This is a transcript of the press conference held yesterday regarding the 2015 Daytona 200 moving back to a Superbike event.
MODERATOR: I'd like to welcome you guys to Daytona. It's been a good off-season, we look forward to a good season. I'd like to talk to you today about the Superbikes returning to the Daytona 200 in 2015. To start, Joie Chitwood, the President of Daytona International Speedway. Joie, tell us what it means to the Speedway.
Thank you so much. I guess I'd like to put it in perspective. People don't realize, really, the history of motorcycle racing in Daytona Beach and Daytona International Speedway. In fact, the word back in the day is with the first races on the beaches, that the car races did not go well. It was the motorcycle racing that actually intrigued everyone, and they weren't going to bring car racing back the next year. But the fact they [inaudible] to bring motorcycle racing back, they said they'd give the cars another shot. So when we really think about our history, really motorcycles helped us get to where we are today. If you look at what we do with everything around motorcycles, it is definitely an important part of what Daytona International Speedway stands for. So for us, the opportunity to talk about switching up the format for the 200 and bringing the big bikes back, that's exciting for us. We view that's a great thing for our fans, for our partners, and we like to continue to not sit back and rest on our laurels. What else can we do to improve the racing on track? What can we do for our fans? I think that really goes into everything, and especially when you look at the Daytona Rising project and our investment in this property, the folks here in Daytona aren't sitting back. Whether it's sports car racing, stock car racing or motorcycle racing - which, by the way, seeing the motorcycles on the high banks is probably more thrilling than anything else that we do - we're all in. And we think it's important, and we were pleased when the AMA came to us with this opportunity, and I think we were a willing participant from Day One, and really excited that we got to make the announcement prior to this year's event.
Thank you, Joie. Michael Gentry, AMA Pro Racing's Chief Operating Officer. Tell us about it from a series perspective.
Thanks Gene. Thanks for everybody for coming out this morning. As Joie mentioned, the history of Daytona International Speedway, the "World Center of Racing" in the United States, being able to bring the big bikes back is something that our fans have been telling us they would like to see, are very interested in. We just feel like from a series perspective it's going to solidify our sport and send a very positive message out to all of our fans and our primary stakeholders about commitment and being here at Daytona. Clearly, the greatest motorcycle race in the United States, with the greatest riders in the United States, with the greatest teams putting these riders on the racetrack with the products they represent. So we're excited about it. We look forward to it. We think it's going to be a great show for everybody involved.
Thank you Michael. Next we have Don Sakakura, Vice-President of Yoshimura R&D of America.
Thank you, thank you. Really from the team's perspective, Yoshimura Suzuki obviously have a huge amount of history here at the Speedway, from way back in the Superbike days when we would run the 100-mile events, then obviously the 200-mile event came for us, and it's always been a thrilling challenge for us, the team, for preparation of the equipment, being a very unique event, and obviously if you are successful here, it's a great achievement. So it's exciting for us to hear the news of the 200 again for next year, for the 1000cc motorcycles, and we're honestly looking very, very much forward to coming back and participating there.
Thank you Don. Next we have Pat Alexander, Sports Promotion Manager for American Suzuki Motor Corporation.
Thank you Gene. On behalf of Suzuki Motor of America, we're proud to be here for this, these races this weekend. Suzuki's supporting Yoshimura, but not only are we supporting Yoshimura, but we've got a number of things that we got going on, with our displays outside and our demo rides. Suzuki supporting the young riders coming up, with a large contingency. We're hoping that they all do well this year.
Mike Buckley, the Vice-President of Dunlop, with our tire partner.
Thanks. I think I said it in the initial press release, we take a lot of pride in that most of the people on our team are pretty hardcore enthusiasts. And if you think about it in those terms, what's better than having 1000cc bikes back in the 200. So we're happy to support that, and to kind of dovetail off what Pat said, we're involved in the Speedway, in the activities here at Bike Week, in a big way. We're out in front with a display. So it's important for us, and we want to do our part to support this change and put Superbikes back in the 200.
Thanks Mike. Keith McCarty, Yamaha Motor Corporation USA's Motorsports Racing Division Manager.
Thank you Gene. I know we're here to talk about next year's 200 race, and I think that there's no argument that that is the most prestigious race in the US for roadracing, and it's really fitting that Superbikes, the most prestigious class in motorcycle racing here, is part of that. So we're, Yamaha is no stranger to the Daytona 200, we're excited to be back here this year and next year both. So we applaud everybody that was involved in trying to make this happen, and keep a safe race for everybody, and we've worked through this the last few years to this point, and it's really exciting. Our company also represents a lot of, our brand that gets out here across the street, and in the Speedway, so we're really excited to be here with our teams and the United States' best riders and teams. Thank you.
Thanks Keith. Josh Hayes, three-time AMA Pro Superbike Champion. Josh, the 200 win has eluded you over the years. Are you looking forward to getting back out there and giving it another go?
Um, I think it's no secret, with the Daytona 200 being as big a race as it is, it definitely should be the premier class participating in that event. So I think that that's exciting news. There's a lot of, I remember watching and only participating in one Daytona 200 on Superbike, and it was always an incredible and exciting race, and hopefully we can bring it back to that big, and get the big crowds out there. I do have a bit of unfinished business with the Daytona 200, but I think I have a long way to go to catch up to Scott. But I'll see what I can do. I think I'd have to ride into my 60s.
You're still young, though. You've got time.
Thanks Josh. We have Cameron Beaubier, the 2013 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Champion and also Daytona 200 winner. Cameron, you going to give it another shot next year on Superbike?
Yeah, definitely. I think, like Josh said, Superbike's the top class here, and I think that we should be racing the 200, and I'm really excited to get another chance at trying to get another Rolex.
