Aug 6, 2001
© 2014, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by David Swarts
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Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
By David Swarts
Recently released minutes from a March 4 meeting of the AMA Board of Trustees in Deland, Florida indicate that the AMA did not have an approved, funded plan to purchase Air Fence in time for use this racing season, prior to the establishment of the Roadracing World Air Fence Fund.
The minutes show that while the Board denied a request for Air Fence funding, it instantly approved $84,000 for the All Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA) being established by the AMA.
According to the minutes of the meeting, recently posted on the official AMA website, AMA Pro Racing CEO Scott Hollingsworth asked the AMA Board of Trustees for funding to purchase Air Fence. Instead of approving funding, the Board referred the matter to a finance committee, which, the minutes show, was not scheduled to meet until five months later, on August 13, 2001. (Along pit lane at Daytona later that same week in March, Hollingsworth told Roadracing World Editor John Ulrich that he did not have funding for Air Fence).
As an interesting side note, a report on the Board of Trustees meeting appearing in the July 2001 issue of the official AMA magazine, American Motorcyclist, made no mention of the fact that the finance committee was not scheduled to meet until August. The magazine report's sole reference to the Air Fence funding request, appearing on page 51, read "A request by Paradama, Inc. for financial assistance to acquire impact-attenuating barriers was discussed favorably and referred to the finance committee."
On April 17, Ulrich wrote and posted a first-person/opinion column calling for AMA racing fans to take action and contribute money to buy Air Fence instead of waiting for AMA Pro Racing to buy promised Air Fence. Within two days, the Roadracing World Air Fence Fund had raised over $48,000, enough to purchase 16 sections of Air Fence. At that point, instead of lauding the project, AMA Pro Racing issued an April 19 press release claiming that a plan was in place to buy Air Fence and that it took four months to obtain significant quantities of the soft barriers. According to the AMA's own timeline, if the finance committee had approved funding on August 13, no Air Fence could have shown up prior to December 13, well after the conclusion of the 2001 racing season. The April 19 AMA press release read:
"AMA PRO RACING BRINGS CLARITY TO RECENT DISCUSSIONS ON AIR FENCE
"PICKERINGTON, OHIO -- In December 2000, the AMA Pro Racing Board of Directors took action to initiate a plan for the purchase of 30 additional units of Air Fence to be used at rounds of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship.
"The estimated cost to purchase, staff, transport and store the fencing exceeds $450,000 for a three-year period, not including ongoing maintenance and repair costs.
"A formal announcement of this program was planned once all details were complete. It should be noted that a four-month lead time is required for the delivery of this quantity of Air Fence."
On April 23, Alpina Safety Systems Operations Manager For Motorsports Robert Pertl committed to delivering 15 sections of FIM-homologated Alpina Air Modules in time for the AMA races at Road Atlanta May 17-20, just four weeks--not four months--from the start of the Roadracing World Air Fence Fund. Later that same day, Airfence Safety Systems' Andy Coffey stated that his company could build and deliver Air Fence barriers in less than four months. In fact, 15 Alpina soft barriers were delivered on schedule for Road Atlanta, four weeks after the start of the fund, and 20 Air Fence sections were delivered to Road America seven weeks after the start of the fund.
At Road Atlanta, the Roadracing World Air Fence Fund turned over $104,000 to the AMA for use in the purchase, deployment and maintenance of Air Fence. Harley-Davidson, Honda and Suzuki contributed substantial funding directly to the AMA, while Suzuki also donated to the Roadracing World Air Fence Fund.
On May 11, AMA Pro Racing issued another press release, acknowledging the Roadracing World Air Fence Fund but again claiming that the situation had been covered all along, stating, "We at AMA Pro Racing finalized plans for this Airfence program during the fall of 2000 and when we had identified all of the associated costs we began to pursue funding. The incredibly rapid response in financial support has enabled us to purchase and deploy the Airfence in a remarkably short amount of time. While the Airfence Program will be a most noticeable change, it is only one component of the most far-reaching and comprehensive rider safety program in the AMA's history."
