Friday 24 July 2015

AMA New Rules: The Debate starts

Reader Pat Riot left a comment to the post below  (Sideburn Talks AMA GNC Listens?) that brought up some good points that I've already been discussing with friends. I'm going to give me view on them below. Pat's comment are bold, my replies are italicised... G

Pat wrote, Well I have to say that I agree with and am excited about the rules changes except for two notes: 1) I don't like the bit about 'production motorcycles' for GNC2 - I'd love to see single cylinder framers make a comeback as well. Perhaps 'production engines' would be better. Chris Carr has commented (in your mag if I recall) that jumping from dirt-bikes to framers is a big gap for up-and-coming riders starting out in GNC1.

By production motorcycles, they mean 450 MX bikes modified for dirt track - DTX bikes as the sport refers to them.
The move to DTX bikes, and away from framers (450 or older Rotax motors in custom dirt track chassis), made some kind of sense. We at Sideburn never hidden our love of framers or ambivalence to the appearance of DTX bikes, but saw the sense or trying to attract manufacturer support by running production bikes they could market. But the support never came. If you're trying to sell MX bikes, it's easier to put all your marketing into MX or supercross. It's big budget, spectacular, the riders are more famous, the races are better attended. Really, why the hell would Honda support flat track 450s in any significant way when they had the huge US MX industry as a battleground?
And if there's a transition from DTX bikes to framer twins of the Expert class, then so be it. For years, Grand Prix road riders had to jump from 250 two-strokes to 1000cc four-stoke MotoGP bikes and just got on with it. The talented thrived, the others fell by the wayside. That is racing.  
Also, framers making a come back doesn't make sense. The GNC2 guys are on a real budget, and DTX makes sense for them. Also, they make sense for amateur club racers too. Be clear, we are NOT anti-DTX, they're good for the grassroots, but, I think, not for the elite. 

 2) 2016 is really soon. Especially for privateers, but even for well supported teams, that is a major reshuffling of the required bikes to solve by Daytona next year. All of that said, it will be awesome to see how short track and TT races evolve the formula for pro-twins bikes. I just can't see launching an XR750 as the best way to go at Peoria.

The bigger budget teams are always going to cope with transition better than privateers. That's life, but perhaps this opens a door for a privateer to put all their effort into building a great Peoria twin, and making a name for themselves, at the expense of another area of their programme. It's no different to now. Shaun Baer (featured in Sideburn 20) is concentrating on the twins races this season and has been a regular top six qualifier, but isn't racing any single races this year. So what's changed? If anything, it'll be easier for him and other twins teams (Ducati Scrambler, Bonneville Performance, Latus Triumph, Rogers KTM) to tweak their bikes for short track and twins than buy a whole new machine and tune it to compete with the top singles. 

I know the top teams have a half-mile bike and a mile bike, with the different engine tunes, but privateers don't. They change the gearing. They'll do the same for short tracks. 

Peoria. Everyone is mentioning twins at Peoria. That makes me think a few things. First, people are DESPERATE to see how the twins go at Peoria. When was the last time this many people were desperate to see a CRF450 at Peoria? Never. Secondly, let's be blunt Peoria is just a shit motocross race. If I wanted to watch motocross I'd watch motocross. But I don't I want to want dirt track. TT is part of the championship, but it's mutated so much it has virtually no link left. People get excited about Peoria because of its history. If it launched as a new race now it wouldn't get a lot of interest. I'm not saying the racing isn't exciting, to those really in the know, and who have favourite racers, but the GNC has to offer more to grow. 
Also, the 450s are flying so far they're missing the transition off the jump and landing on the flat. Won't the riders just back off, and land their jumps on the transition? Fans won't think, 'They're not jumping as far as a full alloy, lightweight 450, this sucks!' They'll think, 'They're jumping 'Harley XR750s? Those things must weigh a ton. Holy cow!'

The riders will suck it up and put on a spectacle. Perhaps Dirt Quake USA hero, The Rusty Butcher can give them a lesson on how to launch a really heavy Harley. who is telling me they'd rather watch a field of experts/GNC1 riders on DTX bikes or a field or riders on twins? 

Sometimes you have to take a step back to go forward. F1 has done it throughout history, and they're doing ok for sponsorship, last time I looked. 

If you want to read more on this subject read the Ronnie Jones interview in Cycle News p58-70 


Anonymous said...

