Saturday, December 20, 2008

Racing and the Economy

If you're a racer, you know how expensive racing can be. Heck, racing a little 'ol Honda 500 Ascot out at Willow Springs could cost upwards of $500 a weekend, and that's if nothing broke and I didn't crash. Now imagine you're part of a team...Big bikes, sponsors, big truck and trailer,'re racing in style. That's a whole lot of money, you need big sponsors. Let's step it up one more time, you're the factory or the importer of the motorcycle. Now you have all the other stuff plus...the riders salary, a couple of mechanics (at least two or three) they have to be paid too, BIG trucks, a motorhome a bit above your average Winnebago, a can see the dollar bills just flying out of the exhaust pipe.

In Europe, motor racing gets large, no, huge crowds. Two or four wheels, it doesn't matter. On The Continent they love their racing. Fans show up wearing leathers just like their favorite racer, their bike is painted in the same livery...they love racing. Racer's are gods. So, why is racing shrinking? As a former President of the USA once said, "it's the economy stupid"

Check out what is going on. We'll start with a small but significant event, 'The Legend of the Motorcycle Concours' held at Pebble Beach California, has been canceled for 2009. Why? The economy. Next up on the 'Hit List', Craftsman (Sears) pulls their sponsorship of the NASCAR Truck Series...Why? The economy. NASCAR teams are shrinking because sponsorship is drying up. Audi, the most successful team in the American LeMans Series, has pulled out due to economic concerns and Honda has pulled out of Formula One racing altogether. And, even though Honda is citing global economics and it's effect on Honda as the reason they have pulled out of AMA Pro Racing for the 2009 season, I think there is more to it than that. That is another post as well.

Car sales are down, motorcycle sales are down, of course the factory's can't continue to spend gazillion's of dollars on racing. It's simple stuff. Valentino Rossi is going to have to sell one or two of his houses around the world. Dani Pedrosa will have to order off the value menu on Tuesday and Thursday and Ben Spies can't have Texas Barbeque flown in fresh each week.

But here is the Silver Lining to that cloud. Scooter sales are up world wide and I'm working on a plan to set up a World Scooter Racing program. Can you see it?? Vespa vs Kymco vs Honda vs Lance. It's gonna be great. We'll be on network TV all over the world..we'll have screaming fans wherever we go...we will be the new gods of racing.

Excuse me, I have to go take my medication now.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Weird times in roadracing

Yessiree gang, we have got some strange times heading our way. Professional roadracing in America seems to be taking a detour. I have written and podcasted about the changes happening and the dissatisfaction that riders and manufacturers have about those changes.

Let's do a quick recap; AMA sells off the racing division to Daytona Motorsports Group figuring they can do a better job of promoting racing. Who is DMG? For one, they own NASCAR. NASCAR is second only to the NFL in popularity here in the states. DMG changes the name to AMA Pro Racing. APR proceeds to talking about changes in the class structure and rules. The Big Four (Honda,Kawasaki,Yamaha and Suzuki) cast a wary eye and start backing away. Some riders are quite upset at the structure, we all know that Matt Mladin is pretty peeved and has said he won't ride under the new structure and others are just hanging around to how the dust settles.

Next, final class structure and rules are set out. We all know that Suzuki was not happy from the very beginning, the other three were still somewhat sitting on the fence. Dunlop becomes the the only tyre supplier to AMA Pro Racing, that's OK, spec tyre rules seem to working for World Superbike and Formula's been adopted by that's the trend. No big deal. But wait..there's more?!

Every December, Dunlop holds the Annual Tyre Test at Daytona Motor Speedway. Everybody that uses Dunlop shows up and works with the newest latest and greatest from Dunlop. Factory teams and privateers. New bikes in plain clothes, test mules and young hot shots hoping to impress the factory teams, a big event in American roadracing. This year was a little short on participants. Kawasaki decided they didn't like the new rules and decided to boycott the event, Honda and Suzuki went along. Only Yamaha committed to the event. Recently I had spoken with a representative from Yamaha and he was a little concerned that Yamaha had stuck their neck out pretty far. Eventually Honda decided to go. But...Honda factory pilots Miguel Duhamel and Neil Hodgson didn't have contracts for the 2009 season, Erion Honda Superbike rider Jake Zemke was there riding with a 'Gentleman's agreement'. Weird huh?

A week later Honda announced that they were pulling out of AMA Pro Racing for the 2009 season! Honda cited economics. They said they would continue support of the Erion Racing and Corona Racing teams, but as a factory team they would not be racing. Do you really believe that 'Global Economics' is the reason Honda has pulled out? I don't. I think it is an easy way make a statement, to thumb their nose at AMA Pro Racing.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Let the show begin

This blog-post is being powered by ZZ-Top today. And... Marshall Crenshaw, Cream, The Kinks, John Hiatt...I believe all of them are bikers at heart. This kind of work environment drives my wife crazy but it works for me.

This last weekend was the Cycle World International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach. I love going to the show..whether for work or fun. I always run into friends,
see the new bikes and all the goodies I would love to have. This is when my credit card is taken away from me before I go. Wives..spoilsports that they are.

Friday morning is the start of Media Day at the show. Even though Long Beach is not the first show of the season, a lot of new bikes are unveiled there. The logic is simple..Southern California is the main market and this is where the magazines are located..gotta have press coverage you know. That's why The MotoWorld is here.

My good friend Michael and I survived the L.A traffic and arrived at the show looking forward to some good interviews, checking out all the newest,latest and greatest in the motorcycle world, seeing old friends, meeting and talking with people who you know their names,their writing, but not their faces, and making new friends.

Between Michael and I, our day was full with interviews, photo's and the basic media circus. Can't complain at all. The new Harley XR1200, some very cool Cafe Racer's from roadracer turned custom bike builder Roland Sands some vintage Cafe Racers from local guys...I need to blame my friend Erik for my newly rediscovered love of this genre of bikes...remember he and I have a contest for building the coolest Cafe Racer out of a Honda 350...there was a really neat little Honda 160 all cafe'd out a couple of beautiful Guzzi's and a waaaay trick CB750.

All in all a great day...but, I have to say, even though there are a lot of technical improvements in new motorcycles, they all look the same, feel the same and...well, I don't know...for me the show was more about the people. Industry types and regular riders. I guess that really is the essence of motorcycling, the people that ride.
So today, go out and ride your motorcycle...cruiser,sportbike,cafe racer or scooter, just go ride.