Photography by Andrea Wilson
After 10 years in the AMA paddock, Michael Jordan Motorsports will not be fielding a team in the AMA Pro Road Racing Series in 2014 as the basketball legend’s racing personnel now look to turn their attention to fielding a team in either the World Superbike Championship or MotoGP World Championship.
“Michael Jordan Motorsports will not be participating in AMA competition any longer,” said Kreig Robinson, Michael Jordan Motorsports vice president of corporate relations, via a telephone conversation this morning. Robinson also confirmed that National Guard will no longer be a title sponsor of the AMA Superbike class.
Robinson went on to explain why.
“There are a few reasons,” Robinson said. “For one, the National Guard sponsorship is not complete. They will not be renewing with us or AMA Pro [as title sponsor for the AMA Superbike Championship]. As it relates to Michael Jordan Motorsports, we are five years past the participation date in AMA Pro. We were looking at other international competition a long time ago, but due to the fortuitous situation of the National Guard coming on board with us, that meant that we needed to participate in domestic motorcycle competition. We had been looking at international motorcycle competition, but the National Guard kept us around here in AMA.”
But that’s no longer the case.
“We’ve done that and that’s run it’s course and now we’re looking at international competition again more honestly,” Robinson said. “With that, comes situations where we have to change our business model in order to be able to consider that. We’re looking at both World Superbike and MotoGP and we’re going to take our time to figure out what’s the best way to go. Anyone who has been paying attention realizes that we do these things on our own time. We don’t get pressured to go here, there or anywhere else. We do those things on our own time.”
Obviously, the pullout from AMA racing has a wide-ranging affect on the paddock. At least for now, it puts racers Roger Lee Hayden, Danny Eslick, James Rispoli and Corey Alexander out of work. Ditto for the crew at Gemini Technology Systems, the company Jordan contracted to run the racing portion of his business.
“We hope in the future, the very near future, that we will be able to call those guys [Gemini] and utilize them on what we’re doing – as it pertains to international competition,” Robinson said.
Although none of this is good news for AMA Pro Racing, at least it doesn’t mean the end of the road for Michael Jordan’s involvement in the sport.
“Michael and Michael Jordan Motorsports certainly remains committed to motorcycle racing,” Robinson said. “There’s been no loss in the level of passion that Michael [Jordan] has for motorcycle racing, but this has to make business sense as well. This is how motorsports works. Sponsorship is the lifeblood of motorsports and when that goes away, you’re forced to make hard decisions. We concluded five years of sponsorship with the National Guard and we are extremely proud of what we’ve been able to do with them. We’ve made countless number of friends, especially with the members of the National Guard, and we’re really proud of that.”
The Jordan team had planned on continuing in AMA Pro Racing in 2014, but the National Guard’s late decision to pull their sponsorship has forced their hand, Robinson said.
“They are a government agency that’s always faced with all kinds of budgetary restraints, the latest government shutdown and all that,” Robinson said. “It makes it difficult for those guys. They can’t contract long-term sponsorship situations. Then you have to look at what the property that they’ve been sponsoring. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the best situation for those guys to take a look at and say, ‘Hey, this is a really, really valuable property for us to be investing in.’ That hasn’t worked out very well. Even though we at Michael Jordan Motorsports have met or exceeded the goals that they set for us in our sponsorship partnership. We’ve made tons of friends in the AMA Pro paddock, but it’s now a property that is affecting how we are able to obtain sponsorship and I think you see that across the board. Not just with us, but with everyone. It’s tougher that ever to do that. And it’s not just AMA Pro, it’s tough to get everywhere.”
Robinson is quick to not throw AMA Pro Racing under the bus, but he also points out the obvious.
“We’re at the end of October and there’s not a schedule to speak of,” he said. “We don’t get physical counts [on attendance] from the AMA or track promoters, but visually it does not seem to be looking very well. As well as television ratings. We're not seeing a high level of television ratings where companies can take those numbers and justify the expenditure. I truly hope - because we love motorcycle racing here in the United States - that AMA Pro can fix that situation. We really, really do. But at the meantime we cannot extend our resources to continue to do this. We just can’t do it.”
For 2014, the team’s involvement internationally may just be as a wild card entry here and there, Robinson said. There’s lots of work to be done and there may not be time for more than that. But they’re going to give maximum effort.
“Ideally it would be 2014,” Robinson said. “Again, it goes back to our sponsor commitments now. We have certain commitments that have limited us to the end of October. There weren’t ways that we could move forward. We fully expected for National Guard to return in 2014. Really at the last minute, and I don’t want to sound like this is the National Guard’s fault, but it really came down to the last minute that they were not able to renew. It really came down to the last minute and they were not able to do it.
“That put us in a position where we haven’t’ been able to take the necessary steps to take on the international competition for 2014. What that may mean is selected rounds, wild cards… while we prepare for 2015. We have to really evaluate what is happening in World Superbike, in MotoGP. What is going to be the best situation for a team that is structured like ours. We’ve been used to building and developing bikes using our own faculties. It seems that in World Superbike you now have this EVO class and in MotoGP you have the Moto2 and CRT and production GP racers that are now available. So what is going to be the best for us? I don’t think we ‘re going to start building a prototype motorcycle to compete in MotoGP. It would be more advantageous for a team like ours is to follow a model like Aspar and LCR and teams like that. That’s where we sit right now – figuring out how to go forward, but we’re certainly committed to finding a way to go racing internationally.
“The current situation is definitely unfortunate, but it’s definitely temporary.