An Open Letter to Chip Yates

Dear Chip.

First I heard about you when the big stink about the rule change at TTXGP made it so your very heavy bike couldn’t run.  Instead of reconfiguring your bike, as memory serves, (and forgive me if I don’t indulge you and look back in the record to provide links and such), you leveraged this into some serious buzz claiming you had been “banned by TTXGP”, and instead decided to run in the gas-bike races.  If anyone has those links, feel free to post them in the comments.

I didn’t think much of your histrionics then, because the TTXGP is a pretty young effort with growing pains, the rule change was pretty controversial anyway, I know a few of the people involved lost a lot of sleep over them and rather than providing some rational perspective and discussion your claim was at once inflammatory, self-centered, and simply untrue.  Since, though, you were taking it to the gas bikes, I figured, OK, what the hell, the guy is getting some publicity at the expense of TTXGP and bringing it to a slightly different venue that will benefit electric motorcycle racing in a slightly different angle.  Fine.  Different strokes, and who am I to tell him to grow up?

I did, however, become a “fan”.  Anything for the greater good, right?

The Pikes Peak race was great, and in a field of gas machines I could look past a lot of your Muhammed Ali-esque blather.  Hell, you’re in amongst the wolves, might as well make as much noise as possible.  Again, great press, lots of non-electric folk started seeing the bikes in a different light. (The thing about Ali, by the way?  He had a big mouth, but he was, in fact, “The Greatest”.)

This recent few weeks at Bonneville, though, put me over the edge.  Richard Hatfield, of Lightning, in Richard Hatfield form, very quietly shattered the 200mph mark  the week before the BUB Speed Trials, and set a LSR at 215 and change.  It was awesome.  The Killacycle guys were tooling up a new effort for them, and very publicly learning as they went.  You were yabbering on about how the BUB trials were the only “official” timed trials that mattered.  Throw in a few tweets congratulating Richard, and you figure you can say anything you want?

After some great accomplishments this past week, four FIM records and some grueling efforts including crashes and mechanical failures, you issued a press release saying, among other things, “The SWIGZ.COM Pro Racing Team made the decision to attempt four FIM World Records rather than compete in other, unofficial land speed events. …”  “… Lightning Motorcycle’s unofficial record …”  and, true to form, a lengthy explanation of the FIM rules and how they at once were the only “official” rules, and made it more difficult (and ultimately impossible) for you to match Lightning’s record…  by your own admission, your goal.  Here’s that press release, for those with a strong stomach.

Also, apparently you’re retiring.

I have some news for you.  You’re not Michael Jordan.  The only reason I’m interested in your “retirement from Pro Racing” is that now, maybe, we can get past all the Chip Yates noise and find out more about the teams that are in it for the race, the vehicles and the technology than about the egos.

Maybe you need to have the ego of a 16 year old testosterone-pumping adrenaline junkie to be a racer…  after all, the whole point is a “I can go faster than anyone else” mentality, but then, as a friend pointed out, there are guys like Richard Hatfield and many, many others who just hammer away at the task at hand, keeping their mouth shut, and when they do say something, it’s gracious and generous.  For the most part, they let their performance speak for them.  So, it’s not a requirement, apparently.  Just an unfortunate byproduct sometimes.

You’ve done some remarkable stuff.  Why you have to try to make yourself look better and bigger by making claims of “biggest, most powerful, most technologically advanced” and claims that denigrate other’s efforts I just don’t understand, other than you just want ever more attention.  Maybe you don’t see calling Lightning’s records “unofficial” as a slap in their face, and if so, you need a little dose of reality outside of Chip-World, but you want attention, well, you’ve got it.

Unfortunately it’s not the good kind.  From me, anyway.

So, you’ve lost a fan.  I’m sure it’s not going to cost you any sleep, and it earned you even more attention, minor though this post may be.  I’ve heard that you’re a great guy in person from mutual friends, and it’s a small community still…  I’m sad to say I really have no interest in finding that out for myself.  You shoot your mouth off, don’t be too surprised if people start getting sick of hearing you and say so.

As a result of the last few weeks, I’m delighted with what Richard Hatfield, Killacycle and other teams have accomplished for electric motorcycles and racing.  I can’t wait until Eva and the team go back to the drawing board and start posting stuff on their new motors…  and what the other teams are going to be working on this winter.  I learn a lot from them, and that’s really what I’m into this for.   As far as Chip’s plans, I only hope they don’t continue the pattern of trying to steal the spotlight from every other team out there.




3 responses to “An Open Letter to Chip Yates

  1. Look here:

    I’ve been covering Chip since his first announcement back in 2009. I probably went overboard in my article covering their falling out. Somewhere on that page is a category link for Chip Yates, and you should be able to find my other articles on his career via that link. In any case the result of that falling-out was unfortunate for all of us, and I think Chip made some good lemonade out of the lemons he was handed.

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here. His retirement press release is rather interesting to read from different angles, as you note.

  2. Wow….why dont you guys do your own shit. Try and peel your eyes from the computer monitor and stop being so jealous of other peoples’ accomplishments. One of the reason that Chip has NEVER, EVER responded to any blogger is that he simply does not care what any of you have to say, and has never bothered to even read them. You can not even concieve of the massive efforts Chip has put into reaching these goals, with the help of many dedicated, talented people that are working with him for FREE…hmmm, those people that work relentlessly side by side with him for years have never uttered a single complaint. Last but not least, nor would I…and I’ve been married to him for 14 years. Some day I hope that you will accomplish something important enough to have someone care to write about. I highly doubt that will happen. Good luck in your EV world, Chip has truly retired from it. Time for something new…you guys can have it.

    • Yeah, you’re right. I really need to get out and do more. Lord knows the racing boys and world record setters are the only ones really making any contribution to anything at all, right?

      5 books, three electric bikes within three years and a 1971 restoration from a bunch of rusted parts that cost less than $1500 and hits over 100mph seems so, well, lame by comparison. I am not worthy.

      Actually, on the jealous thing, yeah you’re right. I’ve always wanted to be able to pull off the muttonchop look…

      (It always amazes me when someone craves attention as much as these people who put themselves in a “celebrity spotlight” – such as it is – and then whine about getting attention. You can’t take the heat, well, you know how the saying goes… but I guess he’s already decided to get out of the kitchen.)


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