Editorial: Rulebook Be Damned

Paul Carruthers | June 3, 2014

Since common sense doesn’t always seem that common anymore, I’m going to go out on a limb here and give a bit of advice to those making the calls at motorcycle races regarding anything that has to do with the safety of those racing the motorcycles: Pretend your son/daughter is one of those in the race. If you follow that simple rule, I’m pretty sure you’ll stop a race held in a rainstorm when all your kids are using slicks on their Superbikes. And it doesn’t really matter what you told them: Kids will be kids.

Let me preface all of this by saying I wasn’t at Road America. But I did watch the race on FansChoiceTV, which is somewhat of a misnomer because it was actually on my computer screen and not my TV. Perhaps FansChoiceLapTop doesn’t have the same appeal.

Either way, I witnessed a debacle at the end of the second of two AMA Superbike races in Wisconsin. The final pictures I saw from the feed were of Josh Hayes circulating the track in a rainstorm behind an ambulance on his cool-down lap, which in this case was aptly named because Hayes was furious that he’d just completed a handful of laps in the pouring rain on a Superbike fitted with slick tires. And I don’t blame him. Hell, the conditions were so bad they moved the podium “celebration” into the pressroom.

But let’s back up for a minute. After the first red flag, which came out because there was a light rain falling on certain parts of the track and the field was mounted on slicks, the re-start was declared a wet race. That meant it wouldn’t be stopped if it rained. Thus it was up to the riders and their teams to fit whatever tires they wanted in a race that theoretically wouldn’t be stopped for bad weather. The track wasn’t completely dry when the race was restarted and anyone with access to weather information could tell that rain was moving into the Elkhart Lake area. Could they have opted for intermediates, certainly? Rain tires? Well, those wouldn’t have worked unless it rained on the first lap. But apparently intermediates were available. But they opted for slicks. Why? Because it was dry enough and that gave them the best chance of winning the race.

I’ve been around racing enough to know that if Josh Hayes is going to use slicks, Martin Cardenas is going to use them. And vice versa. The general rule of thumb is you mount the same tire that your competition is mounting. It keeps you from over-thinking your way out of a race. I’ve seen it happen a zillion times. The guy who tries to out-think everyone else ends up with a shredded tire and no points to show for it. It works the same for the guy who thinks it’s going to dry out and tries to start a wet race with slicks. So most go with the odds. And the odds say to mount what everyone else has mounted.

To read more of this week’s Carruthers Says in Cycle News, click here

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America’s Daily Motorcycle News Source.