If a Razor kick scooter and a lightcycle from “Tron” had a baby, it would be the S1-X prototype eSkootr.
These racing machines are powered by twin 6kW motors, fabricated with carbon fiber chassis, weigh upwards of 90 pounds and feature both a boost button and a kill switch.
Decked out from helmet-to-toe in brightly colored safety gear, racers in the eSC eSkootr Championship Racing Series must strain to stay upright on the eSkootr’s two 11-inch wheels while trying to edge out the competition along courses that are no longer than a half mile.
They zip down a starting ramp onto a short-circuit track, leaning 45 degrees while winding around tight corners and darting up to 60 mph in a race to reach the checkered flag.
Spectators across the Bay Area will be able to watch this buzzy action up close and personal this fall as Emeryville is poised to host the second season of the eSkootr Championship. The race will mark the North American debut of one of the newest international motorsports.
The S1-X’s ride is so intense that Khalil Beschir, a former race car driver who co-founded the eSkootr championship, said none of the 30 racers on the league’s 10 professional teams — comprised of Olympians and world champions from sports such as BMX, cycling, motocross, snowboarding and field hockey — can last more than a few minutes at a time.
“It’s so physical on the legs and the core of the body, because you’re squatting for five minutes and swapping legs the entire time,” Beschir said. “When we had one of the top people from the world championship for motorbikes come in, he went for only three minutes and said, ‘This is going to kill us all.’ ”
Thankfully, crowds need not worry about their own safety. Beschir said the London-based organization spent more than two years developing track barriers that can absorb the impact of a eSkootr crash at full-speed without moving more than 7 feet.
After the sport kicked off its inaugural 2022 season on tracks in England, Switzerland and France, the hope is that the eSC Championship will eventually spark grassroots teams, riders and races to sprout beyond the league.
Richard Norton, eSC’s head of commercial and marketing, is confident these races can pique anyone’s interest, from ages 6 to 60.
“Kids are glued to the action because it’s short, heat-based racing,” Norton said. “And parents are also able to enjoy the event, because while the kids are never bored, there’s enough happening for them to be entertained as well.”
But beyond the racing heats themselves, one of the biggest challenges for the league is simply connecting with fans.
“We aren’t just launching a new championship or series — we’re launching a brand new sport,” Norton said. “There’s a lot of work convincing and explaining to people what eSkootr racing even is.”
That’s where events like the upcoming East Bay series come in.
After a tweet caught Mayor John Bauters’ eye last summer, months of negotiations led to the Emeryville City Council’s unanimous Feb. 7 vote to approve a hosting agreement. The eSC Championship will debut in September or October of this year and return again in 2024 and 2025.
Bauters said the last time Emeryville was a leader on an international sporting stage was around 1920 when the first commercial Greyhound racetrack was built in the city.
“Here we are more than 100 years later, and again, people from England have showed up with a sport that is looking to take take hold here in the United States,” Bauters said in an interview last year. “History repeats itself in funny ways.”
In the coming months, the city will work to secure local and regional sponsors to help fund the estimated $1.5 million needed to bring the championship to town, while event organizers continue scouting out the best city streets, venues and spaces to assemble the track.
Chadrick Smalley, deputy director of Emeryville community development, praised the racing series as a unique chance to attract people who would not usually find themselves in the small, square-mile community tucked between Berkeley and Oakland.
“We will be working hand in glove with eSC to make this happen as best we can and hopefully be a great success,” Smalley said. “We don’t get many opportunities to host international events — things that are nascent and have the potential to be a big deal that is celebrated all around the world.”
If everything goes to plan, organizers said the multi-day event will also include educational programs that work to teach riders of all ages and abilities to stay safe.
Beschir said he hopes the eSC Championship can help everyone embrace what’s possible on an electric-powered scooter, especially at a time when some residents have grown to resent the scores of colorful ride-share machines sprinkled across local streets and zooming along sidewalks.
“I think a lot of people think we are all crazy,” Beschir said. “They need to understand how physical and technical the sport is. When they don’t get that, I think people think it’s gimmicky. But also, honestly, we don’t want to be too serious, because it has to be fun.”