I long-armed (drove) to Road America a few weeks back for the MotoAmerica round. I had an ulterior motive in that I had to pick up my finished Yamaha SRX-6 engine from Richard Stanboli who trucked it up here from Southern California.
I’ve been in this paddock on and off for a lot longer than I care to do the math and find out how long I have been in and out of this paddock. I have been in the paddock from and through the AMA days, the AMA/CCS period, the Paradama years, the AMA Pro Racing years through the unfortunate debacle that was the DMG “AMA Pro” era. Through many of those periods the paddock could be described as having an adversarial vibe. Of course the riders and the teams hated one another, that’s natural in motorsports, but the paddock was filled with small fiefdoms in operations, fiefdoms that at best held great contempt for other departments. Timing and Scoring were in their own bunker, tech were in another, communications were trying to do their best and management had their own agenda. Beyond adversarial was the mood, and wasn’t really helped by what I, at the time, termed the “At Track Infidelity Club” which was seemingly everywhere in operations, at every track. How well can a race steward do his job when he just found out that his wife left their room in the middle of the night to “go say hi” again to the lead T&S guy? Or, if one of the race officials is selling cocaine to the riders? It wasn’t anything close to professional.
Bush league crap happened with scary regularity. One time, God’s honest truth, I watched as an AMA official who I knew didn’t even watch the race, walk to victory circle as the after-race celebrations were well underway, trophies awarded, girls kissed and now time for photos–and he pulled a rider right off the podium and escorted him out of victory circle because somehow he “knew” that the rider had finished fourth not third. And those became the official results. By a guy who never even watched the race. Or, the time that the Clerk of Course was driving the pace car during a caution period at Daytona, and even though he was told multiple times on the radio that he did not have the lead bike behind him, which is the standard practice with a pace car (the leader is behind the car) he let riders loose. That cost the lead rider and his team a Daytona 200 win. The official was adamant that he was right and that was the final word even though there was clear video evidence that he missed the lead bike.
I was at “Elkhart” mostly in a observational role. So I observed.
1. Never before has their been the level of cooperation, harmony and “big picture” mass-thinking by the operations departments in US Superbike racing. MotoAmerica is the new gold standard. If you really want to know how things are going at a racetrack go sit by someone who has their operations radio sitting out with the speaker on and just listen. What I heard was procedures followed and cooperation. All entities sticking to the schedule. MotoAmerica has done a fantastic job getting the right people in the positions where they have strong capabilities but are also devoid of the bunker mentality.
2. Near MotoGP level television production. If I watch any race on television I turn the sound off so I can’t speak to that end of it (announcers etc) but in terms of backbone and TV operations MotoAmerica has assembled an armada of professional television production people. How good is it? Good enough that everyone in the paddock should kiss the feet of Wayne Rainey, Chuck Aksland, Richard Varner and the rest. Where else would a national motorcycle roadracing series get this level of quality in terms of major video production that makes the series look like a world championship on TV? Answer: nowhere.
3. Paddock presentation: the factories are gone and so are their gigantic rigs and support people. What’s left now could easily succumb to yard sale-level presentation; engines laying in the dirt, etc but instead the MotoA’ paddock looks very professional and well-organized. Fans appeared to be happy and intrigued by what they saw when strolling through. There are a great many self-sponsored big rigs in the paddock but even the smaller operations with small trailers looked very professional.
Good job to all.