AMA Retakes Control of US Superbike Racing

DMG is out and Wayne Rainey spearheads a fresh start for US roadracing.

Wayne-Rainey

Read the press release. Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG), which has operated US motorcycle road racing since 2009, will hand over control to MotoAmerica, an affiliate of KRAVE, a group created around former three-time 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Wayne Rainey. The AMA, being still the affiliate of the FIM and empowered by them to sanction US events, also had to approve the change.

What does this mean? Several things must be done to put US roadracing back on its feet:

  1. The series must regain the importance to attract participants. Arbitrary actions by DMG drove out Honda and Kawasaki, so a first order of business must be to bring them back. Factory racing and factory riders provide the show.

  2. The series must offer riders a ladder that leads to the stars. That is, AMA riders must be offered a career path that can lead to international racing. That means an end to special equipment rules that have made US racing into an island – at present American riders no longer go to Europe and European riders no longer race in the US.

  3. Equipment regulations must recognize that Americans are neither made of money (which means not buying 100,000 euro Moto2 chassis) nor are generally able to provide the machine-shop and fabricating/welding skills once so common here.

  4. The new series must recognize that privateers cannot build $50,000 bikes to race for $1000 prize money. That is not a business plan! In the late 1980s and 1990s heyday of AMA Superbike, privateers rode their Supersport machines in Superbike – the same low-cost, near-stock bikes they used to earn a living from manufacturer contingency moneys paid out in WERA and other regional series. To keep privateers in the game, the new series must somehow dovetail with their real needs.

  5. There must be an entry-level class whose equipment cost does not stop young riders cold. That means the entry class cannot be Moto3. In the 1990s, as the price of a Yamaha TZ250 rose past $20,000, the class dried up and blew away. Yet for the previous 30 years, available, affordable Yamaha 250s had been the backbone of the class worldwide.

The press releases say that equipment classes are under discussion, and that they will operate under international rules. For the moment, that seems to mean a Superbike class at the top, very close to FIM’s 2015 EVO Superbike (a simplified, cost-controlled class). In the middle, the obvious solution is some kind of 600 Supersport, but international World Supersport is presently a high-tech class. It is also proposed that, as was done in the Spanish CEV series, a few “simplified Moto2” bikes be seeded in, with the eventual hope that US riders could thereby learn the skills necessary to ride in international Moto2. And at the entry level? Aye, there’s the rub!

Everyone currently seems to think power has to come from some level of 450 MX/based engine. That in itself presents the problem of durability, as these engines have been expensive for privateers to operate even at the on-off-on duty cycle of motocross. Can they be made reliable enough for beginners at the much higher roadrace duty cycle?

What is a suitable chassis? At one time, arm-wavers proposed buying up obsolete TZs, binning their two-stroke engines, and somehow cobbling-in four-stroke 450 singles. Then it turned out that those aluminum chassis – light and sophisticated though they are – could not for long tolerate the hammering of 450s. At present it seems people hope to persuade one or more makers of dirt-track steel-tube chassis (which are much more fatigue-resistant than aluminum) to build road race 450 chassis. Would such a chassis be supplied as a complete “roller,” or would the racer or his family buy suspension, wheels, fuel tank, seat, brakes, and so forth separately? I shiver to think of such things, having in 1971 been compelled by rules to have every item approved, documented, photographed and insured against liability as if I were myself a mighty manufacturer, and because in 2008-09 I heard so much greedy talk about how paid approval of every part could provide “revenue streams” to the sanctioning body.

It has also been pointed out that the transition from DMG to the new series must for success be achieved seamlessly. Riders and teams must be welcomed, not subjected to chivvying objections and exclusions. The “face” of the new series must be a friendly one, backed by a determination to seek solutions through creative compromise, not by edict.

We have hope.