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Victory Takes Class Wins at Pikes Peak; Kawasaki Fastest Bike, Overall


Don Canet finished second overall at PPIH aboard his electric Victory Empulse RR

Don Canet nearly did it. He was second overall, first in class, aboard his electric Victory Empulse RR, while Victory’s gas-powered Project 156 was third overall, again first in class, at last Sunday’s Pikes Peak Hill Climb.  Canet finished just a few seconds behind the fastest motorcycle, a Kawasaki Z1000 piloted by Bruno Langlois.

Canet had more than one advantage aboard an electric-powered machine. Most notably, his bike’s power output was unaffected by the elevation changes in the race, unlike the gas-powered machines.

Here is a press release we received from Victory Motorcycles earlier today:

MINNEAPOLIS — June 27, 2016 Showcasing its Modern American Muscle powered both by gas and electric motors, Victory Motorcycles® is proud to announce that Victory Racing’s® electric Empulse® RR ridden by Cycle World’s Road Test Editor Don Canet and gas-powered Project 156™ piloted by Jeremy Toye accelerated away from the competition to win their respective classes at the 2016 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC) and take second and third overall.”

“The hair-raising moment of my run came in a fast 100-mph sweeper approaching Upper Gravel Pit, which is well up the course. I slithered across an oil stain at the apex, then again crossing over the double yellow centerline. In a heart-stopping moment I ran out of road and was off on the dirt shoulder at high speed. Luck was on my side as I stood the bike upright and coasted along looking for the best spot to cut back onto the stepped pavement edge. The excursion completely killed my drive through the following flat-out right and straight that follows,” Canet says about his winning run on the Empulse RR in the PPC-Electric Motorcycle Class. “My hope for a King of the Mountain top time evaporated, however, as the downtime allowed the road to dry prior to the Heavyweight class contenders making their run, there’s almost no way to fully prepare for the track conditions you’ll see in the early morning runs.”

In the overall PPIHC motorcycle competition, Canet and the Empulse RR placed 2nd while Toye and Project 156 placed 3rd, both closely following veteran racer Corsican Bruno Langlois and his Kawasaki Z 1000 who benefitted from a dryer and warmer course later in the morning due to a series of red flags.

Canet and his Empulse RR clocked a time of 10:17.813 with an average speed of 69.9 mph through the 156-turn course that takes racers from 9,390 feet above sea level to the mountain’s summit of 14,115 feet above sea level. The 12.42-mile course is split into four sections. Canet zipped through the flowing section #1 in 1:50.531, steep section #2 in 2:26.924, technical section #3 in 2:53.568 and longer, high elevation section #4 in 3:06.790.

Toye rode Project 156 to the Pikes Peak summit in a time of 10.19.777 with an average speed of 69.7 mph. He and his Project 156 bellowed through section #1 in 1:52.520, section #2 in 2:27.213, section #3 in 2:53.375 and section #4 in 3:06.669.

“I think it’s a great month for Victory Motorcycles and a great month for America!” says Brian Wismann, Victory Racing Team Manager. “Imagine our brand first taking on the world’s best at the Isle of Man and achieving a podium there, then a couple of weeks later taking on the other epic race on the planet here at Pikes Peak and putting two bikes on the podium – one gas and one electric. I’d just like to really thank all of our sponsors in helping us race these bikes to the clouds in such a stellar way. Victory Motorcycles puts out a great team. I just want to let everyone know that everything we do at Isle of Man and everything we do at Pikes Peak makes it into our production bikes and that that is why we race.”

Victory Motorcycles was the only brand at this year’s PPIHC to race both electric and gas-powered race vehicles.

A race-prepped version of the Victory Empulse® TT, the Victory Empulse RR contended Pikes Peak to build upon the legacy of the motorcycle that took 3rd Place in last year’s SES TT Zero Challenge on the Isle of Man with rider Lee Johnston. It is a completely different bike than the Victory RR that achieved a 2nd Place podium finish with William Dunlop at this year’s recent Isle of Man competition.

While the base frame and overall design of the Empulse RR are essentially the same as the production Empulse TT, a more aerodynamic and lighter monocoque carbon-fiber subframe is used and the battery, controller, and Parker Hannifin-sourced motor have been upgraded with repackaged battery cells offering more capacity, new motor windings and an updated control system and wire harness. Visual differences from the version raced last year in the SES TT include an upright riding position, reduction of bodywork and the addition of hand guards.

Project 156 is a custom race bike built by Roland Sands Designs to serve as a test bed for a prototype engine Victory race technicians developed to analyze the limits of the powerplant that now propels the new Victory Octane™ production motorcycle.

Garnering what was learned from Project 156, the production version of the 1200cc Octane engine was born. Canet placed well in qualifying aboard Project 156 in 2015 but was unable to finish the run only a few miles from the top of the mountain due to a fueling issue. This year, the bike’s engine cooling, lubrication system and fuel system had been massaged to better deal with the dramatic changes in the elevation of the course – particularly at lower RPM to further help Toye squirt out of the tight switchbacks.

“Victory Motorcycles made history at Pikes Peak this past weekend, proving its Modern American Muscle with both electric and gas-powered motorcycles on what’s often referred to as America’s mountain,” says Rod Krois, General Manager of Victory Motorcycles. “The Empulse RR and Project 156 have proven to be important test platforms for Victory engineering and – as their results on the mountain show – are sure to pay dividends in future products.”

