Rider: Arthur Kowitz
Age/years riding: 66/53
Occupation: Commercial real estate broker and property manager
Race bikes: 1975 Kawasaki Z1B/2013 Brammo Empulse TTX
Daily riders: 2006 MV Agusta F4 1000, 2007 Aprilia Tuono, 2009 Kawasaki Concours, 2013 Brammo Empulse R
At first blush a vintage Norton Manx and a Brammo Empulse electric seem like odd track mates, yet they’re both American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association eligible. How that came to be is mostly the work of one person, Arthur Kowitz.
In 1975, Kowitz got his AMA expert license and started riding a new 903cc Kawasaki Z1B in Superbike Production. He took first at Pocono that year, and ninth at Daytona in 1976 in the then-new AMA Superbike Championship. But at the end of 1982, the AMA decided to limit 4-cylinder Superbikes to 750cc. “I was already racing against 4-valve Suzukis and Hondas,” Kowitz says, “and I’m thinking, I’m going to have to retool. I’m doing my own engines and chassis, my own R&D, I’m 33 years old and I’ve got new children. It was the intersection of too many things.” Kowitz didn’t stop riding, however. “I never got away from motorcycles, I just didn’t go to the racetrack anymore.”
The fascination with electric power goes back to the same era. “Sometime back in the 1970s, I’m reading Mother Earth News and there’s an article about a guy who converted an Opel GT to electric. I was so excited. An electric car — no gas, no exhaust.” Kowitz bought the plans but didn’t build the car, yet some years later he and his son Abe rescued a Mazda GLC from the crusher and converted it to electric, following that up with a Saturn, also converted. Kowitz wanted to build an electric motorcycle, but the technology just wasn’t there — yet. “I didn’t think I had the time and resources to build what I wanted, so I bided my time and waited,” Kowitz says.
In 2007 Kowitz joined AHRMA, racing the same Z1B from his Superbike days. He won the AHRMA Superbike championship in 2008, repeating the effort in 2014. Meanwhile, his interest in electric motorcycles continued, and when Brammo introduced the Empulse in 2012, Kowitz was already on the waiting list. “I took it for a track day and it was so much fun that I started to strip it, and I thought, if I strip this thing, I’m gonna lose the street bike I enjoy, so I bought a second one.”
In 2013, Kowitz applied for his FIM pro license to ride in the eRoadRacing World Cup, but was declined because he was too old. “I was 62 and the limit was 50,” he says. A lifelong AMA member, he got the AMA to file for a waiver, and following a series of tests (“I felt like I was going to be an astronaut,” Kowitz says of the experience), he got his license and ran in the Laguna Seca and Indianapolis races.
When FIM announced it was dropping the series after 2013, Kowitz decided to try to pick up the pieces, but it wasn’t easy. “No one was interested,” he says. “A lot of groups wouldn’t allow electric bikes on the track much less have a class for them.” Except AHRMA. “AHRMA allowed it as an exhibition race,” he says, and the first eMotoRacing races ran in 2014. Two years later, AHRMA made eSuperSport the official race class. “We started with a couple of entries, then four, then six, then eight, and now it’s a permanent class.”
Modern bikes racing in AHRMA may seem left field to some, but not to Kowitz. “AHRMA is historic, not vintage,” he stresses. “The minute we stepped on the moon, it was historic. In that perspective, racing electric motorcycles is more historic than some other established modern classes.” MC