At 8.30am on the Saturday morning during the Austrian Grand Prix, the media centre is coming to life as more journalists and photographers file in. “You’d never know that MotoE is on, would you?” comments a colleague. Outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, fast-moving reflections and colours zip down the main straight of the Spielberg circuit. Somebody has hit “mute” on MotoGP.
It’s the free practice session for the brand-new electric support class to theotoGP main event – afforded the distinction of an FIM World Cup (normally a precursor to full world championship status) – and the first of three years as part of the fabric of MotoGP. In a sport that involves a control tyre supplier, standard electronics ECU, tightening rules on aerodynamics and frequent bitter rivalry between the major riders, nothing has polarised opinion quite like MotoE in 2019.
In a strange reverse for these climate change-conscious times, the principal criticisms have been quite rudimentary and have focussed on aspects such as the lack of noise and the short race distances due to battery life. There have also been additional safety concerns. Race marshals have been trained to deal with red and green lights denoting the status of live hazardous crashed motorcycles and have been armed with insulated recovery equipment.
Infamously, the MotoE story began in a fiery haze of heat: a short-circuit ignited one of the lithium batteries and all 18 stock-spec motorcycles and the material of the E-paddock were incinerated at the (thankfully relatively empty) Jerez circuit ahead of a test in March.