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Q and A with AMA Pro Racing: Daytona Safety Car Controversy and Buell Displacement Advantage

If you watched the 2009 Daytona 200, you probably enjoyed the close racing action, spills and thrills. But you may have a few questions and concerns about the safety of the racers and fairness of the class structure. Track illumination lights conked out, riders went down to avoid the “safety” car that was out on track during the yellow flag periods, and Danny Eslick on his Buell – with a 525cc displacement advantage over the 600cc Inline Four competition – had no trouble pulling the big-bucks factory-prepped Yamaha YZF-R6 racebike of winner Ben Bostrom and the Suzuki GSX-R600 of second-place finisher Jason DiSalvo. Eslick’s bike later lost ground when fairing repairs necessitated an extended pitstop.

Our readers wrote in, some expressing very strong opinions of what they thought of the new AMA Pro Racing with its new (and some say NASCAR-ish) approach to motorcycle racing. I gave my media credentials a workout and called AMA Pro Racing, where VP for Marketing and Communications Ollie Dean generously took the time to answer my questions.

MD: Why have a safety car?

OD: The purpose of the Safety Car is to allow AMA Pro Road Racing officials to deal with incidents without having to red flag and restart events. Red flags cause significant delays to restage the riders in their running order and causes the need for additional sighting laps and warm-up laps to allow for tires to regain their heat prior to resuming competition. For the two classes that utilize standing starts, American Superbike and Supersport, the additional restarts have also demonstrated concerns in the past with deterioration with the clutch units, which is avoided by using the safety car.

Obviously, there are circumstances where there are no alternatives to red flagging a race and stopping all racing activity, as would be the case when the racing surface is blocked and it is impossible to proceed with the movement of safety vehicles (ambulances and fire crews). However, the majority of instances that occur happen when a rider has experienced some problem and is off the racing surface. By utilizing the safety car, it is possible to control the racing field and allow for the immediate movement of safety vehicles and then to immediately resume the competition, without having to stop and restart an event.

The safety car has been used for more than 20 years at the Daytona 200, for the past three years at Moto ST events and has proven to be an effective way to allow for response to incidents on or near the racing surface, without having to stop and restart an event.

MD: What happened during the 200, when two riders went down avoiding the safety car?

OD: A red flag was called by the corner worker supervisor when a rider made contact with another rider in the area of the back straight of the circuit near the entrance to the chicane. This situation occurred while the safety car was on course and the field was assembling behind the safety car. According to reports from officials near the incident, the rider that made contact with the other participant misjudged his speed and did not allow sufficient stopping distance when closing on the field of riders who were circulating the course under full-course yellow flag conditions.

MD: What will you do to avoid future incidents?

OD: AMA Pro Racing continues to work with riders at rider meetings and conducts safety-car practices at each event to help riders acclimate to the use of the safety car at each event.

MD: Why is the Buell 1125R given such a large displacement advantage over other models (i.e. Inline-Fours, Triples and other Twins)? How do you respond to criticism that Buell somehow has undue influence over class structure and rules?

OD: The Daytona SportBike class is designed to allow the participation of a variety of two, three and four-cylinder machines of different designs. This eclectic assembly of motorcycles is consistent with the makeup of the class (which ran in past years under the name of Formula Xtreme, which allowed for machines ranging from 550cc four-valve, liquid cooled, four cylinder bikes to 1350cc two-valve, twin cylinder air cooled bikes). Daytona SportBike allows for a similar mix of equipment that is based on weight and performance characteristics that allow for balanced competition among a large and varying range of motorcycle designs.

Dynamometer, top speed, radar and weight testing has been conducted for all of the machines that are approved for competition in Daytona SportBike, and our experience over the first three races in 2009 has confirmed to us that we have been able to provide exciting competition among a diverse assembly of machines on a level playing field. The results from this past weekend have as many as six different brands of motorcycles in the top eight finishing positions

While anyone can criticize the classification of machinery for the Daytona SportBike class, AMA Pro Racing can assure any critics that all manufactures have been consulted during the development of the Daytona SportBike rules for competition and that no manufacturer has tried to exert “undue influence” during the development of these rules. No such action occurred and none would be tolerated.

The Daytona SportBike results speak for themselves. If one looks at the average times of the fastest laps, for the top two finishing machines from each of the brands competing in the event this past weekend at Fontana, the results indicate that the winning brand falls behind at least three other brands in performance.

