Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Morning Crew Chief: Mission Accomplished, etc...

Mission Accomplished

I guess I've been a bit of a Mission Motors 'slammer' over the last few months. I basically called the company out, in MCN (the UK motorcycle weekly) when I wrote that the company had pretty much abandoned the idea of actually manufacturing motorcycles. 

Few people now remember that Bridgestone - the MotoGP tire supplier - once made whole motorcycles. In the 1960s, the company made tires and some really high-performance bikes. When it became obvious that other manufacturers like Honda would not specify Bridgestone tires as OEM fitment as long as Bridgestone was itself a competitor, the company had to choose whether it would pursue the tire business, or the motorcycle business. I think Mission is in the same sort of position; it can make motorcycles, or try to become a supplier of technology to Honda, et al. I think that they're positioning themselves as high-end suppliers to the car and motorcycle industry.

If I'm right about that, they made a pretty good impression at Laguna Seca last weekend. Steve Rapp obliterated the field in the TTXGP race. Rapp was several seconds a lap faster than Michael Czysz (though Czysz finished second, his MotoCzysz company was probably the one hurt most by being utterly outclassed.)

Based on his 8-lap race time, if Rapp and the Mission R had been entered in the AMA SuperSport race, he would probably have been solidly mid-pack until mid-distance. IE, Mission's taken the e-moto performance envelope and stretched it a good ways towards modern ICE sportbike performance.

For the record, with a full tank of gas, the ICE bikes in the field could have maintained their race pace for 80+ miles. If Rapp had to shepherd the energy in the Mission R's battery for 80 miles, his lap times would have been in the 2-minute range, not the 1:35s.

Still, my hat's off to Mission Motors, who have set a new benchmark for zero-emission motorcycle performance. If anyone, anywhere (Honda?) has a better handle on the challenges of managing the limited energy available in current batteries, they've not shown their hand.

It remains to be seen whether Rapp's impressive TTXGP win on the Mission R reinvigorates interest in Mission Motors as a limited-run motorcycle manufacturer -- or, will it bring in new consulting business from major OEMs who might decide to essentially outsource their R&D effort to Mission and jumpstart an e-moto program with Mission's package, which is clearly the best one that has broken cover.

Bostrom. Wrong choice?

There was a lot of skepticism when it was revealed that Ben Bostrom would get a wild card MotoGP ride at Laguna. At 37, he's probably still close to the fittest man in the AMA Superbike championship -- but he's obviously past his sell-by date as a top-level racer.

He qualified last, almost a second behind his LCR team-mate Tony Elias, and pulled in after an off-track excursion for a completely forgettable race. So the question is, did he suck, or not?

In his defense, Bostrom lapped in the 1:25.6 range in Superbike qualifying, while Tommy Hayden was the fast Suzuki rider in the AMA field, at 1:24.8 (Hayes, on a Yamaha, took pole with a 1:24.5) So if my math's right, BBoz gave up somewhere between 8/10ths of a second and a second to the fastest of the American riders in the U.S. series. Based on this, I'd say that no matter who else Lucio Cecchinello had picked among active AMA Superbike riders, his second bike would still have been the backmarker.

Stoner. Wrong choice.
The big race wiener (er, make that 'winner') was Stoner. After I ranted about MotoGP riders boycotting the rescheduled Motegi round, the FIM released a statement that could have been inspired by my post. And a number of riders, sensing fans' lack of sympathy for their cause, opted to restate their opposition to the race in terms that gave them some wiggle room.

Not Stoner, who told one reporter that his decision was not anti-Japanese at all. He said that if the tsunami and nuclear reactor damage had happened in his home country of Australia, he would not go to the Australian GP, either.

Way to endear himself to his homies, eh?

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