Posts Tagged ‘Isle of Man’

h1

Azhar talks about the Wiki

June 1, 2010

TTXGP CEO, Azhar Hussain, recently gave an interview to the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Assoaciations (FEMA) and, among other subjects, had some comments to make about the Technical Rules Wiki:

Azhar Hussain: Because the space for innovations is so incredibly huge, we also decided to rely on a Wiki to come up with the rules for the TTXGP 2011.

FEMA: Who makes the rules for the TTXGP races?

A.H.: Usually within a racing organization there is a committee setting the rules. In popular racing series, like MotoGP and Formula 1 the rules serve to keep the races exciting but also to tap development costs. The more sophisticated the rules, the smaller the space for innovation. A small space for innovation in turn leads to a reduced risk of spending money for research and development as well as reducing the goals for wider applicability.

High recognition within the racing community is usually an important condition to become part of the rule setting committing. The result is insiders making the rules for insiders, output from outside is not captured and new ideas can hardly take form and the series becomes remote from wider social, commercial and technical objectives. In order to avoid such phenomena we came up with the idea to create a Wiki to decide on the rules for the TTXGP in 2011. We invite contributions atwiki.egrandprix.com.

FEMA: A Wiki is an online platform that allows people to post and to edit and to comment texts or ideas on certain topics, just like Wikipedia. Does that mean that the rules for the TTXGP next year will be decided upon by whoever gives his or her input?

A.H.: In our sector, development and innovation takes place incredibly fast. In order to not miss anything, we invite everybody to participate setting the rules for the TTXGP 2011. Everybody who is interested in motorcycles, battery technology, electronics and mechanics is invited to join. We think this is the best way to keep track with recent developments. Finally a committee of experts will evaluate all the suggestions made and tailor manageable rules and standards. That’s how we try to keep our room for innovation as open as possible.

The rest of the article is filled with great information and insights on the world of electric motorcycles and electric motorcycle racing, as well.

Share

Advertisements
h1

Fi Fo Fo FIM, Is the Beanstalk swaying?

March 26, 2010

The sport of motorcycle racing has a rich history that winds its way through 20th century United Kingdom like the narrow roads on the Isle of Man.  Recently, this history has included a new avenue of opportunity: electric motorcycle racing.  But controversy, no stranger to motorsports, has already touched this new sport, and recent events indicate that a shockwave of change may be in store for the sanctioning bodies that currently organize the upcoming racing series.

According to an email recently published on, of all places, the personal blog of Ivar Kvadsheim, a Norwegian journalist who writes primarily on the subject of electric motorcycle racing, a UK government agency is likely to bring charges of anti-competitive behavior and monopoly practices against the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (International Motorcycling Federation, or the FIM).  The FIM is “the world governing body for motorcycle sport and is an independent association formed by 101 National Federations throughout the world. It is recognised as the sole competent authority in motorcycle sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Among its 49 FIM World Championships the main events are MotoGP, Superbike, Endurance, Motocross, Supercross, Trial, Enduro and Speedway.”  Source: www.fim-live.com. To understand the context of the email about the anti-competitive behavior, a review of the story behind the relationship between FIM and TTXGP is necessary.

TTXGP, an organization unrelated to the FIM, was founded in 2008 by Azhar Hussain, an entrepreneur in the electronics industry. It ran the world’s first zero carbon, clean emission motorcycle race on the Isle of Man TT in June 2009 which was the first sanctioned zero-carbon race in history.  It pioneered many of the safety and technical standards used in electric motorsports today. Following the successful race on the Isle of Man, TTXGP worked closely with the FIM, sharing technical expertise and unique experience. TTXGP was invited to sit on the FIM zero carbon committee to help form the rules for 2010. Essentially, the TTXGP was courted by the FIM in hopes of building a partnership that would become the sole governing body for electric motorcycle racing.

That all ended in November 2009, when the FIM announced that it was going to run its own international e-motorcycle racing series called the ePower.  Notably absent from the press release was any mention of TTXGP or Hussain.  Rumors and conjecture about the reasons behind the split followed, but regardless of all of that, it was clearly not an amicable parting of the ways.  Since then, the news has come fast and furious – TTXGP announced its world series of races including four North American, four UK, four Italian, and a final race in Spain.  FIM initially announced four races in the e-Power series (two in France, one in Spain, and one in Qatar).  Later, it dropped the Qatar race, substituting a race in Imola, Italy, and it added a race for July 24, 2010,at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, California, USA.  Meanwhile, the Isle of Man government split from TTXGP and decided to have its own electric motorcycle race, without TTXGP, which it would call TT Zero.   The TT Zero announced that it would follow the technical rules for electric motorcycles that had been published by FIM.

