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A Matter of Intent

Okay, here is MD’s take on the 25 point penalty levied by the AMA against Chad Reed, David Vuillemin and a Yamaha privateer last week, as a result of AMA testing results showing Yamaha used “illegal fuel” at the Dallas supercross a few weeks ago. As you probably know, Yamaha has appealed this ruling, and the final AMA decision is pending.

First of all, a rule is a rule. If Yamaha broke a rule, it should be punished. However, from my perspective, it is not quite this simple.

First of all, the information I have heard regarding the percentage of lead in the Yamaha fuel (the rules required unleaded fuel) seems to indicate an unintentional violation by Yamaha. The circumstances also point to an unintentional violation. The percentage of lead found in the fuel was apparently so small, (1) it appears that no measurable performance enhancement could result, and (2) the lead percentage could relate to a tiny amount of leaded fuel being mixed with unleaded fuel (such as using a gas can previously used for leaded fuel . . . perhaps, containing a tiny amount of leaded fuel at the bottom of the can when unleaded was added).

Additionally, the context of this violation makes no sense, whatsoever. Chad Reed was about to win his first 250cc supercross title. Yamaha was about to win the 250cc supercross title . . . perhaps the most prestigious motorcycle racing title in the United States. Chad Reed had a huge points lead with just two races remaining. Indeed, it was expected that Reed would easily wrap up the title one race early (he only had to finish tenth, I believe), and Chad Reed can finish tenth during a main event while giving everyone else a one lap head start (he frequently laps higher than tenth place).

Add to this the fact that the Yamahas of Reed and Vuillemin were randomly tested in San Francisco (where they finished first and second) for illegal fuel, and passed! Yamaha dominated the San Francisco round with legal fuel. Only an idiot would purposely taint Chad Reed’s fuel when he had a virtually insurmountable lead in the championship, and needed a simple tenth place in the next-to-the-last round to wrap up the title.

This leads us to our next topic. Negligence. The riders do not choose their fuel, much less pour it into their own gas tanks. The team handles this for factory riders like Reed and Vuillemin, and the team knows the rules regarding unleaded fuel. Apparently, Yamaha screwed up. If the AMA testing was accurate (and there is nothing to indicate it was not, at this point), Yamaha allowed its unleaded fuel to be tainted with lead. To say that this was foolish is a gross understatement.

Chad Reed will likely win the supercross title, despite this situation. He still has a twelve point lead, and he rarely finishes worse than second place (has he this year?). It shouldn’t be a problem. It could be, however, if Reed has an extremely unusual night in Vegas (such as a mechanical problem). It could cost him the championship. That would be a shame.