Plans for eco-friendly race charging ahead
Bermuda could rival Monaco as the most “glamorous racecourse on the planet” with a zero-emission superbike race in the works to be staged in the East End next year.
If given the green light, the Bermuda Charge, a three-day meet held during the Labour Day weekend, will feature some of the sport's best riders in a short-sprint, time-trial format from Clearwater Beach to Stone Crusher Corner.
Organisers believe the event could not only “put the eyes of the world on Bermuda”, but also encourage and engage interest in renewable energy while promoting road safety on the island.
The meet, which as already received support from the Bermuda Tourism Authority, would feature three zero-emission classes — performance bikes, touring car and touring bikes — an entry level category for Bermudians, combustion bikes, and a combustion v zero-emission drag race.
David Cahill, the Bermuda Charge director, feels the picturesque East End, where he has lived for the past three years, would prove to be the perfect backdrop for a motorcycle race.
“We've got the most naturally glamorous road race route available on the planet; even more glamorous than Monaco,” said Englishman Cahill. “The Bermuda Charge will offer a Monaco for the East Coast, but without the air and noise pollution!”
Cahill believes the event could help change the perception of electric vehicles being slow and unsexy while accelerating the island's move to sustainable energy.
“The overall objective of the event is actually an environmental one,” said Cahill, who estimates the event could attract about 5,000 visitors to the island and inject $7 million into the economy as part of a five-year plan.
“Bermuda has a great opportunity; we've got sea all around, consistent winds and year-round sunshine. There's no reason why we shouldn't be running more renewable vehicles. We can do a lot better than other nations who can't foot that infrastructure quickly.”
Cahill pointed to the success of Formula E, a fully electric street racing series, which takes place in cities such as New York, Paris and Hong Kong, as evidence that zero-emission racing is the future of motorsport.
The Moto GP has also launched an electric class for 2019 based on the Energica Ego — a 145-horsepower Italian sports bike capable of 150mph.
“To get that technology in front of people and show that it's viable — that's what will really help change people's mindset,” Cahill said.
“Most people picture electric bikes going at 20 to 30mph, but the fastest bike in the world is a zero-emission bike — the Lightning — which is produced in America. It has a top speed of 220mph.”
While the Isle of Man TT is widely considered the most famous motorcycle event, Cahill said the Bermuda Charge is more aligned with the Pike's Peak International Hill Climb in Colorado — a time-trial sprint through a scenic route held over a single weekend “with limited social and environmental disruption”.
Cahill considers the Isle of Man TT an outdated model because of its grim reputation as the world's most deadly race. In the past decade there has been an average of three fatalities each year, whereas there have been just five incidents in the 100-year history of Pike's Peak.
“From our perspective the Isle of Man is an outdated concept because its morbid social toll detracts from what they are trying to achieve,” Cahill said.
With the eight entrants in each class competing against the clock rather than each other, riders would be released at 30-second intervals and therefore eliminating physical contact.
“We want the same kind of excitement [at the Isle of Man TT], more glamorous scenery, but a safer and more environmentally conscious event — an updated version of racing for the future,” Cahill said.
Should the Bermuda Charge receive approval, Mervyn Whyte MBE, the event director of the Vauxhall International North West 200 in Northern Ireland, will oversee its safety as the clerk of the course.
Whyte has been involved with the North West 200 — the largest annual sports event in Northern Ireland — since 1971 and visited the island last month to validate the Bermuda Charge's safety plan and perform a route inspection.
“There's nobody really more experienced in terms of road race arrangement and safety than Mervyn,” Cahill said. “Mervyn is connected to every big-name road racer there is — they have all come through the North West 200.
“You have all of the top names: Bruce Anstey, Michael Dunlop and Guy Martin. Those guys are available for appearance fees. We will certainly generate some big-name interest and look to have them over here.”
Whyte said the Bermuda Charge has “tremendous potential” and was impressed with the course and the friendliness of the island's people.
“The idea is to kick off in a small way and progress each year,” Whyte said. “It's really all tied into the road safety aspect as well, which is what we do at the North West 200 to reduce road fatalities.
“That's a big part of it, as well as the eco side of things, introducing electric bikes and cars, and reducing emissions on the island.”
Whyte said the event could attract world-class riders in the ilk of Alastair Seeley, who has the all-time record of wins at the North West 200, and Ian Hutchinson, who raced at the Isle of Man TT this month.
“We would be keen to bring over some of our top competitors,” Whyte said. “We have a competitor in Northern Ireland, Alastair Seeley, who has 24 wins at the North West. “I've no doubt he would be very interested to come and have a look at it with a view to taking part. We also have John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson and Michael Rutter, who race in the UK. I've no doubt they would be interested in taking part. I can see this event progressing to that.”
In an effort to attract worldwide interest from centennials and millennials, Cahill plans simultaneously to run an e-Sports gaming tournament, pitting YouTube personalities against professional video gamers in a custom-built tent at Clearwater.
“We have a distribution partner committed, Scuf Gaming Company, which has a global audience of 180 million,” Cahill added.
“They see synergy between e-sports, which is what they're involved in, and electric sports. They want to bring some influences over here, YouTube personalities on their roster and professional gaming teams.
“We will run an event alongside [the Bermuda Charge] at Clearwater and those guys will distribute the content they are given of Bermuda and the race itself.
“We will reach a huge worldwide digital audience.”
A warm-up event, the Bluewave Bermuda Charge Charity Ride-Out and Expo, will be held on September 2, starting from the Bermuda Transport Museum in Dockyard to Clearwater Beach. The ride-out and expo will feature live music and a trophy race day the Rubis Southside Raceway, including an electric bike v combustion bike race.