The FIM ePower rules, however, are almost identical to the technical rules created by TTXGP for this nascent sport.  TTXGP shared these rules with FIM when the two organizations were moving forward, building a partnership which would not come to fruition.  No legal action has been filed by TTXGP for the infringement, but a side-by-side reading of the nearly identical rules would certainly support such an action.

With this background, a closer examination of the email mentioned in the opening paragraph is called for.  The email, dated March 23, 2010, is addressed to Azhar Hussain and the author is Simon Carter, Business Relationship Manager, Automotive Unit, Department for Business Innovation & Skills.  The email states in relevant part:

I can confirm that it is our view that the FIM based in Switzerland have a case to answer in anti competitive behaviour and in monoply [sic] practices. I am in contact with the Office of Fair Trading who are looking into bringing charges against the FIM in Europe.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is a Ministerial Department of the government of the UK.  The key role of the BIS is “to build Britain’s capabilities to compete in the global economy.”  The Department has many duties, but relevant to this matter, the following duties arguably apply:

  • Advocate the needs of business across government, especially of UK small businesses;
  • Promote an enterprise environment that is good for business and good for consumers;
  • Design tailored policies for sectors of the UK economy that represent key future strengths and where government policy can add to the dynamics of the market;
  • Encourage innovation in the UK;
  • Defend a sound regulatory environment that encourages enterprise and skills;
  • Collaborate with the RDAs in building economic growth in the English regions;
  • Work with the EU in shaping European regulation and European policies that affect the openness of the single market and the competitiveness of European and British companies.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) is a non-ministerial government department that enforces European Community and UK competition laws including Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty and the Competition Act 1998.  The Competition Act 1998 focuses on competition policy within the UK, but, given that the email mentions that FIM is “based in Switzerland” it is more likely that the OFT will turn to Articles 81 and 82 of the EC Treaty which deal with free competition and monopolies, respectively, within the wider European Community.

If OFT brings charges against FIM under Article 81 and/or Article 82, the effects could be substantial on the self-proclaimed “sole competent authority in motorcycle sport” and on the sponsors and teams that do business with it.  Article 81 provides that a violation of the Article not only raises the specter of fines levied against the violator, “[a]ny agreements or decisions prohibited pursuant to this article shall be automatically void.”  In other words, if the OFT brings charges against the FIM, entities signing contracts with the FIM run the risk of those contracts being declared void.  Based on my admittedly sparse knowledge of OFT procedures, it looks to me that if the OFT decided that FIM was engaging in anti-competitive practices, it would then refer the case to the Competition Commission of the European Commission.  (Based on this recent referral of a case involving Procter and Gamble by the OFT to the EC).

Why would the UK want to get involved in the motorsports industry at all?  The answer to that question can be found in a recently released report (Note: link opens a .pdf document) by the House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BISC is a committee of the UK legislative body, rather than an executive department, which the BIS is).  “Full speed ahead: maintaining UK excellence in motorsport and aerospace.”  22 March, 2010.  That report stated:

The motorsport and aerospace industries represent two jewels in the crown of UK manufacturing. The United Kingdom is a world leader in the motorsport industry, and boasts the world’s second largest aerospace sector after the USA.

(Report, p. 5).

Additionally, and relevant to the dispute between FIM and TTXGP, the report provides:

In addition to financial support for “green” research, the Government is considering the potential for using motorsport to challenge people’s perception of environmental issues. We welcome the fact the Government is considering this as an area of action and agree that motorsport has the potential to shift the debate about carbon emissions away from a dry conversation about carbon budgets, towards a more valuable debate on the role that technology and innovation can play in addressing climate change and other environmental issues.

(Report, p. 3).

Given the UK Government’s interest in preserving its image of leadership in the motorsports industry and its interest in green technology, what other current conflict could contain such ripe, low hanging fruit?  The appearance of the dominant FIM using its influence and power to crush the TTXGP (not to mention the appropriation of its Technical Rules) would seem to be a ready vehicle on which to put the UK Government’s dual interests to the test.

But would a conflict involving motorsports ever be worthy of the attention of the European Commission?

