Cycle News - Archive Issues - 1990's

Cycle News 1999 11 03

Cycle News is a weekly magazine that covers all aspects of motorcycling including Supercross, Motocross and MotoGP as well as new motorcycles

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Page 77 of 78

Final Moto 'm in favor of the AMA's new syste m of perm an ent nu mbers for motocross. Jud ging from just about every reader opinion I've seen on the topic so far, my position isn't a pop ul ar one, bu t I can live wit h that. Wha t escapes me is why so man y fansseem to be against it. Try as I might, I'm having a hard time seeing how th e sys tem negati vely affe cts the public, and the impassioned speeches I hear against permanent numbers d o little to enlig hten me. For th ose wh o ha ven 't heard , th e AMA has decided to change from a system that ass ig ne d numbers based on points totals of the previous year to one that will have the top riders wearing the sam e number s seaso n after season. At th is po int, I won't ge t too detailed on ho w rid er s choose number s because, frankly, it's a bit confusing. In fact, complexity has been one of the charges leveled at the new method , and I have to conced e that poin t to the critics. We've tw ice published the proc ess in Cycle Neus, and I was still a bit hazy on it all until talking to AMA Motocross Manager Duke Finch, But the concept is mu ch simpler when you ignore the details (w hich primarily concern th e AMA anyway), and look at the big picture: The best riders will each have one number year after year, and the up-and -com ers will fight over wh at's left. At any rate, much of the com plex ity will disappear af te r 2000, since fewer riders will be cha nging numbers (making the new system poten tially simpler than the old way). Full di sclosu re requires me to admit that one reason I favor the new method is tha t it benefits th e pr ess. Th e firs t few races of the year invariably find us Cycle Ne ws rep orters u sin g chea t s hee ts to more easily put riders with numbers. For example, this year spent thin king of Jeff Emig as number 1I will make it difficult for us when we see him wi th a 3 on his bike at the first supercross on January 8 espec ially since we're still tryi ng to get used to him bein g o n a Yama ha . One year from now, how ever, we' ll be accustomed to the idea, and Emig will keep his number 3, makin g ou r jobs a little easier. I'm not se lfis h enoug h to use th at I The digit dilemma m inor gain as justification for the new sys tem, bu t most of the other press entities will proba bly ben efit more. The monthlies, which rely more heavily on photograp hy and are han di ca pped by h ug e lead times, will no t look as bad w he n th eir Janu ar y iss ues (p u blis he d arou nd November) feature p hot os of bikes ado rn ed with the pr eviou s yea r's numbers (since those numbers will not have changed). Local press will ben efit grea tly, since the Dallas Morning News writer who is attending his only super- These companies want memorable characters, not just a group of faceless clones with inte r changeable numbers. cross of the yea r (but who also attended the Dallas rou nd last year), will be more likely to ha ve a n idea of who's d oing what. On the o p pos ite e nd o f th e pres s sca le, televisi on will ben efit . Like an y o the r tel evised show, su pe rcross and m ot oc ross cov era ge depen ds up on viewers d e vel oping a n id entification with the ch ar acters (the riders, in our case). That' s not a problem wi th a hard core fan who has read our race coverage and even attended events prior to the air d ate, but th e casu al fa n of tel e vised su percross - the guy whose onl y exposu re to the s po rt is on th e tu be - has much more difficulty d iscern ing w ho's who. On e reason peopl e watch professio na l wrestling yea r after year is th at Ston e Col d St ev e A us tin always has black clothes, a bald head , and a goa tee; th ey 'd be co nfused if h e su d denly showed up in ye llow tig hts, a blon d e wig, and a handlebar moustache. Obviou sly, we don't wa nt our riders to emulate everything about professional w res tl ing . One thi ng th at m a kes mo tocross grea t is the genuine person alities involved. Dou g Henry doesn' t need to d ress up st range ly an d yell and grimace when he sees a camera. The guy's a su pe rhe ro w ithout the posturing: all the AMA is tryin g to d o is ide n tify him . With the new system, a fly on the wa ll of Nielse n househ old number 5794-B mig ht hear the followi ng words: "Stop flipping the channels, Honey. That num ber-19 guy is Doug Wh at's-his-name the one we saw in the CN N piece a cou pl e years ago, whe n th ey talk ed about his broken back. Let's see how he does." Doug seems to app rove; he kept number 19 even though his status as a forme r cha mpion allowed him to choose a one- , digit number under the new system . Of course there is a one-digit number t ha t nary a so u l would pass u p th e oppor tu ni ty to d on - th e fi rs t one : " I as ked seve ral riders," says Finch, "a nd they d idn 't care if they were number 6 or num ber 9. They wa nted to be number 1." Fortu na tely, the new sys tem allows for that, since the d efending champion of each series wi ll continue to wear a 1 w hen contesting that serie s. I condone that, since there's no doubt that Jeremy McGrath, Gre g Albertyn and Rick y Carmich ael are re spectively th e best su percross, 250cc MX and 125cc MX riders in the co u n try ri ght now. Wh at 1 don't condone is the old sys tem's wa y of throwing all th e va rious se ries ' non ch a m p io ns into a single p oints p ool , then coming up with some nebulous ratin g system for a non exist ent se ries. If accu ra te rep resentation of talent takes com plete priority over