Sep 22, 2001
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AMA rules restricting pre-race practice forced Damon Buckmaster and rival John Hopkins to make special trips to Virginia International Raceway a week before the final race of the Formula Xtreme season, scheduled for VIR.<BR><BR>Buckmaster and Hopkins, who both headed to VIR with their teams this weekend seeking crucial testing and set-up improvements, are tied in Formula Xtreme points and the Championship will be decided by simple finishing position. If Buckmaster beats Hopkins, he becomes Champion, and vice versa.<BR><BR>Neither will be able to practice on Thursday prior to the AMA race because AMA rules ban any rider who is in the top 10 in Superbike or 600cc Supersport points in the current or previous year from participating in any practice days that are not part of an official race event or weekend, up to 10 days prior to the start of an AMA weekend at the same track. Official AMA practice usually starts on the Friday immediately prior to a race weekend, with Thursday practice designated Promoter Practice because it is usually conducted by the racetrack or race promoter.<BR><BR>Hopkins is in the top 10 in current AMA 600cc points, while Buckmaster was in the top 10 in 2000 AMA 600cc points.<BR><BR>Neither rider has ever raced at VIR, and neither has tested at VIR this year.<BR><BR>At this weekend's WERA race, practice is extremely limited because two back-to-back endurance races have been scheduled for Saturday, with one 30-minute official practice session scheduled prior to the start of the first endurance race. WERA officials and regular endurance teams agreed to the arrangement because WERA teams and riders can participate in Friday practice run by the track itself.<BR><BR>The AMA practice restrictions were established because factory teams--which conduct many independent test sessions, typically costing each team between $70,000 and $100,000 throughout the year--don't want to participate in promoter practice sessions and couldn't come to an agreement among themselves. The wide net cast by the AMA rule has snared riders from independent teams racing in classes like Formula Xtreme and 750cc Supersport--like Hopkins--several times, with no sympathy from AMA officials.<BR><BR>Independent teams and riders rely on Thursday practice to get their bikes and riders up to speed, and find the extra expense of arriving one day earlier prior to an AMA National to be far less than conducting independent tests or making additional trips to participate in non-AMA races at any given track.<BR><BR>In this case, and with the championship on the line, Buckmaster's team, Graves Yamaha, and Hopkins' team, Valvoline EMGO Suzuki, felt the only choice was to spend the time and money to get what practice was available at the WERA event. Both teams were thus forced to spend money on five extra days of hotel rooms.<BR><BR>Why the AMA rule is not class-specific and why it must apply to riders in practice for classes other than Superbike and 600cc Supersport has not been explained by AMA Pro Racing officials, who have no personal experience running independent teams nor racing as independent professional riders seeking to make racing their primary means of support.<BR><BR>During Wednesday's American Honda dealer convention, Nicky Hayden emphasized the importance of pre-race testing--and plenty of it--when he told the crowd that he was confident going into the AMA Superbike finale at VIR because his team had conducted extensive tests at the track, in independent test sessions.<BR><BR>The rule restricting practice emphasizes AMA Pro Racing's focus on factory Superbike teams with little concern for non-factory teams and riders.