How the TTXGP Carbon Free Grand Prix Works

How the TTXGP Got Its Start
John Schimmin, the Isle of Man Environment Minister (left), and Azhar Hussain, founder of the TTXGP (right), behind the Mavizen electric motorcycle.
John Schimmin, the Isle of Man Environment Minister (left), and Azhar Hussain, founder of the TTXGP (right), behind the Mavizen electric motorcycle.
Photo by Kristen Hall-Geisler

Azhar Hussain owned a small aftermarket electronics company in the United Kingdom called Mavizen. They were doing pretty well making accessories for devices like the iPod when the global economic crisis of 2008 hit. It was too much for his small company to survive, so Hussain sold everything but the name Mavizen in early 2009. But a new venture had already caught his eye: electric motorcycles.

Convincing the racing powers that be that electric motorcycles should be raced on one of the most legendary courses in the world was a challenge. First, he made a deal with the Isle of Man to use the TT circuit for electric racing. The next step was even more difficult: Hussain not only had to prove that the technology was safe, but also change the minds of the established racing world. "There's an element of motorsports being not as forward-thinking and innovative as it's portrayed," said Hussain. "It's a very traditional sport."

He had confidence that those minds -- and rules they had established over 100 years of racing -- could be changed. So confident, in fact, that Mavizen produced its first electric motorcycle prototype, the TTX01, in November of 2008, just six months before the first race. But Mavizen wasn't the first to build such a bike, and Hussain knew it. As he worked to establish the inaugural race, he invited teams of other electric motorcycle builders, such as Brammo, to participate.

Hussain established relationships with the government of the Isle of Man, including Environment Minister John Schimmin. He also worked with the Auto-Cycle Union and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to establish rules and regulations, with IET fellow Simon Maddison eventually signing on as tech director for the race.

While basing the rules on established road-racing and TT history, the new technology required new guidelines. "We are new to motorsports, and that's been both an advantage and a challenge," said Hussain. "The advantage is that we're not burdened by any kind of heritage. We just say, 'OK, why?' We have to, because we don't know anything."

"Asking that question, why, hasn't always brought back an answer that makes any kind of sense anymore. Rules are made at a moment in time for a specific instance. Some accident happens, or somebody creates a new valve, so they create a rule to deal with that situation. The world moves on, but the rule gets in the rulebook, and every year it's a rule. Science has moved on in such big leaps and bounds that the rules just do not keep up."

The rules devised by the TTXGP founders are a complete departure from any other motorcycle race rules, according to Hussain. They allow for things like two-wheel drive, extensive aerodynamic fairings, and feet-forward bike designs.

Finally, when all the safety and technical requirements had been worked out, the date for the inaugural race was set for June 12, 2009. Hussain published the rules and regulations and put out the call for teams to register.