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by John Ulrich
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AMA Pro officials did not consult with WERA officials prior to changing pit stop rules, despite the fact that WERA teams make thousands of pit stops per year in the WERA National Endurance Series and despite a new cooperation agreement between AMA Pro Racing and WERA Motorcycle Roadracing, Inc.
A new AMA rule limits the number of crew men over the wall for a pit stop to four plus a fire extinguisher man, a number teams have said is too few. A minimum crew number is five plus fire extinguisher man, with two men on each wheel and one with a gas can, according to race team managers and WERA officials. Forcing the gas man to also assist a wheel man can lead to problems with gas spills during pit stops.
The new rule was proposed by former 250cc World Champion and Chapparal Racing Crew Chief Kel Carruthers, and was adopted by AMA Pro Racing officials on the basis that it would tend to eliminate the crew-size advantage factory teams have over smaller teams. The missing element not considered is that factory teams have quick-change equipment that smaller teams attempt to compensate for by adding crew members. Three crew men with airguns can change a front wheel reasonably quickly without special, expensive kit quick-change fittings, and finding more crew men at an AMA race is cheaper than buying the special equipment.
WERA rules limit men over the wall for a pit stop to five crewmen plus a fire extinguisher man and a rider. WERA rules also require dead-engine refueling with the rider off the bike, to avoid problems with spilled gas drenching the rider or igniting, or both.
Asked January 9 if AMA Pro officials had consulted with WERA prior to announcing the new rule, WERA Operations Manager Sean Clarke said "No, they didn't." Asked why WERA rules allow a total of seven (including rider) over the wall and require dead-engine and rider-off refueling, Clarke said "There's a reason why our rules are the way they are. They work."
Observers say that AMA Pro Racing officials are reluctant to seek or accept broad-based input on proposed rule changes, and frequently announce new rules without any advance warning to or discussion with competitors. Input from outside sources is often dismissed as being untrustworthy or rejected because of "not invented here" syndrome, long-time AMA members and racers say.