Larry Pegram has his best chance to win the American Superbike Championship and he’s not about to let finances get in the way.Coming off his best Superbike season, the 36-year-old Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing Ducati rider is ready to go racing, despite not yet having a commitment from Ducati North America. After reading a Cycle News posting that Ducati had yet to determine their level of involvement in his program, Pegram contacted CN to let us know he’d be on the American SuperBike grid when the season starts in Daytona in March.”I have Foremost Insurance again, I have Amsoil again, Akropovic, basically all the sponsors I had last year,” said Pegram, who won three Superbike races this season. “We’re still negotiating everything with Ducati North America, which is normal at this time of year. I’ve never had a contract with them in December. It’s always the same. I think it’s just typical for myself with Ducati. We’re actually going testing next week at Jennings. So everything for us is going forward, it’s just the budgets are up in the air with Ducati on how much money I’ll get from them, but from all my other sponsors everything’s already done.”And, whatever Ducati decides, he’s getting ready for the season, despite the turbulence in the motorcycle world.”Of course, we can still go racing [without Ducati’s involvement],” he said, while adding “that everybody’s budget’s shrinking.”Yamaha and Suzuki, the two Superbike powerhouses in 2009, have suffered devastating sales declines over the past few years. For 2010, Yoshimura Suzuki is down one rider, now leaving it to Tommy Hayden and Blake Young to continue their winning tradition; Suzuki has won 10 of the past 11 Superbike Championships. Yamaha has yet to announce their full racing plans, but has said that Graves Motorsports Yamaha will run Josh Hayes in the American SuperBike class. Yamaha has cut their racing activities worldwide, essentially eliminating factory support of all National Championships. Ducati has also had lay-offs, but hasn’t had the same precipitous sales decline as the mass market manufacturers. What this means to Pegram is that, “You got to figure out where you want to make the cuts at. With myself being team owner and rider, I think usually the cuts don’t go into the performance of the bike.”Ducati has increased its support of Pegram over the last few years and the results, this year at least, have shown it. In June he ended a 10-year victory drought by beating Yoshimura Suzuki’s Mat Mladin at Road America. But his finest moment came on the tumultuous weekend at Heartland Park Topeka, which Mladin left over safety concerns. Pegram doubled his career win total by winning both races and giving Ducati their first weekend sweep.Regardless of the budget, Pegram said he already has “enough budget to go racing and win the championship.”The budget will affect the appearance of the team more than the performance. Pegram has one of the best presented teams in the paddock, with a very similar garage set-up to the MotoGP and World Superbike teams.That doesn’t mean he isn’t looking to economize. Pegram believes there are savings to be had with less testing, less racing, and less practice. He also has the added advantage of racing his 2009 machinery, though he does have one 2010.”I see that we’re not going to have a Friday morning practice, so cutting our practice back is going to cut down on tire consumption and engine consumption,” he said. “I think as a whole, at least in the Superbike class, we’ll probably get together, I hope, like we did last year as a group and say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to do Thursday practices, which I guess those are gone anyway. But just as a group let’s try to limit as much as we can spending money on testing and so forth. Because if one team goes somewhere and tests, then obviously everybody has to go there and test, even if it is an organized test. We may be even able to skip some of them.”Pegram was against taking part in a test at New Jersey Motorsports Park “in the middle of the summer, because we already know the track and we’ve all been there and if nobody gets there to ride again then we don’t need to go there and test again.”Given the nature of the world economy, and the follow-on affects to the motorcycle market, Pegram believes this will be a survival year for road race teams, because “everybody’s cutting corners and everybody’s cutting costs and everybody’s trying to make the dollar stretch the longest. And I’ve always been pretty good at stretching a dollar with my team, so I’m not too worried.”What is slightly worrisome is the size of the Superbike purse. The purse for the American SuperBike winner took a $4000 hit, from $7500 to $3500, with second paying $2000 and third $1000. Pegram doesn’t have a problem with eliminating payments to the top 20, but thinks the front-runners deserve a greater payout.”I would like to see the top three places paid a pretty substantial amount,” he said. “I didn’t really think it was necessary to pay the top 20 guys that much money. I thought that was a lot of money to be spending. But I think paying the top three to top five, but paying them a much more considerable amount than they’re paying right now.”
Pegram Going Racing
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.