Cycle News - Archive Issues - 2000's

Cycle News 2003 06 25

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 126 of 127

30 YEARS AGO... JULY 3, 1973 Team Suzuki's Roger DeCoster raced toward the camera on the cover of Issue #25 on his way to fifth place at the Carlsbad 500cc US GP. Willi Bauer (Mal) won the event, over Jaak Van Velt· hoven (Yam), John Banks (BSA) and Ger· rit Wolsink (Mai). Brad Lackey (Kaw) was the top American in eighth ... We rode the new Mako 250cc Radial motocrosser and found it to be "stronger than dirt." The forks were reportedly so good that Ake Jonsson put them on his prototype Yama· , ha... We featured Don Vesco's new Land· Speed Record·tying machine, and it fea· , tured two 750cc Yamaha e,rlgines instead of the double 350s he briefly held the LSR with a few years before... Jim Rice (H·D) won the Columbus, Ohio, Half-Mile ahead of Mert Lawwill (H-D) and Ken Roberts (Yam), although Roberts extended his points lead. 20 YEARS AGO... JULY 6, 1983 Team Kawasaki's· Jeff Ward was featured on the cover of Issue #25 in honor of his interview located inside, which was titled, "TaU On Performance." He said he used to be happy with third place in a championship, but now he wants to win... Hakan Carlqvist (Yam) won the Carlsbad 500cc MX GP with 1-2 finishes, which in the World Championship gave him the win over Brae Glover (Yam) and his 2-1 finishes. Bryan Myerscough (Hon) won the 250cc support class ... Jay Springsteen (H-D) won the Knoxville Half-Mile over Randy Goss (H-D) and Dan Ingram (H-D). while Tammy Kirk (H-D) made history by becoming the first woman ever to make an AMA Grand National main event. She finished J4th. 10 YEARS AGO..• JUliE 30, 1993 Muzzy Kawasaki's Scott Russell ran the number-one plate for the cover of Issue #25 on his way to winning a wet Loudon AMA National Superbike event. Mike Smith (Hon) and Takahiro Sohwa (Kaw) rounded out the top three. Smith won the AMA 600cc Supersport final... It was announced In the Wind that Greg Albertyn was in discussions to come to America and race the Camel Supercross and AMA National Motocross series for Team Honda ... Mike Kiedrowski (Kaw) won the 250cc class at the Hangtown National, sweeping both motos. Steve Lamson (Hon) finished second overall, with Jeff Stanton (Hon) third. J.eremy McGrath (Hon) won the I 25cc class over Doug Henry (Hon) and Jeff Emig (Yam) ... Daryl Beattie (Hon) won the Hockenheim RR GP ahead of Kevin Schwantz (Suz) and Shinichi Itoh (Hon), who held the pole with a top straightaway speed of 200 mph. "Bungled Again." So began the column that with critical detail went on to identify a rather long list of AMA Pro Racing shortcomings; in this case our timing and scoring functions and the handling of them at Pikes Peak International Raceway. This at least in the opinion of the column's author, Henny Ray Abrams. With all due respect to Mr. Abrams, whom we hold in high esteem as a motorsports journalist, the story was far from complete. Many significant facts were omitted, and the report would have you believe that 1) when it comes to dealing with issues, AMA Pro Racing tends to duck and cover, and, 2) AMA Pro Racing cares little for its riders. A little perspective. Please. Officiating a modern motorsports event is an extraordinarily complex task and one that, frankly, is inherently problematic. Like racing itself, here the difference between victory and defeat can be determined by the failure of a single part, officiating, particularly timing and scoring, relying on a multitude of systems and subsystems all performing flawlessly. A daunting task to be sure. Nevertheless, that is what is expected of AMA Pro Racing on a weekly basis. And if things go awry, watch out. Critics are quick to come out and gleefully point to every problem. Big and small. Frequently without benefit of all the facts. Make no mistake, our goal is to be perfect. But that's a very lofty goal and one that is virtually impossible to achieve. So we build in back-up systems. And endlessly monitor processes looking for improvement. At Pikes Peak we suffered an unusual occurrence that ultimately affected Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin. We did and still do take responsibility for the problem. In Friday's first qualifying session, Mladin set a fast lap that was significantly lower than anyone else. Because the possibility of "shortcutting" exists at Pikes Peak, AMA Pro Racing officials reviewed the segment reports to determine if there was anything unusual. Seeing nothing, it was discussed with Mladin's team. The team's opinion was that the time was legitimate. So, unable to detect any discrepancy, the fast time was allowed to stand. On Saturday,an unusual pattern emerged that led to AMA Pro Racing officials discovering that, in fact, Mladin's fast time was erroneous. The problem was traced to a brand-new timing decoder that had randomly deleted a second off of certain qualifying times. It was so random that it only occurred on approximately three out of some 1000 total Superbike qualifying laps. AMB, the Netherlands-based manufacturer of the timing and scoring system, had its chief designer on hand at' Pikes Peak, and he diagnosed the error. Simply stated, the decoder's GPS synchroniza- tion system had lost touch with the satellite at the exact time these