At the moment, the only Japanese manufacturer who’s committed is Yamaha. AMA Pro Racing CEO Roger Edmondson said he’s been working with the other manufacturers, and that they’ve agreed to keep their discussions private.
“We’ve been working with the manufacturers over the last few days,” he said, adding, “I know that’s what you all want to talk about this morning, but I’m not going to talk about that this morning because that’s in a very sensitive stage and I have agreed with them that we would handle this in a mature and adult way and that means that both sides, assuming there are still sides; I’d like to believe we’re all coming together, but I think it’s important that we not put any pressure on any of the parties from the manufacturer group or from my group right now to take a position. We all have the same goal and that’s a unified series that will be as strong as possible in the United States.”
All of the 2008 venues are onboard, with a few added, pending their approval by an as yet unnamed Rider Safety Committee.
Edmondson also wouldn’t discuss the class structure – that’s likely one of the main sticking points with the other OEMs – but he did announce the addition of a new class. Sport Bike will feature 16-21-year-olds on very restricted middleweight motorcycles. The riders can only remain in the class for three years from the time of their first entry.
“In the next few days, now that the schedule’s in place, we will start to fill in the pieces and start announcing the hiring of personnel, the addition of staff, some of the details that you’re looking for – including the final class structure,” he said.
He also said they didn’t have signed contracts with every venue, but that he didn’t expect any hiccups.
“No, typically we would not announce a schedule that did not have signed contracts, because that’s been our policy at Grand-Am,” he began, “and luckily over the years we’ve never had a cancellation. But in this case we have letters of intent and I have given these promoters multiple opportunities to back out knowing that we were going to make this announcement today and having a longstanding relationship with virtually every one of them, I’m quite comfortable that we have a schedule that we’re going to keep. We expect to be at all those places.”
There are a few wrinkles in 2009, the most notable being the season-opening Daytona 200. The race will be run for the first time under the lights on Friday night in the slot normally reserved for the Daytona Supercross. The motorcycles won’t have headlights or brake lights, but they will have tail lights.
Two weeks later the series moves to Auto Club Speedway where Edmondson is considering a change in the track layout. He said they were problems with the front straightaway.
“One of the problems is that nobody sees it because the grandstands aren’t open,” Edmondson said. “So we’re going to take a look at the potential for where you come out onto the banking and turn left coming out of the infield, we’re going to see if there’s any potential to turn right, go down the back straightaway and come in where the sports car do and see if we can’t keep the action in front of the spectators. But we don’t know if that’ll work until we go look at it, and, again, that would be something we would want to get the riders involved in.”
Two weeks later, Road Atlanta is moving from Labor Day to the first weekend of April.
A full month later comes Barber Motorsports Park followed two weeks later by Infineon Raceway, then, after another two weeks, Miller Motorsports Park where the AMA will be part of the World Superbike weekend.
“I can’t tell you at this point in time which classes we will run, but I can tell you we will not attempt to run the entire program,” Edmondson said. “The facility is going to bring in more of the FIM categories and so once we know exactly what the FIM requirements are for time, we’ll then pick the program that will be the most complimentary and fill it with AMA activity.
The following weekend is the only back-to-back when they visit Road America.
Then a break of four weeks to the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Edmondson originally said the AMA wouldn’t be part of the weekend, but he was won over by Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO Gill Campbell.
“Again, we will bring part of the AMA program; we’re not going to attempt to bring the entire program,” he said. “We have a fixed schedule for the MotoGP. We want to make sure that we bring enough activity to fill the time. We want to make sure we don’t bring so much activity that the people can’t enjoy being here and the paddock is overfilled.”
Next is Mid-Ohio on their traditional mid-July date followed two weeks later by one of the tentative races, Heartland Park in Topeka, Kansas. The track, which was barely suitable for motorcycle racing three years ago, has undergone a multi-million dollar transformation.
Virginia International Speedway is mid-August with the season finale at another tentative venue, New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey.
2009 AMA Superbike Championship:
March 4-6 Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
March 20-22 Auto Club Speedway, Fontana, California
April 3-5 Road Atlanta, Gainesville, Georgia
May 1-3 Barber Motorsports Park, Leeds, Alabama
May 15-17 Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, California
May 29-31 Miller Motorsports Park, Tooele, Utah
June 5-7 Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
July 3-5 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, California
July 17-19 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lexington, Ohio
July 31-August 2 Heartland Park, Topeka, Kansas
August 14-16 Virginia International Raceway, Alton, Virginia
September 5-7 New Jersey Motorsports Park, Millville, New Jersey