rider identificati on , di fferent n u m bers s hould be assig ne d fo r each series - es pecia lly when yo u co nsider in jured ri ders or those who don 't contest all of the series. Take McGrath , wh o sat out the bulk of this yea r's ou tdoor series, and wh o thu s would have been number 13 und er the old sys tem. Does a ny one reall y think t ha t McG r a th is o nly th e 13 th-b est supercross/motocross rid er in the USA? Man y ar e concerned tha t privateers w ill be hurt by the new system, sin ce they probab ly wo n't be easily identified by fans even with a permanent number. These guys, the think ing goes, deserve the rig ht to wea r a lower number if they earn it. I tend to di scount th at conce rn on the basis of this being a pr ofessional spo rt, bu t Finch doesn 't agree wi th me. In fact, he didn't sig n off on th e pl an until rid ers wh o had never finished top10 were assig ne d ava ila ble number s based on how they finis hed the season . Thu s, the new sys tem takes care of the fast guys and the u p-and -comers. What about sponsors? Most will benefit under the new system, since they wa nt their riders easily ide ntified by the fans. Despite the penchant for team uniforms , team trucks a nd team s po nso rs , motocross is still a sport of ind ividuals, and most sponsors prefer being associated with a top ride r to being associated w ith a team. Th at 's why 1-800-Collect has followed McGra th fro m Honda to . Suzuki to Ya m ah a . Tha t's why Fox which sp ons ors Team Honda - has d istingu ished Kevin Windham by putting a cool K-Dub logo on his but t. That's why Troy Lee, wh o paints jus t about everyone 's helmet , d oes specia l "signa tu re" designs for the top riders, and that's wh y he makes caricature stickers of the same guy s. These compa nies want memorable characters, not just a grou p of faceless clones wit h interchangeable nu mbers. I talked w it h Kaw asaki team man ager Bruce Stjernstro m (many of the ab ove arguments were stolen from him), and he mentioned that now Kawasaki has the opportunity to make merchandise with a number 4, a nd people will kn ow it ' s referri ng to Carmi chael even after 2000. So, permanent number s benefit th e press, the riders, the spo nsors, and presumably the AMA. Who does that lea ve? It lea ves th e most im portan t per son you, the fan. Since you're ostensibly the one who all of these groups are tryin g to please, you' re the one that really matters, and I d on ' t th ink ther e's a sing le way tha t this new plan hurts you. eN Looking Back 30 YEARS AGO... NOVEMBER 1 1969 1, 20 Y EARSAGO... NOVEMBER 7, 1979 10 YEAR SAGO... N M R1, 1989 OVE BE o u r-tim e Wo rl d Spee dway Cha mpion Barry Briggs was all smi les on the podium at Costa Mesa Speedway after winning every even t he en tered during the October 31 running of the weekly speedway show. Both Briggs and reigning World Speedway Champio n Ivan Mauger were profi led in a short piece entitled "A • Pa ir of Champions " ... Me rt Law w ill (H-D) knocked seve n secon ds off the track record and posted ano ther convincing win at the Ascot Half Mile during the California State Championship race. LawwiIl had also won the 8-Mile National held at Ascot earlier in the year... Husqvarna reigned supreme in the Mexican 1000 offroad race in Baja California, Mexico. J.N. Roberts and Sweden' s Gu nnar Nil sson teamed up to win class eight, w hich was for big-bore motorcycles. In class seven (250), Malcolm Sm ith a nd Whitey Ma rti no rod e an eigh tspeed Husky 250 to the win... Art Bau man n (Suz) bested a field of AMA and international competitors to win the overall at the California International Grand Prix, which was held at Oran ge County Intern ational Racew ay. he 650cc Yamaha Ma xim-I cr u iser g ra ced t he cover of Is su e #43, wh ile the rest of the 1980 Yamaha motorcycle line appeared on pages 8 a nd 9. The 1980 Hu sq varn as made their debut in th e issue as well.. . Drew Smith (Suz) won th e Cowbell Na tiona l End u ro ... We took a look at the wild, weird sport of grasstrack racing , an offshoot of speedway racing that had been enjoying popularity in England since the 1920s... The Trans-USA factory MXers were p rofiled in detail, and once again it looked as tho ug h the futu re of production machinery looked bright indeed. Of special in teres t was the exotic-looking 1980 Kawasaki KX440GP machine ridden by Brad Lackey . The bike featu red a rad ical li nk age rea r suspensio n sys te m kn own as the Uni-Trak. Honda mean whil e, was messing wi th an eve n more spacey twin-shock linkage system on the RC500 ridden by Steve Wise... Spea king of speedway, Shawn Moran topped the Ascot Long Track Cham pio nshi p Qualifier at the fabled half mile. om my Lynch (Suz) ma naged to pull clea r of fou r othe r riders in a hai r raising las t- lap da s h to the fin ish line to win the AMA /CCS 750cc Supersport race at Talladega Speedway in Alaba ma by less th a n an inch . Scott Russ ell (Su z) was second, and Doug Chandler (Kaw) was third... The Dutchman II squad of Tom Kipp and Da le Quarterley won the EBS Brakes End urance Challenge th e same weekend ... We in terviewed newly cr ow ned AMA 125cc National MX Champion Mike Kiedrowski, the nice guy who finish ed first. .. John Kocinski (Yam) con tes ted the Solo Mot o Su pe rp res tigio Road Race in Ta ragona, Spa in, win ning two of the three 250cc heats to wow the 50,000 race fans in attendance. Kocinski 's mechan ical failu re in the first race left him third overa ll, behind w inne r Juan Garriga (Yam) and Sito Pons (Hon)... We also got th e chance to sw ing a leg over th e third -gen erati on Suzuki GSXR streetbikes, testin g them out at Willow Spri ngs International Raceway. c. F T T 75

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