VERY well written and logical. What is painfully clear is that the status quo is not working, although I'm not sure that the bike format is the majority of the problem. I like and agree with Ronnie Jones for what it's worth.

I think two other things are factoring into reduced attendance. One is FansChoiceTV being broadcast live. I know of several "fans" who chose to stay home and watch Lima live, with commentary (and no investment in supporting the sport) because of this. I think the AMA needs to rethink this and enforce a 2-3 day broadcast delay. This would also give FansChoice the opportunity to clean up the broadcast of delays as well, making it more like a TV show and increasing their viewership too.

Second, it's clear that our sport is still being driven by the Baby Boomer generation and we're aging out. I see so many adults at the races who don't bring their kids. Big mistake. I am a member of a local British-American club that has been on the brink of insolvency for years now. As the British have aged out, the active membership has dwindled from several hundred to a dozen or so. Because they viewed it as a night out without the kids. Those kids could care less about it now, it's something their parents did without them. I encourage you to actively recruit and promote kids classes for this very reason.

Thanks for supporting the sport!...roger

topjob said...

Back in the day, twins were always ridden on the TT courses, even in the small venue that the Houston Astro Dome was. The short tracks were always 250 or 360 framers. This was the format that I grew up loving. I ride off road with national number 29 Jake Mataya. Jake has a beautiful framer that he can only ride at non GNC events. Sad. I would like to see the old format for GNC1 of twins on the half miles, miles and TT's. Framers for the short tracks. I think for GNC2 a DTX bike makes more sense. I love the framers because it just says to me that it is a flat track bike. I've been watching a local amateur rider build his framer with a modern 450. I can't wait to see the results. Long live the framer.

-BaRoN- said...

@Anonymous Roger :

think about all the fans living all over the world that can't make it to a US races. I must say I get pretty excited that I'm able to watch the races live on FansChoiceTV. The closest I'll get to AMA races at the moment. Even if it means I have to stay up till 2-3am in the morning.

I don't think true fans living near a race track would rather stay home and watch the race on the internet.
Nothing beats the thrill of real dust, roaring engines and burned rubber !

-BaRoN- said...

ps FF-FF (Framers Forever - Forever Framers)

Frank said...

Here's an alternate point of view from another flat track blogger.

Anthony Brown said...

I am with Poppa!!!

The idea of restricting what riders can wear to meet a particular look is flawed. Imagine if the the 60s and 70s the ama had outlawed coloured leathers and redwing boots in favour of the atire used by board trackers in the 20s and 30s.

Things move on. Let the riders choose based on fashion /saftey and availibilty

Sideburn Magazine said...

Hey Anthony (and Poppawheelie, who didn't post, but was linked)
Here's the news - every current pro racer wants MORE MONEY, MORE FANS, MORE COVERAGE. The current system IS NOT WORKING! The sport is in decline. Has been for decades. it's time to try something drastic if you want to improve it, and a time when the sport is gaining some traction, thanks to X Games, Superprestigio, etc IS EXACTLY THE RIGHT TIME. If you don't want to improve it, carry on as the sport it now. Those are the choices.
Try something different in a hope it will gain debate, interest, new ideas.
Keep things as they are and watch the decline as every other motorsport gets its marketing shit together.

EVERY sport has these big changes. MotoGP wouldn't be what it is now (like it or not) if it hadn't had a radical overhaul when Dorna got in charge. The privateers needed to up their game. Those who remained got big financial support. The others withered and died.

And as far as MX clothing companies giving money to dirt track riders, that's not the case. They might give free gear, hardly any, if any, are getting money, so that argument does not stand. No leathers are headline news, the riders should change all the leather companies not currently involved and ask them to get involved. Be proactive, not reactive.

Anthony Brown said...

No one said they didnt want the sport to improve did they?

My point was I dont think that the way to do it is to look backwards.I was just disagreeing with forcing types of riding gear when its not saftey related.

Statistics can be used both ways. Over 20 years the sport is in decline over 24 months I have seen more coverage and new things then ever before so I believe it could be at the begining of an upward curve. So i guess it depends where you take your benchmark from. Xgames was nice and lets hope things continue to move forward and upwards. I am not against change in fact the oposite.

If you believe changing the riders clothing is going to bring money, fans or coverage I think you are mistaken. As you mentioned much more fundimental things make much more sense.

