Electric motorcycle racing around the USA and the world has been largely a fragmented collage of efforts and events. However, one enduring series now begins its seventh consecutive season in 2020…AHRMA’s Zero Motorcycles-sponsored Formula Lightning.
About 10 years ago, electric road racing motorcycles (a.k.a. ebikes) began showing up in exhibition events at various venues around the USA. FIM-sanctioned International events may have had a higher profile, but even they struggled to attain consistent scheduling and interest.
For the 2013 season, the FIM paired its most recent iteration of ebike racing – the FIM eRoadRacing World Cup – with MotoGP at that season’s rounds at Laguna Seca Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Arthur Kowitz, veteran American road racer, renewed his long-lapsed FIM Pro license and competed in both of these events. This latest version of an International ebike racing series ended with little fanfare after the close of the 2013 season.
Recognizing the vacuum left by the demise of the International ebike racing series, in late 2013, Kowitz formed a proposal to establish a grass-roots ebike series in the USA. Several of America’s prominent road racing organizations were approached, with AHRMA being the most receptive.
One of AHRMA’s stated missions is to showcase “motorcycles which historically have been under-represented in modern road racing.”
For 2014, AHRMA adopted Kowitz’ fledgling eMotoRacing series on an exhibition status. Grass-roots support grew as entries and interest in this new series grew. By 2016, AHRMA approved eMotoRacing’s eSuperSport class as a permanent series with a 125 volt limit on power. Higher voltage bikes were allowed to continue racing on an exhibition status, garnering no championship points.
Competitors in eSuperSport have included a former Daytona 200 winner, several former AMA Pros, prominent AHRMA regulars, and electric motorcycle racing enthusiasts from around the country.
The ebikes populating the grids have also been varied. Competing machines include American-made production bikes from Zero and Brammo, the Italian superbike maker Energica, plus experimental prototypes from both factories and privateers.
From the inaugural 2014 season to the present, one of the series’ mid-season events has featured prototype electric race bikes designed and built by collegiate engineering teams. Woodcraft Technologies has sponsored the Varsity Challenge from its inception by awarding a scholarship to the highest placing student team. Former winners are Virginia Tech, University of Sherbrooke (Quebec), and the 2019 champion Rochester Institute of Technology.
Beginning with the 2019 season, AHRMA renamed the eSuperSport class as Formula Lightning to better fit in the vernacular of its other classes. The higher-voltage bikes, over 125V, compete in the exhibition Formula Lightning Extreme class.
Zero Motorcycles of California is the Formula Lightning class sponsor for the 2020 season, which kicks off February 8, 2020, at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.