Is US Superbike Racing on the Verge of a Revival?

09/04/2014 @ 2:07 am, by David Emmett13 COMMENTS


Motorcycle road racing in the US looks set for a revival after its years in the wilderness. Today, the AMA announced that the rights to road racing in the US have been reacquired from the Daytona Motorsports Group, and handed to a consortium led by Wayne Rainey and Chuck Aksland. The KRAVE Group will run a new series of races in North America from 2015, under the joint auspices of the AMA and the FIM.

It has been a long and difficult few years for motorcycle road racing in the US. Since the DMG bought the rights to the AMA Superbike series, at the start of the 2008 season, the series has been in a steady decline.

Long-serving staff were replaced, circuits were dropped, classes were dropped, rejigged and renamed, and the manufacturers – or rather, the national distributors of the Japanese manufacturers – were either chased out of the series, or left over disagreements over the technical regulations.

The series reached a low point this year, when the AMA Pro Racing Superbike series held a grand total of just six races. Making things worse was the fact that just one of those rounds was in California, traditionally a very strong base for motorcycle racing in the US.

To alleviate the situation, Roadracing World’s John Ulrich stepped in to organize the Superbike Shootout, a three-race series held in California and Utah, to offer road racers something approaching a fuller season. However, DMG did not have a deal to televise the Superbike series, relying instead on live internet streaming of the events.

The decline of the series cannot be laid completely at the door of the DMG. They took over the AMA Superbike series at the start of 2008, a few months before the global financial crisis hit. That crisis had a massive impact on all forms of motorsports, and saw a great deal of sponsorship money evaporate.

The actions of the DMG certainly exacerbated the flight of capital from the series: the changes in classes and sporting regulations alienated a good part of the fan base; and the technical regulations and the way they were handled caused conflict with a number of key manufacturers.

The DMG continues to run the AMA Pro Racing Flat Track series, which has seen something of a revival under its tenure.

The plight of US racing caught the attention of both the FIM and Dorna, especially after Dorna took over the running of the World Superbike series. Without an influx of talent from the US, raising the popularity of both MotoGP and World Superbikes was hard, especially as the Americans in MotoGP have begun to retire through either injury or age.

Ben Spies was forced to quit after a severe shoulder injury, Colin Edwards retired after the Indianapolis round, and Nicky Hayden’s place in MotoGP is uncertain after radical wrist surgery.

Only two Americans remain at the World Championship level: Josh Herrin is struggling through a miserable year in Moto2, while PJ Jacobsen has been the only bright note for the US, the American having an excellent debut season in the World Supersport series, scoring a podium at Misano, and currently seventh in the championship.

If Dorna was to find any strong American riders, the US would need a strong road racing series.

There had been rumors that Dorna was working with Wayne Rainey on a new series for about a year, though the rumors only gained any real strength earlier this year. Those rumors came to a head at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP in August, at which a key series of meetings appear to have taken place.

The FIM and Dorna had agreed a new championship with the American Motorcyclist Association, the only stumbling block being the DMG. It was feared that the DMG would block any move to take way its rights to road racing, and use its financial power to thwart any attempt to circumvent those rights.

Fortunately for US race fans, common sense has prevailed. The DMG has given up its rights to organize road racing, and passed them back to the AMA. Though the wording of the statements from both the AMA and DMG suggest that the transfer involved some form of financial compensation, the value of the rights were already greatly diminished during the tenure of the DMG.

The rights have now been transferred to the KRAVE Group LLC, a partnership which includes former 500cc world champion Wayne Rainey, former Team KR principal Chuck Aksland, Terry Karges, a former team owner, and Richard Varner, an entrepreneur and custom motorcycle manufacturer.

The KRAVE Group will organize a North American championship under the auspices of the AMA and FIM North America. The series is to be called MotoAmerica, and appears that it may include races in both the US and Canada, as FIM North America represents the motorcycle associations of both those countries.

As to which classes will be raced and which tracks will be used, as yet, nothing is known. With the rights to organize a series now officially finalized, the hard work of building and promoting a series can begin. With less than six months to go before the US season’s traditional opener at the Daytona 200, there is no real time to make radical changes.

2015 will likely be a year of transition, with larger changes coming in the future. The involvement of the FIM and Dorna suggests that the technical rules will once again be brought into line with World Superbikes, to allow teams and riders to transfer more easily from the US to World Championships.

Whether the AMA goes to a Superbike-Supersport-Superstock format like World Superbikes, or a Superbike, Moto2 and Moto3 series, like the Spanish CEV championships remains to be seen. There were credible rumors from Indianapolis that Dorna favored the CEV model, but that would require a radical rejigging of the racing landscape in the US.

Although the task facing the KRAVE Group is momentous, they start off with one big thing in their favor: after six years of misery for the AMA under the DMG, the KRAVE Group is assured of the goodwill of US fans and everyone involved in the sport.

