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Apr 17, 2001

A Call For Action: Take Back The AMA Now

Copyright 2001 Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.


Time To Take Back The AMA

By John Ulrich

Yesterday I was informed that I am anti-AMA.

This, I was told, is the view from the bunker that is AMA headquarters.

For the record, I am not anti-AMA.

I am a 22-year paying member, I think. (I'm not sure because when I re-upped my membership for three years they sent me a member pin with 23 years or 24 years on it, signifying the number of years I'll have been a member after the renewal runs out, not how many years I actually have been a member now.)

I have volunteered to help write rules that cannot be interpreted eight different ways, and I have been ignored. (Funny, AFM and WERA seemed happy with my rewrites of their rulebooks in 1978 and 1986, respectively.)

I have volunteered to serve on the AMA Road Racing Advisory Board, and have been refused. There is a problem, I am told—-I might tell AMA license holders and "stakeholders' (AMA Pro Racing's new-age term for riders and team owners and sponsors) what happens in the meetings, and we can't have that.

I have walked the paddock at an AMA race and talked to riders, found near-unanimous opposition to an insane rule, collected signatures from nearly all affected riders asking that the rule be immediately revoked—and have been told that I was a troublemaker. (Although, six months later, without comment, the rule was eliminated.)

And I have advocated that the research and collection of comments from riders and other stakeholders take place before rules are even considered, that a chance for comment be built into the rule-making process.

More than anything, I have invested in AMA Pro Racing. I have spent time and effort and money running an AMA-Championship-winning racing team currently fielding three riders and employing five full-time mechanics and three part-time mechanics. I have also spent time and money sponsoring my own son—who has led an AMA National, reached the podium and twice ended the year in the top five in points--in AMA Pro Racing. And I've gone to the hospital with my son and my riders too many times as a direct or indirect result of action or inaction on the part of AMA Pro Racing officials on site at an AMA National.

I have buried a rider who crashed one of my bikes into an embankment unshielded by haybales during practice for an AMA National, and my original racing partner is a wheelchair pilot as the result of crashing our bike into a steel barrier during an AMA National.

I have had a contract with a 17-year-old rider--a rider I and my son considered a personal friend--who didn't get to race for my team because he hit a fence unprotected by haybales or foam blocks or Air Fence at an AMA dirt track and died a lingering death before the deal started.

I have a bigger investment in AMA Pro Racing than anybody who actually works for the AMA, and have paid a dearer price for that investment.

No, I am not anti-AMA. But I am anti-stupidity, anti-ignorance, and anti-arrogance. I have no problem with the organization, the concept, the association. I have a big problem with many actions and inactions on the part of the people charged with running the AMA and AMA Pro Racing in recent years.

Is a person who objected to Clinton's executive orders closing public lands to off-road motorcyclists "anti-America"?

Is a person who objects to proposed government regulations allowing insurance companies to discriminate against motorcyclists among group policy holders "anti-government"?

I am not "anti-AMA" any more than a person who advocates open use of public land is "anti-America." I am not "anti-AMA" any more than a person who advocates equal treatment of all persons covered by group medical insurance is "anti-government."

But I am against the view that motorcycle racing, especially motorcycle road racing organized by AMA Pro Racing, somehow must look outside to car racing organizations and officials to figure out what to do, or for validation.

I am a motorcycle racer, a motorcycle race team owner, a motorcycle magazine and website owner.

I don't like sitting around and waiting for a bureaucrat to take a survey to figure out how car guys do it before making a move that is as plain as day and as easy to figure out as common sense. Motorcycle guys are into action, not inaction.

It took AMA Pro Racing years to figure out and get rid of the insane rule that required racers to run dry-pattern DOT-labeled tires in rainy Supersport races. It was a rule that, had anybody known it was coming other than the fool who proposed it and the fools who wrote it and approved it, would have been hooted down in seconds.

