Wednesday, August 12, 2009

AMA Road Racing: What Will it Become?

2009 Daytona Bike Week.
What will AMA Pro Road Racing be in 2010 and beyond?
Be it good or be it bad, timing is everything … And with the unfortunate slump in our economic world and DMG’s rough intro into our beloved sport, timing for AMA road racing couldn’t be worse. Thus, the big question remains: Who will be left for 2010? Big-man on campus Mat Mladin has already announced his retirement and rumor going around is that short of Yamaha, none of the big-four Japanese manufacturers have the desire (or money) to field a factory team next year. Though only a rumor, with motorcycle sales down as much as they are, this comes as no surprise. But whose fault is this really and how much does DMG's lackluster-at-best takeover of the new series have to do with the state of the road racing union? What will become of AMA Pro Road Racing?

Rumor is Corona’s sponsorship deal is up at the end of the year and that Honda has no desire to go racing on its own. Though talking to a few of the Honda crew guys, they say “racing in some form looks good for next year,” so hopefully they know something we don’t. With rider Neil Hodgson still recovering from a motocross injury and not yet performing at 100-percent, the Corona team haven’t had the results they expected this year. It’s easy to tell everyone in their squad is disappointed considering their jobs are probably on the line.

Corona Extra Honda Racings Neil Hodgson finished second in American Superbike at Daytona.
Will Corona and Honda be around next season? Let's hope so...
Attack Monster Kawasaki is another team who's future is up in the air from what we hear - at least the Kawasaki part of the equation. Attack’s business is selling racing goods so there’s little question they will be in the paddock next year, but with what riders and on what brand of bike remains to be seen. It's said they only have a 1-year deal with Kawasaki and the word is Team Green has no desire to go road racing next year due to the economy. Not to mention, Attack Kawasaki's results, despite proven-winners Jamie Hacking and Roger Lee Hayden on their bikes, have been mediocre at best. It would be a shame to see Kawasaki not have some sort of factory or factory-supported team in the paddock, so let’s hope these rumors are nothing more than just that – rumors.

On the other hand, thankfully, there may be some hope at the end of the tunnel.

Ducati's sales have been hurt less than the Japanese as of late and with Larry Pegram winning some races for the Italian team, next year we don’t foresee any change in their current situation. The only muttering we’ve heard is the team could bump up to two riders in 2010, which would be a good thing. The more Ducatis on the gird the better, if you ask us.

Mladin leads teammate Hayden at Fontanas first American Superbike race.
Mladin is out at Yoshimura, recently announcing he will be retiring after this season. Question is: Who will take his spot?
Yoshimura has openly stated that no matter what happens, they will be fielding a team next year. It’s also known that rising star Blake Young has a two-year deal with the squad that bleeds over into 2010. They sell racing parts and now build customer race bikes, so being top-dog at the track is critical to business. But the question is, will they be on Suzuki? Wouldn’t it be wild to see them on a different brand? Yoshimura Honda maybe? Considering Suzuki's current struggles, you can't rule it out - I'm sure they're not.

The bigger news comes in the form of new players from Europe, BMW and Aprilia, as both have made it clear they want to go Superbike racing for the first time in America with their all-new 2010 liter-bikes. The Roundel knows that to sell its new S1000RR they need to go racing on this side of the pond. It has been floating around the media that they have gone after several established teams (Erion Racing, Attack, Jordan Suzuki and M4 Suzuki) with proposals to run a BMW squad for next year. According to inside sources from one of these teams this may be nothing more than a rumor at this point. Either way, though, BMW did express to us recently at a press event that they have a very large interest in AMA Superbike racing next year so there's no question they are looking to come play.
Chaz Davies - Daytona SportBike  Road America
Can KWS field the new Aprilia RSV4 in Superbike next year and if they do, who will ride it?

The same can be said for Aprilia, as they know how important selling its new RSV4 in America will be next year. Most have them linked to the current KWS team, who runs Aprilia's RSV1000R in the Daytona SportBike class, as the relationship is already in place. But considering how little of a budget they are giving KWS this season, moving up to the Superbike class is going to take more than some free bikes and parts to be competitive. More cash and some trick WSBK parts are a must. Let’s hope the Italian company puts some money and serious support into the effort because it would be great to see that awesome-looking new bike running up front.

Michael Jordan Motorsports will be back once again as MJ himself is passionate about the sport ... and thank goodness for that. They've had a relationship with Suzuki for years now and MJ has been known to be a loyal guy, but here’s no doubt getting the support needed to run a team for ’10 could be an uphill battle. And in typical Suzuki style, there’s no doubt they will leave all decisions until that last minute. Either way, it’s good to know MJ and crew will still be around next year as this team runs one of the most professional presentations in the paddock. Having Jordan’s name on the side of the bike surely helps our struggling sport. They have also done well to get National Guard involved as the title sponsor of Geoff May's Number 54 machine, as well as bringing them in to sponsor the American Superbike class itself.
AMA Moto-GT Daytona
DMG and their quirky rules including the use of the pace car, have done nothing but hurt the AMA Pro Road Racing Series from the rider and team perspective.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed that everything finds a way of working out and we see all four Japanese manufacturers on the grid in some form next year. We would all welcome the addition of newcomers from BMW and Aprilia too. I know it’s tough to keep the hope alive, but hang in there with me and hopefully road racing won’t follow the footsteps of AMA dirt track and become a B-level sport. There’s little-to-no question DMG’s inadequate job of taking over American road racing couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s hard enough for the teams to find sponsorship in this economy but with the boys from Daytona running the series like cowboys it's going to be nothing but an uphill battle.

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