They carry the hopes and dreams of US fans, teams and riders. Perhaps more significantly, they carry the financial support and interests of Dorna and the FIM, who have a vested interest in the MotoAmerica series succeeding. Things are looking up.

  • KSW

    I can only hope the best for this announcement and hope that the KRAVE LLC group looks long and hard at what works and what doesn’t.

    Sponsorship has to be broader and inclusive of the lifestyle of the racers and fans alike. While UnderArmour has just launched a women’s campaign using the stick like model Gisele they didn’t use the actual women athletes on there roster. Melissa Paris, Elena Myers, Anna Roberts or Shelinda Moreda are prime candidates for female sponsorship as are the male riders wearing the product. Instead of Yamaha USA using unknown models in there advertising they should be taking advantage of the Dynamic Duo, married racers, Josh Hayes and Melissa Paris if they want to show what motorcycling really is about and the you tube video of Melissa and Josh that has Mel saying “This is why I am like I am” is a perfect example of why. The market for motorcycling exceeds the direct industry. At COTA this year and AD representative now at CW said, “We send auto industry first class and they drink wine, you guys fly coach” Translated that means the manufacturers and there franchisee’s aren’t putting capital into the industry beyond over paid MGP riders and there teams VIP hospitality. I loved it when a Mfg would offer me less than it cost to shoot a job but somehow VIP lunch would be enough. LOL.

    The door to the world must be open to grow and expand the sport. The Bridgepoint/Dorna model of only full time print magazines that cover all MGP events are allowed and all others have to pay hasn’t and doesn’t work. Rights are fine but using those rights to isolate yourself into a corner and rely on Tax Payers isn’t the answer. I think the outrage at Tax Payer Funding of MotoGP is growing, pushing people away and soon enough the revolt will grow louder and force those dollars into public needs not Entitled/Narcissist capitalist’s pockets. Funny these same people profess to be anti-government while stuffing there pockets with Tax Dollars. The tracks couldn’t afford all the financial burden with DMG nor Dorna and the KRAVE LLC group shouldn’t expect that they can either.

    We’ve a long way to go and I think that expanding to tracks in Canada can only be good. KRAVE LLC has to make sure that Dorna/Bridgepoint doesn’t use an association with them as a means of appeasing those MP’s in Canada that may not have been so happy to see Candian Pension Fund dollars handed over to Bridgepoint Capital Euro 111 (this could be another of the BCE investments in the CPP portfolio but at this time information is vague at best. Dorna is listed as the Company invested in, Bridgepoint as the investment partner and Bridgepoint Capital Euro 1, 11, 111, as holdings)

    Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this works, the riders and there passion fully rewarded and the fans a place to call home in the world of motorcycle racing.

  • paulus

    It can only be a step in the right direction.

  • Biggus Dickus

    putting Scooby Doo in charge would be a step in the right direction.

    (irks me considerably that the AMA is still even remotely included in this. its like excising a tumor and then inviting the bad cells to a cocktail party for them to wave, smile, and pretend the’re there to “help”. wtf)

  • Norm Fraijo

    We should all take this as good news regardless of which class model is adapted.

  • Andres

    Yes, finally. Please make this great sport what it deserves to be, a great sport to watch and attend. I like the AMA and they seem to try hard but there needs to be more involvement in advertising, tv rights, and local talent.

  • I honestly would love to see the CEV model. as a spectator, if I have a choice of seeing a super sport race (lightly modified production machines) or moto2 (purpose built racers) I choose moto2 all day long. But the key will be manufactures being able to create accessibility of moto 2/3 machinery to American teams.

    Heck I’ll by a ticket either way!

  • irksome

    Subtly illustrative pic.

  • chris

    having a moto2 class would allow us manufacturers to develop frames, etc locally. racers aren’t the only people who need a springboard to get to the world championship.

    oh, and end pay to play.

  • mark thompson

    Would it be totally ridiculous to put 600 Supersports in the same class as Moto2 bikes, so long as all bikes were running the same weight, tires, using a stock or spec ECU and subject to a dynojet tested power cap?

  • LanceBoyles

    Thank you Wayne, Chuck, Terry, and Richard. Now at least some sanity will come to the series.

    Love the pic BTW. DMG: I’m meeeeelllllllltiiiiiiiiing!

  • Conrice

    Josh Herrin is OUT at AirAsia. They just announced it today. I can’t blame the team. He certainly hasn’t done anything for them.

  • To be fair he did wreck several bikes and cost other teams a ton of money with his poor riding.

    This announcement about the MotoAmerica is a good thing. Now they need to make it work as many others have stated. Sponsorship is paramount.

  • Thomas lewis

    I would love to see a experimental streamline class running at select events.Set limits on engine size 125 – 250 cc ?but allow any rider position,recumbent etc.I think racing fans would be extremely interested in seeing how they look and perform.As a bonus for advertisers,they’re like a rolling billboard.If it becomes popular,maybe allow both partial and full streamlining.We really need to start making changes and to advance the technology of the sport
    and this would be a great way to start.