Cycle News - Archive Issues - 2000's

Cycle News 2004 12 01

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 102 of 103

By CHICANERY HENNY RAY ABRAMS Less and More th a lull in the racing, it's time to offer a few unsolicited suggestions. T he first is t hat the size of the AMA Superbike field m ust be reduced . T he standard of be ing w ithin I 10 pe rce nt of the fast Superbike qualifie r is far too lax. It leads to overcrowded fields of unqualified riders who adverse ly affect the outcome o f far too many races . And it's easily fixe d. The AMA Pro Racing Board has s ho w n it wi ll act by e xecu tive fiat in changing rules - see Form ula Xtreme as the pre mie r class at Dayto na - so they co uld easily go to the far more acce pt ab le 107 percent. "The biggest risk I take all year is passing those guys," Be n Bostro m said of the lapped riders . "That is risk number one and I hate it. I think it' s such a joke, and it des troys every race. " Bostrom was responding to a question about the obstacles Brit Neil Hodgson will face in his deb ut AMA season. Bostrom's opinion was echoed by his brother Eric and American Honda 's Jake Zemke, and it's a subject that's brought up at nearly every postrace press conferenc e. The standard for most all professional racing series is 107 percent. MotoGP, World Superbike, the British Superbike and the Japanese Supe rbike series all have that mark. Why not here? Wha t can the argument be for diluting the field with grid fillers? Give n how much AMA Pro Racing makes on sanction fees, it can't be for the drippings provided by entry fees . It also can't be for the spectators, fo r a number of reasons. Fans are sop histicated enough to wait a minute to see a rea l race, rather than a serum for 35th . They 're not shown on te levision. They add nothing to the racing. Qu ite the op pos ite, in fact. Too ofte n riders find themselves facing the unpredictable late in the race . The safety of the riders , bot h th e lappers and those doing the lapping, isn't being considered. "We nee d to get rid of some of those guys off the racetrack because they 're spoiling the racing," Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin said after pulling off the Superbike double at Road Atlanta. "The spectators are not here to see the guy coming 20th. They're here to see the top few guys pushing each other, passing each ot her for the lea d, and see who can win." The Bostrom brothe rs offered a sensible solution back in January. What they propose is tha t ride rs who don 't make the cut get paid in a sliding scale by their qualifying position . It has the added advantage of making sure the slower rider s won't be W tearing up the ir bikes, using up thei r tires or loite ring fo r an extra day, while at the same time improving the racing and giving them some incentive to improve. The only possible notoriety they can garner by being so slow is negat ive. Gett ing not iced by the factories has be come increasingly diffic ult, unless you get bonked o ff the track by the leade rs. The lineups of the factory teams hardly ever cha nge , and when they do, it's a game of musical chairs with ride rs hopping from o ne facto ry to the next. Where's the next Nicky Hayden ? The next John Hopkins?And w hen willthey be ready? The answe r is tha t the re are a few very good young prospects, but they're not coming along as qu ickly as the Euro pea ns. Spaniard Dani Pedrosa, the newly crowned 250cc World Cha mpion, is 19. T he 125cc World Cham pion Andrea Dovizioso is an 18-year-o ld Italian. How often are riders discouraged by the costs? And where does a rider new to the sport have a chance of standing out or getting noticed for running at the front , rath er than batt ling for 15th behind the factory bikes in Supers port? Production racing. Valentino Rossi, Mat Mladin, Troy Bayliss, Ben and Eric Bos tr om, Jake Zemke, John Hop kins, the Gobe rt brothers , Troy Corser - all riders who got the ir starts in prod uction-b ased classes. In the United States it was the old 883 class, an entry level series where the dirt tracking Bostroms and Zemke got affordable starts. The 883 s are gone, but there are more than a few motorcycles that wou ld be perfect . Tops amo ng them is the Suzuki SV-650S twin . W hen Kevin Schwantz wants to have it out with the ex and cur re nt racers who teach at his schoo l, they do it on the tw ins, not the much quicke r inline fours . Suzuki has provided the bulk of the field for yea rs and would likely get behind a spec class. The SV is reasonably priced and re liable, and it's a blast to ride. At the moment, it' s the best option. But other manufacture rs may wa nt in, and the model cou ld change year to year. As for whe re they might fit into a race weekend, re me mbe r it wasn't that long ago that the re were six classes . Now there are four and the schedu le is almost neve r the same week to week. Given that flexibility, and the chance to showcase rider ability, it's in everyone's best interest to have a stocker class. W ith essentially two displacement mo torcycles, 600cc and 1000cc inline fours , making up the grids of all four classes - yes, I know about the few Ducatis and Bue lls - it's hard to te ll them apart. Superbikes are indist inguishable fro m Supe rstock machinery on the track and nearly so off of it. There's an easy fix. W hen the MotoG P circus comes to Mazd a Raceway Laguna Seca this July, the first thing you'll notice is the noise. The de cibe l limit for the exotic MotoGP machines is 130. The uppe r limit for all AMA roa d racing is 105. This is why Superstock sou nds like Superbike so unds like Supers por t soun ds like Fo rmula Xtre me, almost . The knee jerk react ion to raising noise limits should be avoided. It' s anti-social or ant i-environment or anti-hearing, all possibly tru e and compl etely irrelevant . I'm not advocating 130 db. But a bump from 105 to I 10wo uld make a surprising difference. You'd take notice immediately. You'd know in an instant that something special was going on . And you'd know that it wasn't just more motorcycles circu lating, which is what we have now, especially at the back of the Superbike field. eN CYCLE NEWS • DECEMBER 1,2004 103

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