* * *

MD Readers Respond:

  • Displacement disparities aside, I still am not clear on why the Daytona SuperBikes Class has to have a NASCAR-style rolling start. That has taken away the best part of every race, the rush to turn one. I simply don’t understand. Would a 600cc 4 get to the corner that much faster? Is it another handicapping like the class list of qualified motorcycles?

    The delayed broadcast at 10PM on a Saturday night means I will hardly ever watch it on TV anymore. Just wrong time for motorcycle racing. Or much of anything else either. SPEED is giving AMA Pro Prime Time a very weak time slot. The only “Prime Time” here is in the name.

    The concept that roadracing, or any motorsports has to be “all inclusive” seems a bit like every kid on a youth soccer team getting a participation award trophy, just a socially correct feel-good measure. DMG hopes the “new direction” make roadracing LESS of an enthusiast’s pursuit, passionately followed by motorcyclists only and making it into a more mass appeal, TV and Live entertainment event that requires no knowledge of nor interest in motorcycles them selves but instead fans follow the TEAM and personalities. A NASCAR fan knows little of the hardware [and why should they], they are cheering personalities and SPONSORS. Reynolds

  • “Apologies for the delay but a visit to Shelly Rossmeyer’s retail facilities was in order. No commentary regarding any discussions.”

    A review of the 2009 AMA Road Racing Rulebook regarding equipment Homologation states the following,

    “e. Compliance with homologation requirements will not guarantee AMA Pro Racing approval.
    Homologation may be withheld or withdrawn for any reason AMA Pro Racing deems is in the best interest of competition.”

    Simply, matters NOT the equipment presented nor ANY apparent or perceived performance advantage.

    Solution for this controversy, today and in the future,
    “I would ask for an OPEN post competition TECHNICAL INSPECTION (FULL motorcycle tear down under PUBLIC (ALL media) guise and scrutiny) attended then recorded (audio-video) by GLOBAL motorcycling media for observed top finishing FIVE (5) participants competing in their respective AMA Pro classes, American Superbike, Daytona Sportbike, Super Sport and Moto-GT commencing at the next (Road Atlanta) and future 2009 events.”

    Should ANY participant fail, indicate or suggest a novel ‘interpretation’ of these published AMA rules a global MEDIA would determine the outcome for PUBLIC consumption no matter observed or published event results by said ruling body.

    ‘Clear, clean PUBLIC eyes insure fairness in all things …’ Bill

  • Hold on a second. I know that no one likes DMG, but I’m not so quick to call foul. Last year everyone was saying that Buells were useless crap that would never compete with “real” supersports. All of a sudden they are unexceptable ringers? I think someone needs to remember that there have only been 3 races so far. ONLY THREE! Is that really enough to decide that DMG has given one team an unfair advantage?

    I was at the Auto Club Speedway for that race, and I will tell you what I saw and what I did not see. What I saw was a Buell and a Kawasaki fighting for the lead. In the last few laps I saw a Kawasaki gaining on that Buell on the back straight. I know the Kawi was making up time because I am a Kawasaki fan! That is who I came to see! What I did not see was a lot of one make up front, or a rider checking out. I honestly didn’t see any evidence to prove anything but Danny and the Buell were having a good day on a track that suited them.

    The other thing I saw was racing. Honestly, I haven’t seen racing in the premier class of AMA for a while, because for years it has been the Suzuki show staring Mladin and Spies. Why wasn’t anyone crying foul about that? It was plain boring! This is looking more like Ducati’s motoGP team. Sure Stoner was rocking but what happened to Mlandri? Same deal with the Rossmeyer Buell team, only one of them is winning. That doesn’t sound superior machinery to me. I’ll go out on a limb and say that DMG might have IMPROVED AMA racing by making it competitive again. They’re right, it looked like anyone’s race. If the Buells continue to dominate I will take it back, but as of now I am thinking Eslich might have come into his own and I will be happy to see it. Joshua