Scott Russell, Mr. Daytona, five-time winner of the race. Scott, I've heard rumors you may be out there again next year.
I'm sorry? [Laughter] Is that what you're hearing? Interesting. Well, I'm training for it, let's just say that. Obviously Daytona's a special place for me. Thanks for having me here today with all these great riders. But I don't know. I'll be 50 years old next year, so how old is the oldest guy to ever win the 200? How old is that? I think he's 36. I think Duhamel and I had this conversation the other day. So the thought of maybe trying it again has run around in my head. Who knows.
Thanks Scott. Larry Pegram, representing Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing EBR.
Yeah, I think for me, I think it's the right way to go, as far as putting Superbikes back in the 200. I've heard from Mr. Chitwood and Mr. Gentry that they're going to make this, that they're all in, and this is going to be a premier event. And if that's the case, I'm 100% confident they're going to do it. But it's a big risk for us to put Superbikes around this track even for one lap. Basically, for 200 miles, it's a big risk. I think we're all willing to take that risk if the AMA's willing to do a big production and make this the biggest race, like it used to be back in the day. So it's going to take a lot of effort from them, but we're willing to take the risk if they're willing to do it, and if we show up here next year and this place is what it should be, as far as promotion and everything, I think we'll all be real happy. Because riders, if it's not, we're going to be pretty upset, because I think we're taking a big leap of faith to go out and do this, because definitely, a handful to race a 200-horsepower, 200-mph motorcycle around this racetrack, and we're willing to do it, so everybody has to hold up their end of the deal, and hopefully we'll come here next year and we'll have the biggest race in the world again, like it was back in the day.
MODERATOR: Thanks Larry.
Martín Cárdenas, of Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing. Martín, you raced on the 600 in the 200 a few years ago. Are you looking forward to getting back on the big bike?
Yeah, also for me I've never had a podium on the 200. I think my best result was fourth. So yeah, it's good for me to give it another shot next year, and I think it's going to be very challenging for the team, also, because it's kind of new class because it's been raced by 600 machines for the past few years, and also for the tire manufacturer, for Dunlop, because it's a very long race and this bike has a lot of power. But I think the most demanding is going to be physically for us, because to manage a Superbike for that long is going to be very tough. But looking forward to it.
Thanks Martín. Roger Hayden with Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing. Roger, when we talked the other day, you said that you actually haven't raced in the 200, because it changed formats when you went to Superbikes. So are you looking forward to it?
Yeah, I'm really looking forward to it, because when I grew up racing the amateur races, we came here every year, and the big thing was to come here and watching the 200, and when I'm done racing, I want to say that I at least raced the Daytona 200. So I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's great, especially for the fans and stuff, to get to come here and watch the premier riders, riding the premier class, so I think it's good for everybody.
Thank you very much, Roger. Are there any questions from the media?
Q Mr. Gentry, what had to change for this transformation to take place, to go back to Superbike?
Well, I think the congruence of the stakeholders in the paddock, we were hearing from the fans that they would really like to see this. And then making sure that everybody felt like, on their piece of the pie, that they could make it work, which they did, and then working with Joie and the Speedway to say "hey, this is what we think would be great, coming back at '15," and we worked to that end together.
Q Mike, this is for you. One of the main reasons that we changed to the SportBike class for the 200 was tire safety issues. Has things changed enough to make it okay now? Or is there still plenty of work to do between now and next year?
Well, it is Daytona, and the last thing a tire company wants to do is rest, okay. So we're constantly evaluating things here, because the repaving obviously changed the situation out of the gate. That settled in a little bit, but the track continues to evolve. The bikes get quicker. So we're continually looking at it. So one thing that's changed, the primary thing that's changed for us, really, is the NTEC technology. Once we went to that technology set in the bikes that we use here, we saw the heat buildup come down dramatically. So you think about today, we're running Superbikes in sprint format, in 15 laps, and we're doing section analysis and all the due diligence the tire companies have to do at the end of the event, and particularly temperature readings, and we're not seeing anything there that concerns us in a 15-lap format at this point. So that's a good place to start from. Now, depending on what we do from a rules and regulations point of view, and how many pit stops we end up with, which would ultimately I believe be about a 69-lap affair, if we end up with four pit stops, then we're in a window where we're comfortable with where we are today.
Will that require going back to the way it used to be, where we had the big Daytona tire test? Is that something that ...
Well, that's something we're working with AMA right now. We have some things penciled in with the Speedway and with the factory groups up here for post-October, to do a test there. We certainly get better results there. We have a little bit warmer weather, something more representative of what we see in March, so we've always felt that was good, a better time. So we've got some stuff penciled in for October, and we'll certainly be coming in there with a baseline of what we'll use here. We'll learn something here this weekend, obviously. And we'll come back with that, as well as probably some secondary options, and we'll do some - we'll put these guys through the paces a little bit in October and do some endurance stuff and see where we're at. So definitely going to need to have a test before the race in 2015.
Has there been any interest in international riders coming to this event, as happened in years past?
[UNKNOWN]: That's definitely something we are working to do. I think that that's important for all of us to bring back. Bring some international riders over to participate in the event, absolutely.
Q Has anyone expressed interest in riding? Any riders?
[UNKNOWN]: We've received inquiries.
[UNKNOWN]: I have to say we get contacted quite a bit, even now. We get contacted quite a bit, even with the 600 format. But as soon as news got out that it was going to transition back to the 1000s, that interest has really peaked. More identifiable names, and we've had discussions with our existing teams about how we'll work together in partnership to open up those opportunities. So there'll be a lot more information. But from my perspective, .... they call, my phone and my email, I've seen a lot of interest.