The May 11 release also quoted Hollingsworth as stating "We are very grateful for the support Honda, Harley-Davidson and Suzuki have given to this safety project, which will benefit our AMA racers. We also appreciate the grass roots support for this program, and we thank long-time AMA member John Ulrich for the role he played in raising these supplemental funds."
According to the minutes from the March 4 Board of Trustees meeting, Hollingsworth gave a report on Paradama (AMA Pro Racing), which "contained a request for financial assistance to acquire impact attenuating barriers (Air Fence). It was moved by Mr. (Carl) Reynolds and seconded by Mr. (Dal) Smilie to:
"Refer the matter to the Finance Committee for review and report back to the Board.
"The motion was approved."
Later in the minutes, "Mr. (Rob) Rasor (AMA President) requested a one-day Finance Committee meeting preferably in August. The meeting was tentatively scheduled for August 13, 2001 in Pickerington," leading one to assume that the next time that a vote on the purchase of Air Fence could have even been taken would have been in August.
In the same meeting, discussions were held concerning the development of the AMA's new ATVA, All-Terrain Vehicle Association. Minutes from the meeting read, "Bill Amick, Vice President of Events and Entertainment, and Carl Reynolds provided an update on the All-Terrain Vehicle Association. The start of the program is behind schedule, but progress is being made. Three meetings with the Membership Corporation of America have been held to manage direct mailings. A post office box number, toll-free telephone number and web address, atva.com, have all been established, and a director, approved in the 2001 budget, has been hired and will begin work on March 19, 2001.
"Additional funding for the direct mailing was then discussed. Mr. (John) Hoover questioned the mailing strategy and suggested that it be done by zip code and limiting the number of recipients to 200,000. He also suggested the possibility of raising subsidizing revenue by asking OEMs for contributions to cover the expenses of the mailing, suggesting that this could be one of the first projects undertaken by the new director. It was moved by Mr. Reynolds and seconded by Mr. Smilie to:
"Amend the budget for an additional $84,000 for the ATVA project.
"The motion passed, with Mr. Hoover voting in the negative."
The same two Trustees, former Chairman Carl Reynolds and current Vice-Chairman Dal Smilie (both elected to the Board by rank-and file members), made and seconded the motions to defer Air Fence funding while granting ATVA extra money.
At $2900 per 28-foot section, $84,000 would have bought almost 29 Air Fence or Alpina Air Module sections.
Riders who have recently hit sections of Air Fence at AMA National events include Grant Lopez, Anthony Lupo, Aaron Yates, Jim Doerfler, James Milroy, Jr., Jamie Hacking and Vincent Haskovec.
Reached by phone on August 3 and asked for comment on the apparent discrepancy between what AMA Pro Racing press releases said and what the minutes of the Board of Trustees meeting said, Hollingsworth said, "I'm not gonna comment on that. I think that's reading a lot of things between the lines that may or may not exist. I mean, no. The ATVA is a project that has been on the drawing boards for a significant period of time. I'm not privy to what their planning process was. I'm certain it was a…you know, I'm certain it was well developed and in its life over there and that's the time they approved it. That's just not…the two are wholly unrelated."
Asked if it was true that, at the time of the Trustees meeting, AMA Pro Racing was still looking for Air Fence funding, Hollingsworth said, "Yeah, I think we were putting together – we were assembling our financing plan at that point. That's right. I'm not going to get into this with you guys. I mean, you guys have a clear agenda on this. It's not productive for us to have this conversation. We appreciate your efforts on the Air Fence. We funded it. You funded it. It's up. It's going. It's saving lives. It's great news. Let's just leave it at that. We're working as diligently as we can to develop the series. You guys have been supportive of it. We appreciate it very much, and we're all doing what we can to make sure this is the safest sport we can make it."