First I hope everyone had a great Christmas, or happy holidays, and are looking forward to New Year’s.
I just listened to the latest episode of SoupKast titled, “A Heaping Helping of Figgy Pudding”. In this episode Dean “I’m numb enough to think electric race bikes run on Lead Acid batteries” Adams (and no, I’m never gonna let that go) was talking to BBC announcers Toby Moody and Julian Ryder. The subject turned to the politics of the current political and business scene in top level motorcycle racing today. It’s not really a mess, but things have been getting hard for some time, and keep getting harder financially. The thing that struck me most is the implication that World Superbike may be folded into MotoGP sometime in the not so distant future. The argument is that the newcomer or average Joe doesn’t know the difference. One quote I thought was particularly poignant was that you cant have Touring Cars going as fast as Formula 1, and that’s what is happening. Heck, AMA Superbike rider John Hayes put his Yamaha R1 a mere 3 seconds shy of Jorge Lorenzo’s 800cc MotoGP pole position time, and the AMA bikes look like Superstock machine next to the World Superbikes. Really, this has always been the case in some degree or another. When I started watching motorcycle racing in ’96 or ’97 the 500GP class (which is what has become MotoGP) was small little 500cc 2-stroke widowmaker prototypes, and the World Superbikes were 750cc 4 cylinder, or 1000cc twin, 4-stroke street based machines. Never ever seeing a street machine that was a 2-stroke, to me the 500GP class was too antiquated and not relating at all to the world of motorcycling I was entering. And I really enjoyed superbike racing, and still do. I really only got into MotoGP because I followed Nicky Hayden there when he moved up from AMA Superbike. I welcomed the 4-stroke MotoGP era, until I saw it take all of the money and support away from World Superbikes, leaving it the Ducati cup. And then they moved from 750cc to 1000cc 4 cylinders and I dang near lost it. I feel it should have stayed that way, but European racing series had already moved to 1000cc Superbikes. Also, the 750 street bike they based the race bike on would cost you $25,000, and you’d better have an impressive racing resume if you wanted one. That, and all of the rider’s around me went straight from 600s to liter bikes, skipping the 750s altogether, and now there is one left. My nemesis, the GSX-R750. Oh, the irony. 😀 Now we are left with 1000cc superbikes and MotoGP bikes (starting 2012). Even the weights are going to be similar.
What, pray tell, does that have to with us elmoto types? Well, it makes you wonder about, or rather appreciate what we have. If the two highest forms of motorcycle motorsport are having issues defining and financing themselves, then the TTXGP and FIM aren’t doing too bad really. Right now there is no difference between the series other than the addition of the 75 class in the TTXGP series. The problem the 2 series face are filling the grids, the same problem the 2 gas powered sries face. The biggest issue I see are, well, I’ll call them out, are Mission and MotoCzysz. They have these awesomely fast beautiful bikes, but they only do 1 or 2 races and that’s it. We don’t get to see them on track all season long. In fairness the NA schedule went pear-shaped this year. But I know people get really excited to see these bikes particularly, and want to see, or hear they were on track battling it out or crushing one another, which ever. And then there was the CEO of Brammo on Youtube being pretty darn wishy-washy about the 2012 race season. Now, it may very well just him being publicly cautious so as to not repeat 2010. But it hasn’t left me very confident that the 2011 champions will be back. Why aren’t these folks showing up to these races. Well, I am sure it is a simple time and money issue. They only have X amount of money, and Y hours in the day, and their priorities are else where.
I posed a question over at the MotoPod facebook page. I asked what it means if a team wins a race or wins a championship and doesn’t return? The first response was from Jim Race, whom I’m certain knew what I was talking about. He said that he would think it reflected on the weakness of the series. Not what I wanted to hear, but what I needed to. Both the TTXGP and FIM series are new, and hence not as strong as other long since established series. But really, all series have been shown to be not as strong as thought in recent times. Honda still has not rejoined the AMA, but I see that as Honda’s folly and not a reflection of the series. The racing is good. The racing hasn’t been as good either electric series, but that is because the technology is so knew and advancements are happening so fast that not everyone can keep up. Also, it is due to the number of bikes on the grid. The 2010 season wasn’t too bad because the inexpensive Agni motors would easily do the job, and Mavizen was there with bikes you could lease. 2011 came along and under public pressure Mavizen didn’t offer bikes at the beginning of the season, and the air cooled and brushed Agni DC motors were no match for liquid-cooled AC motors. This meant numbers were down on the grid in both series as some people realized they couldn’t keep up, while others seem to have just gone back to the drawing board. Having figured out that caving to the pressure was the wrong move, Azhar Husain, CEO of both the TTXGP and Mavizen, made the bikes available again, and soon the European races were even fuller.
Ok, so the low budget teams are figuring things out, but what about Mission and MotoCzysz? They have arguably (and Lightning would argue loudly) the fastest bikes out there. Why aren’t they out there, either at the TTXGP NA rounds and World Final, or the all of the FIM’s races? Well, Mission was at Sears Point, but wasn’t ready to race and Mr. Czysz has told me he supports the FIM’s philosophy. But, after the defeat to Mission at Laguna Seca, Czysz showed up to the last NA round at Miller Motorsports Park, which was a last minute addition after the demise of VIR. And then the last minute change of the World Final meant only four teams and bikes showed up to that race. The Final round of the FIM’s series that was a combined event with the TTXGP, had 6 bikes showed up, but they all belonged to only 3 teams. The point is we may never know if they were planning to go or not, but even if they were the motivation to over com last minute scheduling wasn’t there.
That finally brings me to my point. The teams have to have the motivation to show up, and currently they don’t. In business terms coming to a race has to have a benefit that out weighs the benefits of staying home. Right now, it appears for Mission and MotoCzysz winning the only circuit race they show up for is enough of a boone to them PR wise that it doesn’t make business sense to spend the money on another race. In that respect neither series is strong enough. Teams go to Laguna because things happen for them there. They get big exposure and deals get made, so everyone wants to go because there is a Return On Investment (ROI). It really doesn’t matter who it is running that round.
A lot of the solution is time. Time for the tech to grow, awareness to go out, people with money to get interested, ect.. But it does seem it is out of the fans hands. However, I do not believe this to be true. I think if we let the teams know that we, the fans who buy stuff and make racing possible, really want these guys at all the races. That wining one race and going home is not acceptable to us, that showing up not ready is not acceptable either, and not bringing home a world championship when it is so easily done is really not acceptable. But we need to let them know that the reason we feel this way is because we truly enjoy seeing their bikes on track, and/or hearing about it afterwards, and/or watching the races on the internet because the TV coverage sucks, or watching it on TV if you are the privileged few. If we write them and tell them directly how we feel, it may shift enough of an emphasis to racing that it makes business sense.
And to wrap up, we have 2 series that are indistinguishable from each other technically. Would the racing and series be better and stronger if they could agree and work together? Yes, but it’s a battle for the future and I just don’t see it happening. Does it really matter? No, not at all. It just means a few more races teams have to compete in. The rule are the same, minus the 75 class, which makes it easy for teams to compete in both. The TTXGP provides for continental series that then can do battle at a world final. While the FIM adds 4 rounds for the Euros to be able to do, and then helps bring everyone over the Laguna for the biggest race of the year. We don’t have the mess that the MotoGP and WSBK folks face, with completely different rules, but similar results. We really don’t have it that bad. It’s just new is all.
Now, give all of these guys a shout and tell them to either keep up the good work or start showing up.
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