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Roadracing Privateers at the Front

A thought popped into my mind today. Recently, I’ve read about numerous crashes by professional roadracers, both during testing and during racing. For example, Kurtis Roberts has crashed several times this year, including while practicing on Honda’s RC51 Superbike. Valentino Rossi has crashed both his Honda NSR500 GP bike and, during the Suzuka Eight Hour race, a Honda RC51.

Both of these riders made comments like “I don’t know what happened — all of a sudden, I just lost the front end.” Of course, riders like these (particularly, Rossi) can simply get back to the pits, where their crew will hastily rebuild their $400,000.00 machines. But what about the privateer?

This means a couple of things for the privateer. First, and most obviously, a privateer typically has one bike — a bike he cannot afford (literally) to crash (and lacks the resources to rebuild quickly, if he does crash). Second, and adding to the many disadvantages the privateer has, he cannot afford to push his machine to the limits. While Rossi and Roberts can test the limits of their machines (occasionally, overstepping those limits and crashing) with impunity, the privateer cannot afford to test the true limits of his machine. This means the privateer has to go just that much slower in practice and qualifying — even assuming equal rider talent (by the way, I am well aware that the term “privateer” is relative — there are some very well financed “privateer” teams — Roberts’ Erion Racing, for example).

Of course, their is no perfect world, and these types of inequities are simply part of the privateers’ daily struggle to compete with the full-factory teams.

Perhaps, this seems most unfair in the AMA Supersport classes, where the privateers should theoretically, at least, be on an equal footing with the factory-backed efforts. Again, however, spare bikes, spare parts, and efficient personnel to rebuild the bike (virtually from the ground up on short order), tilt the balance in favor of the factory teams. This is true without mentioning the better parts, set-up and more thorough testing enjoyed by the factory teams.

The bottom line is this: if you see a privateer rider anywhere near the front while racing in a factory-bike-filled class, bow down!