  • Good Questions Gabe, but relatively crappy answers. Especially regarding the huge displacement difference allowed the Buell. Would Eslick be hanging with the leaders if they were all on the same bike, I’m very skeptical. No matter who you blame for the Buell’s fairing blowing apart, if that didn’t happen it sure looked like Eslick might have won the thing, or at least been on the podium. This isn’t an air cooled 2-valve motor he’s running after all. It will take better riders working for the companies campaigning inline 4s to keep up with the Buells, hard to believe that’s good for racing. Glad someone is asking these questions! Bryan
  • What the gentleman answering the question blindly misses is , the racing fans didn’t want that . We want to see the best 600s or 1000s any manufacturer wanted to enter. If we wanted handicapping we would go to the horse races. The gentleman and promoters should also not be surprised, when we race fans are not at their races. This is once again proving the ineptness of the AMA selling to a company like DMG. It solidly proves that the AMA is not about the members but just like Washington DC, it is about who lines their pockets. Clearly that is not proven but usually when it looks like cheese, and smells like cheese, it usually is cheese. John
  • Kindly recall the Daytona, Saturday, Febuary 28, 2009 ‘CCS’ event in which ‘Oh’ Danny Boy!’ astride his RMR-GEICO BUELL ‘ringer’ racer was triumphantly ‘power wheeling’ (post race) while infield AND bowl!”
    That my young friend takes a ‘special’ motorcycle clearly exceeding rules others are playing under! (Team Bartel was overheard ‘dismayed’!)
    Questioned then, ‘wonder how much coin H-D (Buell parent) has ‘donated’ to AMA Pro Racing (DMG) and ISC coffers for such spectacle at Daytona then Fontana facilities?’
    Sad when fellow GEICO ‘teammate’ (?) Michael Barnes was twenty-four (24) seconds arrears at Fontana aboard a sibling racer = NOT! Bill

  • I think Torque is Buell’s big advantage
    Check out the Torque numbers of a 1000cc inline 4s vs any V-Twin. The 1000cc inline 4 has good competitive torque numbers and superior top end hp.
    But a 600cc machine has inferior torque numbers and only just competitive top end hp vs the huge 1125 V-Twin.
    Check out this poll: http://www.superbikeplanet.com/getVote.jsp?pn=buell0321. Paul

    It is hard to be a fan when the rules are not disseminated. This lack of clear, concise available regulations only leads to speculation of a Buell conspiracy. It is like watching football and only understanding the score – now I know why my girlfriend won’t go to a Panthers game (that and Jake Delhomme!)

    I appreciate the information you continue to provide on your site! John

  • Could you give us an overview of what Dynamometer, Top Speed, Radar and weight requirements were used to come up with the eligible Daytona Sportbikes.

    Are the eligible bikes just a comprised list? What modifications are allowed?? Why the difference in displacement between Ducati and Buell?

  • DMG can take their racing program and shovel it on top of the manure pile where it belongs. Whatever spin this Ollie Dean puts on it they have lost a once loyal AMA race fan. I’ve been following racing for many, many years and I have never seen an organization screw something up so quickly. To me, them pushing the Buells is akin to the AMA banning the V-twin overhead cam Honda’s from flattrack in the 1980′s to protect their precious Harley XR-750′s. It virtually killed dirt track. No restrictor plates this time, just double the displacement. The same thing that happened in NHRA motorcycle drag racing. Its plain to see what they want to do and I don’t want to see it turned into the 2 wheeled version of NASCAR.

    Just because its popular doesn’t mean its good racing, it just means if its popular it lines DMG’s pockets with money because it brings in more fans and commercialism. Just plain old greed being covered up under the guise of making the racing “better” in their eyes. Nascar is little more than a race determined by yellow flags, pace cars and pit stops. A racer that goes into the pits in 4th and come out in 31′st like Jake Zemke is a joke, and I don’t care what the trumped up pit rules are now. Maybe Nascar people are used to watching a farce like that but I won’t.

    I’ll just follow “real” racing like World Superbike and I’ll also start attending “real” auto racing like the SCCA puts on, just like I once did. AMA racing no longer exists as far as I’m concerned and this goes for my circle of riding friends. The DMG isn’t fooling anyone and the Q and A with Ollie Dean was an insult to my intelligence especially regarding the pace car incidents. Don’t blame the racers, blame your own ineptitude. Maybe if Ollie Dean keeps repeating this dogma long enough he thinks that we will actually believe him.

    The ultimate insult is that Road America is now charging $45.00 to see one day of this joke of a program the AMA is putting on. Ollie Deans and the DMG’s answer to everything are the same as Nascars…….yellow flags and pace cars. This is roadracing, not oval track stockcar racing. No wonder Ben Spies left the states, he wanted to race in the Major Leagues and get away from the Amateur Motorcyclist Association.