It certainly would.  In fact, precedent for the EC’s involvement in this case exists in competition proceedings it commenced in 1999 against the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the body in charge of international motor racing.  (The EC later expanded the proceedings to include the Formula One Administration and International Sportsworld Communications).  The EC’s proceedings, initially prompted by complaints by broadcasters over the way the FIA organized the sport, identified several areas in which the FIA appeared to be abusing its dominant position in the industry.  Relevant to the current dispute, the EC found that the FIA used its power to block series which competed with its own events.  As the “sole regulatory body” of international motor racing, any track owner, vehicle manufacturer, organizer of events, and drivers had to come to it to obtain an FIA license.  License holders were tied to FIA and were only permitted to enter or organize events authorized by the FIA.  Any license holder found to ignore this prohibition could have its license stripped and would thus be prevented from participating in most of the notable motorsports events held in Europe.

This case ended up with the FIA entering into a settlement agreement with the EC in which the FIA agreed to several measures which resulted in FIA’s division of its commercial and regulatory authorities, a freeing up of its stranglehold on its licensees, and arguably, an opening up of the motorsports marketplace in Europe.  Admittedly, this is an over-simplification of the FIA matter, but I include it here merely to illustrate that the EC is not unwilling to enforce the laws of fair trade and competition as they apply to the motorsports industry.

What’s next?

Next, we wait to see if the BIS and the OFT follow through with commencing a case against the FIM and whether the OFT will bring the matter before the EC.  Sponsors, teams, manufacturers, media partners, riders, and fans should follow this story as it has the potential of being a big game-changer in the growing world of electric motorcycle racing.  With three series vying for “world champion” status, it seems a foregone conclusion that each one will have to include an asterisk (*) after the name.  The deeper question, however, remains to be answered: what will the record books say beside that asterisk?

Share

h1

More from Azhar on the Isle of Man

February 11, 2010

I was afraid that the following comment by Azhar Hussain on RoadRacerX.com would get lost in the “comment shuffle.”  Given the transitory nature of blog posts, articles, the web and our lives in general, not everyone reads comments.  I just thought it was particularly classy of him, given the pressure he’s likely under as a result of some of the heavy duty drama going on in his chosen endeavor.  Make sure to read Mark Gardiner’s series of articles on the issue.  So far, this current article is Part 1 of at least two parts.

The Isle of Man is a wonderful place. The tradition of road racing that has developed over the century is something to behold. Like Mark says, you have to be there to experience it. It really is magical. The dedication of the various people involved from the TTMA to the fans is to be commended, no matter what they think of TTXGP.

I will go back privately to see friends and enjoy the feeling of companionship that you can only get from an Island that gets lost in the pace of a the wider world. I still have a pebble on my desk from a beach just outside Ramsey to remember better times.

I would not want this affair to paint a bad impression of the Isle of Man as whole. The Isle of Man is full of good people, with great stories and an awesome landscape. Whatever happens in 2010, can’t forget the fact that in 2009 at least, for a brief moment they certainly lived up to their tag line “freedom to flourish”.

Everybody in the EV industry owes the people of the Manx, a thank you for being instrumental in igniting the spark that started the revolution. if they hadn’t allowed TTXGP to borrow the proud heritage of pushing the limit, then we would not be part of anything… and the world would be poorer for it.

Azhar Hussain
CEO
TTXGP – The eGrandPrix.
http://www.egrandprix.com

h1

Azhar Hussain on MotoGPod

February 1, 2010

I was not picked as moderator for the TTXGP Technical Rules Wiki because of my expertise in the finer points of motorcycle racing history or because of my intricate knowledge of the inner workings of a motorcycle drivetrain. Azhar picked me precisely because of my “outsiders eyes” and the fresh viewpoint I brought into a sport that is filled with strong opinions and well-set ways.

Because of my involvement in this project, however, I have been diving into some of the history of motorsports and trying to get familiar with some of the knowledge that comes naturally to those of you who have followed the sport your entire lives.

When I want a good long look into the vastness of my own ignorance about motorcycle racing, I tune into MotoGPod, a podcast of motorcycle racing news and discussion moderated by Jim Race, Jules Cisek, and Bob Hayes, three guys who could probably talk for hours in my presence without me interrupting them with anything constructive to add to the conversation.  Last week’s show, however, was a rare exception to that rule.  Jules Cisek interviewed Azhar Hussain about the Wiki project.

His interview begins at 1:10:00 into the podcast.  “We encourage anybody who knows anything to come and be a part of it.”

Give it a listen, if for no other reason than to hear him say that I have “a legal mind” and that I’m looking through the rules and keeping them “intellectually credible.”   It’s my new ring tone.

