American Honda To Sit Out 2009

Henny Ray Abrams | June 29, 2008

American Honda is willing to sit out the 2009 AMA Superbike Championship if an accommodation can’t be reached with the Daytona Motorsports Group, according to a senior Honda official. Asked what American Honda would do if an alternative to the DMG run Superbike series isn’t created, American Honda vice president Ray Blank said the company would “end up waiting a year. At this point, it’s almost too late right now. Unless there was continuity in similarity to the current situation…I have a great big garage, I’ve got great big trucks, I’ve got motorcycles in configurations; they are 2008, which aren’t going to be so damn different from 2009. If I had an AMA series right now that somebody said, ‘I’m not changing the rules, it’s going to be the same,’ I could say, ‘Well I could do that, because I’ve got rolling stock, I’ve got equipment, technicians. I’ve got technology. I’ve got a real good friend in the tire business who knows what I’m dealing with right now. I’ve got all these kinds of things going on.’ Can you imagine if what I had to do right now is to go out there?” Blank was one of the senior executives of the Japanese companies who met at the Motorcycle Industry Council last Wednesday. Their discussions were wide-ranging and included the possibility of sitting out 2009. The three OEM’s represented, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki, disagree with the path that the Daytona Motorsports Group is taking. The DMG originally proposed keeping the 2009-2010 rules that the factories had agreed to, but with a minimum of four machines per manufacturer. But those were shelved when Yamaha asked if a more restrictive and less costly configuration could be raced. That led to a horsepower and weight-restricted formula, since put aside for “American Superbike,” a package of rules that closely follows the highly restrictive FIM Superstock 1000 Cup rules. But the DMG has yet to issue a rulebook, season schedule, or weekend schedule, which has left the factories in a lurch with time running short to prepare for the 2009 season. The statement that emerged from the meeting at the MIC was an invitation from MIC President Tim Buche for an individual or group to come up with an alternative to the DMG series. The sentiment at the MIC meeting was that “we don’t have anything to do next year,” Blank said. “Maybe, because there’s been a lot of talk out there, maybe there’s somebody who would like to put something to offer us, I’d like to be able to say as an alternative, but it’s not at an alternative because we don’t even know what the DMG is. It’s not even an alternative. It’s like somebody can say, ‘Hey can you do this?’ It would be better than what we’ve got right now because we’ve got nothing.” But, Blank said, he wasn’t aware that anyone had put together or was putting together an alternative series. “I’ve heard that a number of different parties, primarily folks who have been in the race business before or who are currently in the race business, who have said, ‘What are you going to do?’ And I’ve said,’ I don’t know what’s going on.’ And they’ve said, ‘Well how about if we propose something?’ And I said, ‘We’re all ears.’ And we haven’t got anything, because I think what everyone is trying to do is play point-counterpoint. As to whether a viable alternative could be up and running for the 2009 season, Blank said, “I don’t know that there is any viable one, he said. “It’s very, very late right now and we have no rules, we have no schedule, we have no premise. I have to make contracts with all of the race team people and it’s almost July. Daytona called yesterday and asked if we are going to confirm our date for our tire test and what tires will I test?” As important as the OEM’s is the aftermarket industry, Blank said. The aftermarket industry lags six months from the motorcycle industry, he explained, which creates a “double curve.” “The reason something came out of the MIC is something came out of the aftermarket,” Blank said. “The MIC is not just four, five, six guys who sit around and harrumph in leather chairs with brandy and cigars in hand. It’s 300 companies. And everybody is saying to President Buche, ‘What’s going on? What are we going to do?’ And that’s what has caused Tim (Buche) to make the release that he’s got there.” So the “aftermarket is always very interested in where the OEM’s are going and how the elemental change of business is coming up, because they want to prepare from their apparel and accessory side.” The turbulence in the racing world is preventing them from making plans. “The OEM’s need a pro level series; it’s that simple,” Blank said. “The understanding that we have so far, at least with the guys that I’ve talked to, is that’s not what the DMG proposal is. And so there’s people out there, and I’ve had ten phone calls, and everyone of them…said, ‘I want to talk to you about this thing, I’ve got some ideas,’ and that’s what it was generated to say, because we don’t have a 2009 AMA Superbike series. So we end needing another idea.” That idea could come out of a meeting with DMG CEO Roger Edmondson. Though no meetings are planned, and Edmondson said last Thursday that he was proceeding with the 2009 rulebook, Blank said he and his colleagues would meet with Edmondson, “if he wanted to. I mean, I’ve never said no.”

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.