This past March during Speed Week at Daytona International Speedway, AMA CEO Rob Dingman announced that the AMA had sold Pro Racing to the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG). In the weeks following the Florida season-opener, DMG has slowly revealed its plans for the future of professional roadracing in America.
In 2009, the current classes—Superbike, Superstock, Formula Xtreme, Supersport and new-for-’08 Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup—will be replaced with Daytona Superbike, Literbike, Moto-ST and a to-be-determined single-make spec class intended primarily to develop younger talent.
All of this has led to varying levels of confusion on the part of fans, manufacturers, sponsors and teams. At the third round of the series, held at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, I spoke with Bill Syfan, a former racer, motorcycle industry veteran and, now, an employee of DMG.
How did DMG decide upon the new class structure for AMA Pro Racing?
“It started as a vision from Roger Edmondson and Jim France. Roger has come up with a lot of good programs in the past, and he had this opportunity to get back into motorbikes after helping the Grand-Am sports-car series get off to a good start. His ideas and what he feels are the needs of the sport, from both entertainment and mechanical standpoints, are what drove us to where we are now with the class structure.
“Daytona Superbike will be middleweight performance. We want as many manufacturers involved as possible. The bikes will be indexed together based on a combination of performance, weight and rider weight. Our plan is to make Daytona Superbike our premier class. “The manufacturers were clear that literbikes are important to them in terms of sales. They’d worked hard on the 2009 Superbike rules and wanted a crack at them. We said, ‘Okay, if that’s what you’d like to do with the 1000s—our vision is closer to Superstock—we’re going to ask you to field a minimum of four and maybe a maximum of six bikes so that we have full grids. Not all the machines have to be works Superbikes, but we want to make sure that we put on a good show.”
Why not use the current World Superbike format, where you have two Superbike races sandwiching a Supersport event?
“That format was recommended. We feel the bikes are getting faster and U.S. tracks aren’t getting any bigger, meaning that there are concerns at these facilities about the viability of racing 1000s. That’s why we want to focus on middleweight performance bikes. We’re going to use a format similar to World Superbike: two Daytona Superbike events. The promoters are going to tell us what works best for them. It might be better in one market for both races to be run on the same day; it might work better in another market for the races to be split between two days. Literbikes could race between Daytona Superbike events.
“We want good entertainment. We think there are fewer guys who can ride literbikes competitively and more guys who can ride 600s competitively. We want full grids and the field compressed closely together so that there is good racing at the front, in the middle and at the back. We think that the future of racing is going to be better with middleweight performance bikes than with literbikes.”
DMG plans to institute horsepower and weight restrictions with Daytona Superbike. Won’t that limit development?
“I think there is some truth to that. We’re going to leave engine tuning open enough, but I don’t think you’ll see traction control on our Daytona Superbikes. Formula One has gone away from traction control. It’s a big discussion in MotoGP right now. Look how much money people spend on an FX bike to find a second (per lap) over a Supersport bike. We don’t think that traction control makes for better entertainment. It may be safer, to some extent, but we don’t think the fans in the stands can tell the difference.
“Stopping traction control is going to be one of our challenges. We’re probably going to mandate some sort of tamperproof aftermarket electronic engine management unit that both the sanctioning body and the teams can plug into and, in turn, we can see any telltale information that might give us clues if what we saw on the track differs from what we see in post-race dyno testing.”
How important to DMG is factory involvement?
“It’s very important. We want them involved. We want their ideas. We want their opinions. They are a big part of the show. They have invested in motorcycle racing for as long as they’ve been around. We would like to see them expand their level of support with privately funded teams. We also have no problem with them continuing to field factory teams and riders. We feel like, as in any form of racing, the better teams are going to rise to the top. They have the best riders and resources. We want to help private teams get funding, hook them up in long-term relationships with manufacturers and build teams much like you see in sports-car racing.”
What should we expect in the coming months?
“We’ve talked about a lot of things—rolling starts, for example—that are new to people and, frankly, probably a bit scary. They haven’t done it before, and they may be like, ‘This sounds dodgy.’ Everything isn’t nailed down yet. Give us some time. We have to get enough of a rules structure in place to get the spec tire out for bid. Same thing with fuel.
“We think Daytona Superbike is going to draw a lot of people. Again, our goal is to make the show better. We want to develop more two-rider teams fielding quality bikes. When they roll through the gate, they need to feel like they are competitive, that the only thing they have to work on is rider development. We want the speed to be in the riders not the bikes.”