It has always been my belief that it is important that we say what we mean and mean what we say. This also requires that we exercise care in what we say and how we say it. Unfortunately, things don’t always come out as intended. The recent notice we released by way of AMA channels is a case in point.
Last week, during a hectic Road America weekend, I asked my staff to prepare a notice that could be distributed to the teams and other interested parties that would let them know of our intention to remove the stigma that had been applied to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road Atlanta, Virginia International Raceway, and Infineon Raceway. These facilities have been listed on the Supplemental Regulations as locations where AMA Pro Racing would not conduct competition under wet conditions. The timing of the notice was intended to ensure that teams participating in the test sessions at Mid-Ohio this week were aware of our intent. I wanted them to have the opportunity to test under wet conditions should they occur, knowing that it could be of benefit to them should it rain on the weekend of the National Championship event.
Unfortunately, the wording of the release implies that the efforts taken to satisfy the requests of AMA Pro Racing were recently completed, rather than accurately recognizing the completion of all AMA requested improvements over the last three years. The context where it is stated that the track is “now” approved creates this unfortunate false impression.
The facts are quite simple. Every request of AMA Pro Racing has been completed by Mid-Ohio. There are no unfinished improvements to be completed. Indeed, there is nothing more that can be done. When the requests were made of Mid-Ohio, it was stipulated by AMA Pro Racing management that if they did the work, racing could take place in both wet and dry conditions. Unfortunately, this commitment was not kept by the recent management team. I intend to do so.
I also intend to restore Road Atlanta, Virginia International Raceway and Infineon Raceway to their rightful positions as facilities approved for racing in both wet and dry conditions.
Road Atlanta has completed a comprehensive remodeling of specific areas of concern, as well as a complete repaving of the track surface. Infineon Raceway has been a leader in our sport in their efforts to deal with motorcycle racing related issues and other racing organizations have used the track in wet conditions without significant problems. Virginia International Raceway has no outstanding characteristics that justify the prior dry-only designation.
I recognize that this is an emotional issue with many and will polarize some elements of our participants, but we must work together to meet the needs of every constituent.
Our spectators need to feel confident that when they leave their homes and take the expense and time to attend our events that they will see racing. While watching riders and officials behaving poorly may be entertaining to some, it is not an activity that will attract sponsors or keep our fans coming back.
Our television partner must have the assurance that we are going to provide them with content for the time slot reserved for our races. The costs to produce a non-race and a race that runs on time are nearly identical. The demand for our racing by networks is not so great that we can treat them in a cavalier fashion.
Our promoters must be able to sell advance tickets and sponsorships with confidence that we will meet our contractual obligations to organize an event. If we cannot accomplish this we will start to see dramatic shrinkage in our annual schedule, including some facilities that have supported our sport through thick and thin. The threat of not racing has created a “thin” level too great to sustain. The investment required to hold a National Championship event is too substantial and the profit potential to small to gamble on good weather.
Some riders think they can ride in the wet and some think they can’t. Both are correct. Riders who are comfortable racing in wet conditions deserve the opportunity to exhibit their skill doing so. Riders who are not confident racing in wet conditions are free to not participate, however they are forbidden by rules to attempt to interfere with the conduct of the race or participation by others.
These decisions are not taken lightly. Obviously, the issue of safety must be paramount. There are no statistics that prove or even imply that wet conditions are a special hazard too great to be chanced. In the 35 years I have been involved in the sport, I am unaware of any fatalities that have taken place under wet conditions on any tracks approved for both wet and dry racing. Further, I note that AMA Pro Superbike, MotoGP, World Superbike, World Supersport, British Superbike, AFM, ASRA, CCS, CMRA, LRRS, MRA, MOTO-ST, WERA, WSMC, etc. all race in wet conditions at race tracks all over the world. I cannot accept that the four facilities that are the subject of this document represent such unique characteristics that they must be “cut from the herd” and singled out for such discrimination.
In closing, I take full responsibility for any confusion created by our wording and commit to working more diligently on future releases to ensure that the only interpretation possible by reasonable people will be the one we intend.