particular motorcycles crossed the start/finish line. An incredibly bizarre occurrence that could not have been foreseen and according to the AMB designer had never occurred before. Once the problem was determined at the end of Supersport qualifying, AMA Pro Racing officials went about correcting the times. This process involved manually checking approximately 10,600 individual laps, verifying each against the log of shortcuts (there were 87 alone during Formula Xtreme qualifying) and confirming that over 32,000 segment times were accurate. Even though all of this was accomplished in a few hours, the timing, regrettably, had a particularly negative impact on Mladin in that he couldn't go out and better his qualifying time. Incidentally, the scoring and timing equipment produced by AMB and used by AMA Pro Racing is the same system used by other sanctioning bodies including NASCAR, IRL, MotoGP, World Superbike and others. It's the best there is. A brief history lesson. Just a few years ago, timing and scoring was a manual affair with a panel of scorekeepers literally writing down the number of each passing motorcycle. Lap times were determined by hand-held stop watches and posted after the fact. With the explosion of technology came new options for the task of scoring a race. And along with these new options came more services that we could provide to racers, teams, media and fans. Currently, during an AMA National road race event, we have the ability to distribute timing and scoring data instantaneously via monitors to Pit Lane, each of the teams located in the paddock, the track's media center, and to fans at home through the Internet. Of course, by offering these features, we have created new expectations. Expectations that are sometimes unrealistic. And therein lies the problem. Because while technology has improved, sometimes it inexplicably fails. Doubtful? Then ask any computer maker... or crew chief. How many championships have been lost due to the inexplicable failure of a motorcycle? So recognizing that technology can fail, we must prioritize and determine what information is vital and what information is a luxury. Frankly speaking, not being able to deliver real-time data to a fan sitting in his home in Duluth or printed results to the media center within seconds of a race conclusion are not failures, they're inconveniences. That's a significant distinction. Standards and expectations have risen to the point where anything less than absolute perfection is seen as failure. That's why we concentrate our efforts on making sure that vital cue I • e information has a backup. And why you still see dedicated timing and scoring officials sitting next to the track dutifully recording each bike as it passes the start/finish line during practice, qualifying and racing. That data is there in case it's needed to confirm what the computer-based system is telling us. Another point made in the article was that " ... getting an AMA official to accept blame is harder to find than a nun that can hit a curve ball." A clever turn of phrase but, again, not entirely accurate. It was an AMA official who brought the problem to light. It would have been easier to let Mladin's time stand and move on. After all, Mladin holds the record for AMA Superbike poles and is on a very quick bike this year. Nobody would have questioned the fast qualifying time. Why risk the embarrassment of making the mistake public? Because officiating races fairly, accurately and honestly is our job, and not for one moment did anyone at AMA Pro Racing consider doing anything other than that. AMA Pro Racing announced the problem and dealt with the resulting fallout. So much for not accepting blame. Finally, the story puts forth the idea that we don't respect our riders. However, the next paragraph seems to contradict that suggestion by identifying several of the very things we have accomplished out of respect for our riders. For clarity's sake we'll repeat them: Tracks are becoming safer at the insistence of AMA Pro Racing, AMA road racing television coverage is growing globally, and we increasingly solicit the input of riders and teams in matters that affect them. All of this directly benefits our riders, and AMA Pro Racing has been at the center of each accomplishment. We have nothing but respect for each and every rider competing in AMA Pro Racing events, and recent strides support that contention. To suggest otherwise is offensive to us. AMA Pro Racing is not looking for a pat on the back, and we certainly don't expect to be applauded for doing our job. However, we do expect fairness and balance. Nobody denies that there have been some operational challenges this year. But in the final analysis, grids have been established accurately, winners are being determined correctly, and the series is continuing to produce some of the closest, most competitive motorcycle road racing ever. A very unfortunate thing happened to Mat Mladin, and we don't mean to understate that in any way. However, AMA Pro Racing stepped up and handled the situation professionally and as well as can be expected considering the circumstances. That's the story that didn't get told. eN Hollingsworth is the CEO of AMA Pro Racing ... Editor n e _ S • JUNE 25,2003 123

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