Chicanery: Secret Champions and Dirty Hogs

Henny Ray Abrams | October 6, 2010


By Henny Ray Abrams

The final race of the AMA Pro Road Racing series at Barber Motorsports Park crowned a number of champions which the AMA did their best to keep quiet.When Martin Cardenas was celebrated for winning the title by winning the race, there was no number one plate in sight. Same for Josh Hayes. When I asked why, I was told that they would get their plates at the banquet the following night. Huh?The reason Suzuki and Yamaha spend millions of dollars to go racing is to win the number one plate, and sell some bikes along the way. The photo of the champion holding up the plate is a tradition that dates back to when man first walked upright. To delay the custom for more than a day, then hold it at a banquet that wasn’t televised, as the podium ceremony was, and held for only members of the paddock, is so stunningly silly it defies belief. What’s the harm in doing it twice? Let the factories, teams, and rider enjoy their moment in front of the fans, and SPEED, then do it again the next night, if you have to.The good folks at Yamaha may have anticipated this. When Hayes was brought onto the podium Yamaha’s Tom Halverson handed Hayes a box from UPS, a team sponsor. Inside the box was a championship t-shirt with the number ‘1′ on the back. Hayes gladly, patiently, and goofily posed for photographers, who then sent the photos across the web, where thousands more people would see it than would see the banquet the next night.If that sounds like the mad ravings of a curmudgeon, then so be it, but the series needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming into the 21st century and there’s no indication that the Daytona Motorsports Group is up to the job.Their current mission seems to be trying to make everyone happy on issues that have little to do with the big picture. The big tent discussion of technical rules seems admirable at first glance, but what they need to do is shrink the tent and include an elite group which has the best interests of the sport, and not just their teams, at heart. Then they need to set the rules for the next five years and be done with it. As a friend of mine pointed out, they’re missing the point. “Do you think those people out there give a f— if these bikes have 16.5 or 17 inch wheels?” What they care about is seeing stars engaged in close racing. The racing has been close this year, but where are the stars? And why aren’t their stories being told?The stars may be there if you look, but the right people aren’t looking. The promotional efforts of the DMG are virtually non-existent. The media tours, where a PR person drags riders from the local TV station to the local radio station to the local newspaper, are no longer done. If they are, it’s up to the individual track, which shouldn’t be the case. This is free publicity, the kind the track owners crave when it comes time to fill the stands, and they’re getting almost no help from the people they’re paying big money to bring the circus to town.AMAPR has a very odd relationship with publicity. They issue a press release announcing the disqualification of two Bruce Rossmeyer Daytona/RMR Racing XR1200’s from the podium at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but it leaves out the most relevant details. The lack of information raised more questions than it answered. What was the infraction? When was the infraction discovered? Why was there a two week delay in announcing it? But the one question it couldn’t answer was why? Why would a team which had won every race do something so blatant that would jeopardize their riders and damage the integrity of the class? Simple, because they thought they could get away with it.Team owner Richie Morris is ultimately responsible. They were his bikes, his team. Whether he knew about it is irrelevant. If he didn’t, he should immediately fire whomever was responsible and condemn the offending party. In fact, he should issue a full public apology to his riders, who lost purse money and points; the Vance & Hines organization, which has done a good job of creating a competitive class with reasonable costs; the AMA, who he insulted by thinking he wouldn’t get caught; and the fans, who saw something on the track that wasn’t for real. And, of course, the Bruce Rossmeyer organization, who deserve better.Among the many things the press release didn’t mention was the specific infraction, but that information was available if you asked. When the release was first issued, I made a call to the AMA Pro Racing spokesman to get more details. He didn’t hesitate to tell me the Delphi EMU had been altered. What I didn’t ask until later, was what had been done?In an effort to gain an illegal advantage, the rev limiter on the EMU’s was raised from 6,800 rpm to 7,200 rpm. Anyone can do this to the kit box, but the change, in electronic terms, is evident. In order to avoid getting caught, the work was farmed out to a former Harley-Davidson employee, who was convinced that he could make changes without leaving fingerprints. He couldn’t. And his handiwork was apparent to the other riders on the track, as well as AMA PR, once they put the bikes on the dyno.The crazy thing is that either it didn’t help or the riders were dogging it. In the first four races of the championship, all won by RMR XR’s, not once did they record the race’s fastest trap speed. Most of the time they were mid-pack in a field of less than ten. The reason they won is that they had something the other teams didn’t, very speedy riders.Danny Eslick won the 2009 Daytona SportBike title by wrestling the Buell to victory. He was second to Martin Cardenas in 2010 and might have won the title had he not made running into Josh Herrin more of a priority than chasing down Cardenas. Having a bad front tire on Saturday at Barber didn’t help. Jake Holden was runner-up to Eslick in two of the first three races and third in the next. When Eslick sat out the XR race in New Jersey, Holden stepped in and won. His teammate Kyle Wyman was third. Both Holden and Wyman were disqualified in New Jersey, their points and purse money rescinded.What makes the infraction especially disappointing is that the class was created as a cheap way to go racing. You didn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on electronics. You didn’t have to hire an electronics wizard. You had to buy an XR1200 for under $11,000, buy the $3500 Vance & Hines AMA Spec Kit and go racing. A fully kitted race bike for under $15,000. Try that with an R6 or a GSX-R600.The purse was $10,000, split between Harley-Davidson and Vance & Hines, with the winner getting $3750, more than the winner of the American SuperBike race. Of all the classes, the XR1200 class is by far the best investment. So why so few entries?For one the timing. The series was announced at Daytona, which was far too late for a lot of teams to gear up. (There were generally around ten bikes each weekend.) Next year should be better, if dealerships catch on to how cheaply they can go racing.The bigger question is whether it will attract young riders. The precursor was the H-D SuperTwins class that ran from 1990-97. It was designed as the gateway for dirt trackers into road racing. That was where Ben and Eric Bostrom learned to road race. That was where Aaron Yates got his start. It was also where cheating was rampant and the class eventually died off.Times have changed. Sixteen-year-olds don’t want to ride 570 lbs. V-twins when they can ride 400 lbs. inline fours, the same motorcycle they see as a stepping stone to the premier class, American SuperBike. The solution is simple: Ride both. Twice the track time, speed up the learning curve, and make some money in the process. And your Harley sponsor and middleweight sponsor can split the travel costs.No reason to keep quiet about that.

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing EditorAbrams 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.