Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ulrich stands up to AMA Pro. I add my two cents' worth

Over the last few days, I've read a three-part editorial by Roadracing World editor John Ulrich in which he writes of fears that in the up-and-down relationship between AMA Pro Racing and other roadracing stakeholders, we're poised for another 'down' period.

Anyone who spent any time in the AMA Superbike paddock in 2009, the year the 'new regime' came into AMA Pro Racing, remembers just how frustrated team owners and other paddock denizens were with Roger Edmondson's management style. Roger's gone, but now it really seems as if Ulrich, at least, has doubts about whether current AMA Pro Racing honcho David Atlas is much better.

I should note that '09 was, in fact, the last time I spent any time in the Superbike paddock. I've spent some time covering the AMA Flat Track scene in the last couple of seasons, and feel that on balance that branch of the sport should be cautiously optimistic going forward. But Ulrich's skepticism about the state of professional roadracing in the U.S. should be noted for a number of reasons, not the least of which are that...
  • he's a long-time participant in the Superbike series as one of the top private team owners
  • although he certainly doesn't go out of his way to make friends, he's a smart guy with well thought-out ideas about how the cause of American roadracing can be advanced
  • he's got his own bully pulpit in the form of Roadracing World, which is read by virtually every insider in our sport
If you want to read John's entire editorial, so far, start here, then go here, and here...

Are you back? Phew, eh?..

I have to say that Ulrich's implication that the AMA might impose draconian penalties on riders who merely rode in, say, a WERA race while wearing their 'AMA' leathers,.. that smacked of paranoia. Every major racing series has rules about riders/drivers and vehicles displaying the logos of series sponsors. A day or so later, when the AMA responded to the sticker flap by noting that the rule book has actually had an almost identically worded rule for the last several years, and that no one had ever been cited for violating it, they pretty much put the issue to rest IMHO.

If, as Ulrich implies, AMA Pro is really that vindictive, then the problem is much larger than any sticker rule. Some of the complaints he makes later in the three-part editorial though, are harder to equivocate about. Allowing one team to dictate rules about electronic aids is bullshit, and if that's how it happened, other competitors have a right to be angry. And there are a few riders on the Superbike grid who probably shouldn't be there.

It's a sad reflection on the state of the U.S. motorcycle industry in general, and professional racing in particular, that even venerable teams like Yosh are essentially selling some of their seats. That puts AMA Pro in a difficult spot. What are you going to do? Tell some 'big truck' team that you desperately want in the paddock that their rider won't be licensed?

Now, just while I was thinking that Ulrich was really letting his inner paranoiac out when he wrote about the possibility of riders being punished for riding in private tests while wearing AMA patches on their leathers, my email program 'donged' and I read an release from AMA Pro Racing to the effect that Go Pro was the official 'on board' camera in the series and that no rider was allowed to mount any other kind of camera on his bike, even to capture video for his own use.

I suppose it's possible that allowed to choose any camera, the entire paddock would choose Go Pro anyway. It seems to dominate the market.


This isn't like the lists of approved performance parts that AMA Pro Racing issues for each class. That's really just a way of extracting money from the paddock, but they can at least pretend that it also helps ensure competitive parity.

It seems to me that the "if you use a camera, it has to be Go Pro" rule is no different than saying, if you choose to have an umbrella girl on the grid, she has to wear Manolo Blahnik pumps. And it is not much different than saying, you have to wear a Shoei helmet. Where does this end? If you're going to eat cereal in the paddock, it has to be Wheaties?

As far as I'm concerned, Go Pro can be the official camera if they want to pay for the privilege. And at some level of participation, I guess they too could get a mandatory sticker or patch. But if they want to make it a rule that competitors can only attach Go Pro cameras to their bikes, they should at the very least make those cameras available to competitors for free.

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