As eSC embarks on the recruitment and selection of athletes for 2023, the championship’s head of development Joe Akroyd reflects on the rider journey in this inaugural season, from the initial assessment programmes, through selection, testing and four incredible rounds of fiercely competitive racing.
Thirty professional athletes from a variety of sports came together in 2022 to form eSC’s first-ever rider pool. Some combined disciplines while others made a full transition from sports as diverse as snowboarding, BMX, motocross, skating, freestyle scooter and even hockey to compete exclusively in the eSkootr Championship.
Each rider brought experience that has been beneficial in some way to the physical and mental demands of racing the S1-X, but ultimately it’s a brand-new sport. The new micromobility series features a bespoke e-scooter designed exclusively for racing and as a result it’s been a fundamentally new discipline to master, even for those who made the switch from other forms of motorsport.
eSC: Joe, at the end of the first season of eSC which rider has impressed you the most?
Joe: I’d certainly have to put Nicci Daly in that mix, who hasn’t come from what you would call a typical motorsport background but has been incredibly impressive. Yes, she comes from a racing family and has been around car racing with her uncle [Formula 1 driver Derek Daly] and cousin [IndyCar driver Conor Daly] but as an Olympic field hockey player she came to eSC with a blank canvas in terms of understanding racing lines, throttle control and braking points.
Nicci has been very proactive, asking questions, looking at the data and all the time trying to improve her performance. I was really impressed with her approach and I was able to help her with control, weight transfer and working out the mechanics of where she needed to be positioned on corner entry to get the best drive for the exit. She was also aware of her weaknesses which is a very helpful thing when you’re trying to improve. The key was trying to optimise race craft, something that many riders who have been racing bikes for quite a few years were pretty advanced at.
Jordan Rand, for example, was similar in that she constantly strived to achieve her best and even used her spare time to practice motocross, surfing or skating to improve balance and strength. Ultimately, Jordan and Nicci don’t have that experience of racing that some of the bike riders have enjoyed since they were kids. They already have great balance and really just needed to work more on racing lines, positioning and defending their position on track.
Danny Skinner’s approach has been great, too. He started this project at 96kg and he’s now 66kg, so losing 30kg of weight has really highlighted that dedication. He deserves a lot of respect for the way in which he’s applied himself — it’s been amazing.
Obviously there are many more riders who have impressed me, and of course our round winners have produced spectacular racing on their way to the finals and ultimately the podium. But if we’re looking across the length and breadth of the whole season, those are three I think are deserving of special mention.
eSC: Did you always expect the motorbike or Motocross racers to have an advantage when they came into eSC?
Joe: Yes, in that they had a built-in understanding of throttle control, lean angle, body position and racing lines. Having said that, you can’t necessarily draw a direct comparison because the S1-X is like nothing else you can ride. As an example, you can’t load the tyre like you can with a conventional motorcycle.
Some riders had an advantage with racing lines and race craft. Other riders from different sports had better balance and could change direction easily thanks to their strong core.… this was a key strength for Killian Larher and Aymard Vernay.
One of the standout performers was Sara Cabrini, who won round two in Switzerland and was in championship contention right up to the final race. But you have to give a lot of credit to Aymard who won the inaugural championship. On paper everything appeared to be against him - he’s a big guy in terms of physical build, he’s not from a sporting background, isn’t a professional freestyle scooter athlete and didn’t win a single round - but he won the title through consistency and not cracking under pressure.
He’s performed brilliantly across the season. eSC is an extremely accessible sport. You don't need money to do well. Natural talent and hard work shines through.
eSC: Were you surprised the pressure affected quite a few riders as the championship reached its climax?
Joe: One thing we have seen with eSC is that you can never predict how each race will pan out, because anything can happen at any time. And that’s one of the things that fans and TV audiences have found so appealing. Racing has always been a high-pressure environment and going into the final round, yes, I was surprised a few riders felt that.
Marc Luna was one such rider who proved the pressure was on. Coming into the final heats he looked like a championship favourite, but he made a mistake on the opening lap and that put him out of contention.
And heading to Marseille, Anish Shetty was in command at the top of the points standings. Anish is such a gentleman to work with. He came into this series with the mentality that he was so grateful for the opportunity to compete in eSC and that’s as evident now as it was at the beginning. With seven riders in contention for the title, it was so tight at the top and unfortunately he just fell short on the final day.
Our riders have come from different backgrounds and not all have world-class competition experience, so there is an expectation on them which many haven’t really been exposed to before.
Find out more about how to become an eSC rider.
Read part two of this interview.