Azhar makes some great points on this podcast, including:

  • if it’s a good idea and we can put it in, we will.
  • what’s really driven this is that technology is moving too fast for any single individual or any group of individuals to know what’s going on.
  • we want to include the people and countries who have been excluded from the motorcycle racing rules creation process
  • TTXGP can only exist if we stay at the leading edge of technology

Lots more in the 12 minute interview.

Find the podcast here:

Thanks, also to Jim Race and Jules Cisek for registering as users on the Wiki.  Looking forward to your contributions to the project.

Share

h1

Isle of Man to TTXGP: Bye

January 29, 2010

This blog’s mission is twofold: First, it stands as a platform to support the TTXGP Technical Rules Wiki, of which I am the moderator.  I try to publish articles that will help people decide to join the Wiki and publish pointers to help them participate in it once they become users.  Second, the blog also serves as a bit of a clearinghouse of TTXGP news.

As part of the second purpose of the blog, keeping up with the news, it’s necessary to report the downs as well as the ups. Definitely a down: Isle of Man splits with TTXGP in ‘bitterly disappointing’ move

Maybe the reasons for this decision by the IOM folks will become clear with time.  I will not speculate here.  The Wiki is separate from the politics of the day, this blog is mainly about the wiki, and as such, is not an appropriate soap box.

The fact of the matter is that the TTXGP still has 14 races in six countries.

The work continues.

Share

h1

AGV Backmarker on the TTXGP Technical Rules

January 21, 2010

Mark Gardiner, who also writes the AGV Backmarker column for RoadRacerX.com had some great insights about the technical rules wiki of TTXGP:

A Czar neutralizes potential revolution…

As I noted a few weeks ago, Azhar Hussain—the man who created the TTXGP race on the Isle of Man last year—is now promoting a number of zero-emissions races and also selling a TTXGP production racer called the Mavizen TTX02 http://www.mavizen.com/. Someone was quick to give Azhar the nickname “The Czar.” While I suspect he takes secret pleasure in that tag, it also alluded to the potential conflict-of-interest in that situation. Obviously in that dual role, Azhar could have structured or at least interpreted the TTXGP rules in ways that would give his Mavizen motorcycle an advantage.

Such a conflict of interest and the prospect of competing at a disadvantage might scare potential race teams away from TTXGP, especially now that the FIM has announced a rival ePower championship.

But I have to admit that Azhar has at least temporarily silenced his critics by declaring that the TTXGP rules will be crowd-sourced. He’s appointed an independent moderator of the rules “wiki.” I suppose this is an alternative to either a rules dictatorship or the often-fractious rules committee.

It will be interesting to see how it works in practice. Frankly, at this early stage in the zero-emissions racing world, I’d like to see the simplest rulebook, one that would encourage the most diverse grid.

With that in mind, here are my (complete) suggested rules: Chassis design—two wheels that are in-line when the machine is traveling in a straight line; power train—no internal combustion of fossil fuels.

That’s an interesting take on how to simplify 20 or so pages of technical rules, Mark.  Come on and join the wiki and share those thoughts in the TTXGP laboratory.  If nothing else, it will stimulate some conversation.

h1

“Charge”

January 21, 2010

What more does a headline need to say?

A friend shared a link with me to the official website for “Charge”, a movie (in production) about the first TTXGP Race at the Isle of Man in June 2009.  It looks downright amazing, but, as I’ve confessed before, the subject of motorcycle racing is pretty new to me.  Furthermore, when I found out that the movie was directed by Mark Neale, the director of “Faster,” I missed the significance.

I actually watched “Faster” last night and learned that MotoGP racing is a sport filled with homicidal/suicidal maniacs who ride unbelievably powerful motorcycles around twisting, curving tracks designed to make the riders’ wishes (be they homicidal or suicidal) come true.  I also learned that when you watch a rider exit his bike in slow motion, (and by “exit” I mean “get thrown from”), you actually flinch as his body bounces and slides and smashes into the track barrier.

As the film opens, Valentino Rossi, six-time MotoGP champion, is interviewed as he drives (in a car) around what looks to be a race track.  He is describing the power of the 500cc bikes.  “At the beginning when you try the first time the 500, Ahh F@ck!”  And that pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

But this movie is not some travelogue about a racing season.  No, this movie includes history, drama (Rossi and his chief rival, Max Biaggi, have a tension between them that is palpable and compelling), action (the track footage is simply amazing) and humor.

The movie recently received the “Best Movie Of the Decade” accolade from RoadRacerX magazine.

Having watched “Faster,” I’m comforted in knowing that the TTXGP film, “Charge,” is in capable hands.

Below is the trailer for “Charge” but be sure to go to the official site to sign up for email updates on the progress of this significant film.