurate information to the people out there who just don’t know, or only have mis-information. EV racing is here, and it is here for everyone now, not just funded prototypers.
See more photos of my day at refuel on this album