Yes everysport needs change. Marketing is key at Pro level. Its what pays the bills.
Another good example is supercross in the UK which went from virtual death to a televised specticle whose sold out UK arenas this year.The plan which saw this develop was based on listening to what protential sponsors would like to see as an output from the sport and not from looking backwards at what the sport had been in the past.

Whilst dirt track racers may not get money from MX gear sponsors. If you think that Top MX riders are just given free kit as there sponsorship I think you are mistaken. That said, I dont think this is really the agrument. For me its more bringing dirt track racing to a point where 'any company' can bring their brand along and want to pay a top rider.

Things I think will help in the short to medium term.

Inclusion of riders from other more popular motorsports (inc road racing and MX)
AMA rule changes
Troy Bayliss classic
Fans choice TV
Euro interst in the sport
Sideburn magazine
Different and new events
making the sport accessible to all
Inclusion not exclusion

In the long term like a 5 or 10 year plan this feels like a small bit of detail that wont have a positve affect, rather than a ground breaking piece of history.

Anthony Brown said...

Anyways it sounds like there wont be any short tracks really anyway so probably wont even be noticable?

Unknown said...

G, thanks for so much consideration of my comment.

I'd say we generally see eye-to- eye on the sport - however your writing is doing a lot more for the community than my riding is!

I agree with Anthony that Flattrack is gaining popularity rapidly in the short run, especially over here in the US. I would add to Anthony's evidentiary list the explosion of DT schools you can now select from (Cornerspin, Mystery School, Texas Tornado BC, Ride Academy to name a few). Even if it seems to more of a matter of nostalgic style, the community is getting a lot of attention from the greater world of motorcycling in general. A good thing - especially for getting new blood (including myself).

Distinguishing our identity from the rest of motorcycling is the way to strengthen this position. Thundering framers on short wheelbases will absolutely serve to effectuate this.

Personally, I just look forward to a day when my explanation of my hobby to an outsider doesn't include the reply question "You mean like over jumps and stuff?". Hopefully with fewer DTX bikes and more TV coverage, my dream can be realized :)

Frank said...

I think it needs to be a balance of new ideas and old. I love seeing old Bultaco Astro's or a Champion framed XS650, but the reality at our little Colorado short track is that the racing is much better with 450 DTX bikes. And the racing will get folks interested if it's good and can get a bit of media interest.

Promoters who can run a safe, organized program are more important I feel than any technical changes (or apparel changes, sorry Gar). The AMA have often seemed to operate on the premise of making money off of the racers rather than in teaming with good promoters (or being promoters themselves?) and have too often given racers a moving target with the race classes themselves (Basic Twins, now possibly something different before one racer I know of can even get his bike built and on the track).

It is an exciting time, with some momentum gaining hold, and I think some new thinking and some retention of the historic base for flat track (what was wrong with Experts and Juniors? what the hell does GNC1 even stand for?) will be the ticket for seeing growth of the sport we all love.

Sideburn Magazine said...

I love this debate, but I believe every sport has gone through painful developments in an effort to improve. Grands Prix had it, the Isle of Man TT too. It’s not going to please everyone, but there must be a vision. Professional sport can’t simply limp along doing the same they’ve always done and hope they can compete with sports that have a unified message and killer marketing.

I'm all for inclusion BUT not at the highest level. The highest level is the pinnacle, the exemplar. It shouldn't look like a bunch of club MX racers. It should look unique and special and unforgettable. Bryan Smith, Brand Robinson, Brad Baker et al, on tyre-shredding twins on the Springfield Mile produce that spectacle. Nothing else comes close. G

Anthony Brown said...

Agreed (i love this debate)

I was watching that perris shorttrack with Henry and Sammy on youtube last night (the one where Henry W ends up on the floor) That too me is just as exciting as a mile race. (fist fight in a phone box kinda stuff).

Good racing (especialy at night) to me eclipses any rules or asthetic's

Fortunatly one thing we can all agree on is that put some guys on a dirt oval on evenly matched bikes and you will get some good racing.

Diedre Greenshields said...

Hugh Hefner or otherwise, give me a man in leathers over one in pyjamas any day, or night.

Anonymous said...

The attendance did seem a little low but I was at the race and it was like 95 and no wind in thunder valley so that probably deterred some people from showing up. Was a great time though. So much history and a fantastic grass roots feel nowhere else has. Thunder Valley will be even more thunderous with multi cylinder bikes blasting over the jump!