“Two years ago we didn’t have anything to compete with at the hill here,” says Nate Secor, Marketing Manager for Victory Motorcycles. “Now, having two of the three spots in the overall, all of our owners and all of the fans of American motorcycling should be proud. As a brand, we’re extremely proud of all of the work the guys have done on the engineering side and with the riders for putting us in this position. It is a long way to come in two years, and I don’t think anyone else in the world has a podium at the Isle of Man and at Pikes Peak in the same month. So we’re extremely proud of that and will be excited to get back here and make it happen again.”

Not only racing against time and competitors, the two Victory Racing motorcycles competed against each other in an epic gas vs. electric battle dubbed “Thunder vs. Lightning.”

Have you been a fan of #TeamThunder or #TeamLightning? Fans of Victory Motorcycles were invited to visit the Victory Motorcycles website to cast their vote regarding which bike, Thunder or Lightning, would be fastest up the mountain and to register for a chance to win a Victory Octane or Victory Empulse TT. The motorcycle given away will be the bike that received the most number of votes.

Learn more about Victory Motorcycles at

See more of MD’s great photography:



Jeremy Toye took third overall aboard the Victory Project 156


  1. Nikita says:

    It would be cool to see some of the GP and WSBK riders race up the hill. but being in the middle of the season probably too much risk and liability involved regarding injury.

  2. Alonzo! says:

    and a electric starter!

  3. Tom R says:

    Did H-D run anything?

  4. Dale says:

    Great news, and fabulous photos. Now to build (for the long haul, not in and out of the market) some non-cruisers. Pegs back, seat up!

  5. Dave says:

    We should also realize Victory is the only factory putting money into this effort.

    • Grover says:

      And most people have never even heard of “Victory Motorcycles”. There are even some motorcyclist that don’t know they exist.

  6. Mick says:

    Being a Minnesota native. I am interested to see these results. But like many here, I wonder what is all this promotional spending is for. How do you sell cruisers by racing a naked and an E-Bike?

    • dino says:

      Victory, or Indian, has to come out with something more along the standard lines… You are right, why are “cruiser” companies racing bikes like that? Just to develop an engine?

      Polaris also puts out the Slingshot 3-wheeler, which doesn’t fit in any traditional slot, so I would hope somehow the 156 bike comes out in some street form..

    • JVB says:

      Beyond any actual bike in a marketing segment, think of it as a means for Victory to advertise their technical prowess. Since a Victory owner is PROBABLY a more open minded motorcycle consumer, showing modern capabilities is a positive marketing direction.
      Retro is nostalgic, but retro-modern, which looks retro with modern capabilities, is where it is at.

      Funny how my most modern motorcycle is a fuel injected 2V Moto Guzzi

    • Mr.Mike says:

      Polaris is playing the long game.

  7. PatrickD says:

    A very credible result. If we see a victory over all the I-C engines next year, it’ll be an even bigger story.
    It’d be good to see thge field of bikes that this was up against. I think that events like Pikes Peak and the Isle of Man will go much further in legitimising electric bikes to riders than circuit racing would.

    Now, let’s see someone cross the refuelling hurdle by entering an electric bike into an endurance race….

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      It was a very good result. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some very serious contenders show up next year on electrical equipment.

    • Zuki says:

      Didn’t the Lightning LS-218 win it overall in ’13? Pretty sure it did.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        You are correct come to think about it. I think the same guy that won it in 2012 on a Multistrada won it that year on an LS-218.

  8. Provologna says:

    The higher the elevation the thinner is the air. Would not higher elevation further increase e-bike performance vs. its ICE cousin?

    Congrats to Victory and both riders. I would test ride a street version of the 156.

    PS: greats shots of both bikes!

    • TimC says:

      “Most notably, his bike’s power output was unaffected by the elevation changes in the race, unlike the gas-powered machines.”

    • todd says:

      The high elevation times were pretty similar between the electric and the 156.

  9. Chuck Chrome says:

    Nice work guys!! Takes some serious stone to run that kind of pace on that layout.

  10. Dave says:

    Kawasaki win and all the talk is about Victory.

  11. Tommy D says:

    Victory had the Empulse as part of the demo fleet at Loudon, NH this past 93rd NH Classic Bike Week. I was busy racing so I never got a chance to ride it but that was the bike I was wanted to demo out of all the bikes there.

  12. Jeremy in TX says:

    Great showing Mssrs. Canet and Toye!

  13. chris says:

    Great accomplishment Victory, Now please let us have a production model very similar to 156 , cause we all know that other well known American company will never do it.

  14. goodlyRun says:


  15. Topperrx says:

    Interesting that Thunder was as quick as Lightning in the upper sections where it should have suffered from elevation.

    • goodlyRun says:


    • Scott says:

      Maybe the fact that “Lightning” ran off the road and onto the dirt shoulder had something to do with that…

      • dino says:

        Yeah, that run-off he described likely cost him more than the few seconds that separated him from the top time… Too bad, but that is racing. If he had a later run time, and the dryer road like the Kawasaki had it might have been a different headline.

        That said… PLEASE do not come out with a chrome encrusted Cruiser based on the Empulse! Keep ’em standard, and keep ’em naked! Factory or aftermarket can put on bikini fairings and farkles as the customer wants. It’s easier to add stuff, then strip it off a factory bike..

      • Topperrx says:

        Article states he ran off once. Looking at the splits shows the ICE wasn’t off the pace set by the electric. Impressive showing by Thunder.

      • Bart says:

        I think cold tarmac is a first-term effect at this race. Advantage to running later in the day. Not to take anything away from the Kawa win.

        Don needs a ceramic radiant heater for the front tire and front tire temp data telemetry on his instruments.

        He can ride the front hard, but uphill on the gas, no load on the tire, it gets cold quick!

        I rode with the guy once, he is hard to pass!

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