The electrifying Tork India team consisting of younglads Kapil Shelke, Nishant Kalbhor and Ketan Mhasawade is back again this year to challenge the might of seasoned players backed by giant corporations at the electric motorcycle race TTZero held during the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. The lads first came into the spotlight when they trounced some of the biggest names in electric motorcycle racing in the debut race of the TTZero in 2009 running a humble electric motorcycle built around homegrown chassis based around a trellis frame and becoming the first ever Indian team to feature on the podium at the world’s most dangerous motorcycle race, the Isle of Man TT.
Clinching third place on the podium in their first ever race outing at the fabled island, Tork India was soon regarded as a potent team, but what followed was lack of funding which resulted in the team spending huge sum of money from its own pockets. In 2010 they participated in the first ever Electric Vehicle Championship, the TTXGP, held across United Kingdom and won the opening race and finished third in the championship standings that year.
But despite such stupendous performances the team got limited sponsorship for 2011 and their efforts were burdened by the technological advancements taking place in electric motorcycle racing world leaving them no choice but to scrap last year’s racing plans and focus on building a competent machine for 2012 as well as work on developing their own drive-train and consider an entry point into the EV market in certain emerging markets.
Fast forward to 2012 and things are looking much brighter for the Indian effort. Correct attitude and zeal to build a potent electric racing motorcycle has led the young guns from India to seize some strong deals over the last year including a technical consultancy tie-up with the leading Chinese motorcycle company, Zongshen, for building their electric race bikes for the TTXGP series.
Another support came from leading electric motor manufacturer, Agni Motors. Employing their motor for previous years as well, for 2012 the UK-based company has handed Tork India with a potent electric motor that is upto spec with the competition. Working in conjunction with Agni Motors has helped Tork India in developing electric motorcycle technology to a great extent as well as give boost to its electric motorcycle racing ambitions.
For 2012, Tork-Haiyin Racing has scored a title sponsorship from Haiyin, which is an emerging manufacturer of lithium polymer batteries plying in the RC hobby industry as well as EV market. This year's Tork-Haiyin Racing machine is powered by advanced Twin 111RDR churning out a total of 50Kw (25Kw each) Continuous motor from Agni and it makes about 20% more power than the last year’s configuration. The total torque output has increased from last year’s 60Nm to 72Nm for 2012 and the increased power has been regulated by indigenously developed controller and an advanced battery management system – Tork Advance-BMS, both of which have been developed by Tork India in their workshop located in Pune.
The bike we rode was a slightly detuned version of the actual race machine that the team will enter in this year’s TTXGP but it had enough grunt to bust any myths about the speeds that the electric bikes are capable of. The initial acceleration was a bit gradual but once the T003X, as it’s referred by the team, got up to speed, its mid range band kept throwing bursts of power with enormous urgency yet in a smooth and unnerving fashion. The development mule handed to us has been built around the Yamaha YZF-R15 frame, since the costs to keep transporting the actual race bike for development process to UK and back to India run exorbitantly high. So the team has kept a race-ready machine stationed in the UK while this test mule gets the development bits which are then taken to UK during the racing season.
Mated to a single-speed transmission system, the electric race-machine is capable of reaching speeds upwards of 220km/h in its detuned form while in the fully tweaked setup can compete with its petrol-powered counterparts with regards to top speed, which means it is quite in line with the current competition it will face at this year’s race and can very well aim at breaking the 100mph (160km/h) barrier for electric motorcycles, which will be the goal for most participants this year. The seamless torque throw from the motor transferred onto the rear tyre via a massive rear sprocket gives the Tork India motorcycle a linear power delivery which is unspoiled and remains unperturbed as the speed steadily builds up and gets really fast once the motor gets into its mid-range band.
The controller – responsible for managing and channeling the current to extract the best possible drive at all times, has been developed in-house by Tork India, which has allowed the team to aptly configure the power instead of employing an externally designed controller and then reconfiguring the setup resulting in power loss. Similarly, the indigenously developed battery management system too has helped them to regulate the battery power correctly with minimal wastage and maximum performance for speed and acceleration.
But it is not only the drivetrain, batteries and the controller which are promising on the bike but also the underpinnings are quite in sync with the motor’s performance. Even on our test mule, the parts were quite high-spec with a fully adjustable damper serving the rear for better feel and feedback helped by adjustable damping for the telescopic unit upfront. The disturbing part was lack of engine braking and ofcourse the silence of an electric vehicle even when traveling at triple digit speeds – a little creepy at the beginning.
The final race-machine that will run in the TTZero at the Isle of Man TT this year will be built around a Suzuki GSX-R 750 frame, helped by fully adjustable Ohlins suspension components on both ends while the stopping power will come from high-end Brembo units. With the island race offering an environment suitable for high average speeds, the electric race-machine is tuned for road setup to carry high average speeds through the 60.73km long circuit.
Having ridden the team’s first motorcycle back in 2009, we can say with conviction that this year the team is certainly well prepared for the race, despite the fact that coming electric bike racing season at the legendary Isle of Man TT will witness some big names getting into the game with the Honda/Mugen combination slipping an entry for 2012 with the icnoic John McGuinness straddling the electric machine for the team.
There are other major players from the electric motorcycle world returning to the TTZero again this year including the top names like Motoczysz, Mission Motors, Lightening, Brammo, etc. With such illustrious firms with enormous financial backing and expertise, the Tork India Racing team has quite a task at their hand to match the might of the biggies in 2012. But going by the commitment and results shown by the Indian team till date, it wouldn’t be too much to say its worth placing your bets on Tork India Racing. Atleast we sure are putting our money on them. Ride on boys!
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