Published on July 8th, 2013 | by Susanna Schick
Refuel Races- Where Mere Mortals Race AMA Champions
Last Sunday marked the Fifth Annual Refuel Races, a time trial race (track day, really) for EV’s, hosted by Speed Ventures. I’ve wanted to return to Refuel at Laguna Seca, but not on a bike as weak as the one I was able to procure when I went in 2010. Full story here. I wanted a bike that would do Laguna Seca, aka Motorcycle Heaven, justice. Zero told me all their press bikes were at Pike’s Peak. Hollywood Electrics only had their prized custom available, but I really didn’t have time to even pick it up. So I took my own electric motorcycle.
I love my FX, but I knew she’d be awfully slow down that massive front straight. On my 177hp Yamaha R1, I open the throttle as much as I dare (usually to a measly 140mph or so), but the FX tops out at an optimistic 85mph with stock gearing. Next time, I’m bringing a 30 tooth front sprocket for that belt drive! However, there were still plenty of turns where I exited realizing I could’ve entered at a higher speed, so it was a great learning experience. And best of all, I managed to scrub those Pirellis in properly.
Thanks to Zero’s strong corporate presence and the quick chargers they brought along, range was never an issue. However, I have to be that girl who makes excuses. I swear, I ziptied my transponder to the handlebars knowing it wasn’t the ideal spot. But I was worried the duck tape might fail and send it flying off the tail. So not all of my laps were logged, and I’m sure the fastest ones got cut. Of course. I did actually do a 2:06, but not on the TT laps. Oops. But I did manage to smoke Brandon Miller’s time from 2012. By a whopping 7 seconds!
It was a really fun event, mainly because I got to share the track with AMA & TTXGP pros Eric Bostrom and Shelina Moreda. Even better than having Eric Bostrom wheelie his Brammo as he passed me was getting advice from both him and Shelina on how to adapt to a supermoto after a decade on a sportbike. I experimented with a variety of positions, eventually settling on “just ride it like a sportbike!” I got a very useful freebie I hope to be able to follow up with a day of training at Shelina’s “Fast Girls Dirt Camp“! Eric and Shelina will be racing for real when eRoadRacing comes back to Laguna Seca July 21st.
There was also a parade lap, where the Tesla owners and employees could fill their cars with passengers for a spin around the famed track. I made sure I got into a Model S, and it was lovely. Smooth doesn’t even begin to describe that car. It’s like being in Tiffany’s. Nothing bad could ever happen to you in Tiffany’s. Kudos to Tesla for giving their hardworking staff a chance to play in their products!
Fiat also had a strong presence with their test drives available on a rad little autocross track they’d set up in the paddock. I have been dying to try the 500e, to see if it’s half as fun as the (manual, of course) gas version I rented in England. Dude. This car was so much fun I could almost tolerate the fact that it’s too wide to lanesplit.The steering wheel just kept turning and turning, and the tires squealed in delight, as they should when you tear ass around a tight bend as quickly as possible.
I made them give me a couple of laps, and it was easy to see why this car sold out so quickly. All that fun and 80 miles of range, at only $200/month? What’s not to love? It was a far cry from the Fiesta autocross thing I’d done at Ford the week before. When I complained that I couldn’t make the tires squeal, I was told there was some government-mandated Anti-Fun device all cars had to have. They didn’t call it traction control, it was something else. Clearly Fiat ignored that memo. Thank you Fiat!
Yes, there are videos. But the life of a blog star means I either need to hire an editor or marry well to find the time to edit them into something awesome and worthwhile. The only value I see in Google Glass would be if it allows me to be like Ruby Rhod so you can all just tune in and watch it live. The day ended on a sad note, however, as Zero’s Aftersales Director insisted I give him my batteries. He patiently explained to me the exact reason for the recall, and begged very politely. It seems the factory was in such a hurry to deliver all the batteries for all the FX and XU models that have been flying off the showroom floor that they rushed the process. The resin is supposed to be allowed to cure for a time before the lid is closed on the battery, and that critical step was skipped, causing cracks in the resin. This makes the batteries more vulnerable to wetness, always a bad thing for lithium ion batteries. This also means the poor citizens of LA have had to put up with me driving a car all week. And that I have to work through the fear and get back on the bicycle…
Even though I promised I’d never wash it, and explained that living in LA, rain is simply not an issue, Richard insisted. So I relented. A friend and engineer who had to miss Refuel to fix this issue emailed me from the factory in China saying “When I get through with this, we’re gonna have a battery you can use for deep-sea diving!” Granted, that’s not an official statement from Zero, but proof they’ve got a killer team of people who truly love what they do. That became overwhelmingly evident at Refuel, seeing so many employees just out having fun. I got to personally hug Kenyon Kluge for developing the app that enables me to tune my bike on my phone. Refuel just keeps getting bigger each year. I still think we need to get the golfers next door to sponsor “EV-only” days at Laguna Seca. Who builds a golf course next to a racetrack?!?