Thursday 23 July 2015

Sideburn talks AMA GNC listens?

Back in early March, Michael Lock, a Brit who is the former CEO of Ducati North America and a big cheese at  Honda Europe, Triumph and Lamborghini North America, got in touch with me. He said he was consulting at AMA Pro Racing, or had just joined the organisation, and was looking at how to make flat track more successful. I was pretty surprised that he would talk to someone in the UK about American pro flat track, but we arranged a time he could call me. We spoke for 20 minutes and I gave him my enthusiastic fan's perspective, a perspective that has an ocean between the sport I love and where I live.

I'm sure Lock had the opportunity to speak to hundreds of people involved in the sport - riders, team owners, sponsors, plus thousands of people who have attended far more races and know far more about the GNC than me, but he clearly thought the view of someone who loves the sport, but sees it from a distance and doesn't have a vested interest, had some merit. So I told him what I thought, then  boiled it down to a blog post from March 30, not mentioning in the blog that I'd spoken to anyone at the the AMA. I have cut and pasted it below.

Then, earlier this week, I was checking instagram and saw a few posts from pro riders commenting on rules changes. Those in the screenshot at the top. And thought, perhaps someone did listen to what I thought...

This means the GNC1 riders (the elite) will only compete on one bikes, so if Brad Baker wins the title, he wins on a Harley, not a Harley and a Honda or KTM or whatever single he uses that year. It also means fans don't turn up and see MX bikes and riders in MX gear when they were expecting to see flat trackers.

People are complaining, people always complain, but the sport has been in decline for 30 years, playing to its strengths and USPs are crucial. G

DTX bikes* can produce good racing, and they're a good way for some into the sport, but the hope that killing framers** would bring more mainstream advertising and support into AMA Pro Flat Track has been proven not to work. Instead, the main thing it's done, from my fan's perspective, is lost some of flat track's unique identity. Imagine you were a motorbike enthusiast, travelling through the US on holiday and heard that a big flat track race was happening just up the road and you could get along to see it. 

You don't do any research; you don't know much about the sport, except what you've seen in On Any Sunday. So you just roll up and pay your money at the turnstiles and take a seat with a beer. But it's a short track race. And everyone looks like a motocrosser. No one is in the cool leathers you've seen photos of. And the bikes don't look like you expected. They all look like motocross guys. But they're not even doing jumps! Eventually you might get into the racing, because that's still good, but the whole experience is dulled. And sport has to be an experience if it's going to reach beyond the hardcore. 

 I don't blame the AMA for trying, but go back through the blog and you'll see we were never fans of the idea. And neither are we Luddites, kicking against progress and digging our heels in. But pro flat track isn't growing and no one is addressing this issue, yet. The aesthetic appeal of flat track bikes and flat track riders in their leathers is one of its great strengths.


Unknown said...

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.

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.

747 said...

I am not the most sharp peanut in the turd but I think launching my old twin at Peoria would be a lot of fun :)