I am against a corrupt system whereby a rule that affects a very few—--an example being the proposed ban on powered quick-lifts used in Superbike pit stops—--is instantly postponed when a few factory teams complain that they've already built the equipment. Yet rules that affect many more people—--people not associated with factory Superbike teams--—have no chance of being stayed or delayed no matter how great the hardship, no matter how late the announcement, no matter how flawed the concept.

I am for fair, logical rules, applied equally to everyone in the paddock.

I am against the corrupt, pork-barrel, good-old-boys appointment-by-one-man system that is responsible for the non-representative Road Racing Advisory Board. It is stacked with representatives of manufacturers and of factory-affiliated Superbike teams with a couple of token 250 guys. There are no representatives of independent, multi-rider teams with non-factory primary sponsorship running in the Supersport or Formula Xtreme classes, nor of teams running in Pro Thunder.

A key concept in the American Revolution was: No taxation without representation. Every American understands how unfair it is to be dictated to without representation—--every American, it seems, except the men in charge of AMA Pro Racing.

AMA Pro Racing Directors have been talking about rationalizing the rule-making procedures--allowing racers at large a chance to comment before a rule is made—for at least 18 months. They've been promising imminent action for at least five months. So far all that has happened is that a former car racing guy has been hired to figure out how to create a process that any one of a dozen or two dozen team owners/racers/businessmen within the AMA ranks could fully develop and implement in a matter of days. At this rate, if we're really lucky, maybe something will be proposed in 2001 and implemented in 2002.

And AMA Pro Racing has been talking about buying more Air Fence for years, yet while there is budget for hiring a former car racing guy to explain the obvious in regards to making rules, somehow there is no budget for Air Fence.

I'm tired of waiting and waiting on the grid, of watching for a green flag that never comes, of hoping for fairness and concern for everybody in the paddock, not just the factory few.

I'm tired of waiting for Air Fence that never comes, of delays, of excuses, of hoping my son and my riders and the sons and riders of my friends don't hit a wall where there should be Air Fence but is there is not because AMA Pro Racing can't get its act together and figure out what is really important here, the safety of racers versus the post-retirement employment of retired car racing executives.

I am against the way AMA Pro Racing conducts—--or, more accurately, does not conduct—--its business.

The way I figure it, it is time for AMA members involved in Pro Racing to take back the AMA, to take action, to get something done, starting here and now.

AMA Pro Racing needs 30 sections of Air Fence at $2900 each. I've already written a check for one section.

I need 29 other people (or groups of people) who are sick and tired of waiting for something to happen to each kick in $2900 and buy a section of Air Fence. Just 29 people out of 240 million Americans, 29 people who care about a son, a brother, a rider, a friend. Just 29 people who are tired of excuses and inaction. Just 29 people willing to get it done right now.

Make the check payable to Roadracing World Publishing, Inc., and mail it to me at the address below. Do it right now.

I'll collect the money and personally deliver it to the Chairman of the Board of Directors of AMA Pro Racing, with a simple message: Here's the money, now get it done. If the AMA Pro Racing Board of Directors decides it doesn't need to take our money and buy Air Fence, I'll buy the Air Fence myself and make arrangements with individual racetracks and promoters to deply the Air Fence at races.

Any donors who buy a complete section of Air Fence ($2900) and wish will also get a free 15-inch ad in Roadracing World in which to congratulate the AMA on committing to using the donations to speedily buy and install Air Fence at AMA Nationals. And everybody who donates will get a listing in a new "Take Back The AMA" donor section on

Will this work? I honestly don't know. But trying anything beats the approach typically taken by AMA Pro Racing, which is, do nothing. Or maybe talk a lot, accomplish nothing. Or promise a lot, deliver nothing.

Other than to declare a critic to be anti-AMA.

Send those checks, made out to Roadracing World Publishing, Inc., to:

Take Back The AMA Action Fund
c/o Roadracing World
P.O. Box 1428
Lake Elsinore, CA 92530-1428

Do it now, and help take back the AMA.