Nov 27, 2013
© 2014, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
by David Swarts
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Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is one racetrack/promoter switching from a three-day to a two-day AMA Pro Road Race event weekend in 2014. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
By David Swarts
On Tuesday AMA Pro Racing announced that it will reduce some GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Race Series events from three-day to two-day events in 2014, to reduce costs. The move could not have come at a better time for America’s premier motorcycle road racing series, which is struggling to put together a respectable schedule, produce reliable television coverage and maintain its competitor participation levels.
For three-day event weekends, members of larger AMA teams typically arrive at the track on Wednesday. They spend Thursday parking transporters, setting up in the paddock, unloading racebikes, performing last-minute preparation on the racebikes, taking the racebikes through technical inspection, and doing other tasks to prepare for the start of practice and qualifying on Friday afternoon.
By eliminating official on-track activity on Friday, AMA Pro Racing makes it possible for teams to travel and arrive on Thursday in preparation for parking and prep work on Friday and the start of practice and qualifying on Saturday.
Eliminating that one day from the weekend schedule will save teams from having to pay for one day’s worth of food, water, generator fuel, personnel wages, rentals cars and hotel costs. And less track time means fewer tires and race fuel to buy and less wear and tear on equipment.
To a small team this could easily save hundreds of dollars each weekend. A larger team could save thousands of dollars each weekend. And this might make the difference between some teams and riders giving up and going home or continuing to compete in 2014. It could be the deciding factor between some riders and teams doing selected rounds in 2014 and running the entire series. And in the near future it could be the final piece of the puzzle that gets some riders and teams off the sidelines and into the big show.
Reducing the weekend schedule by one day will also reduce the costs associated with producing the television broadcasts of the event the same way it reduces costs for the teams.
Shortening the schedule also reduces the operating costs for AMA Pro Racing, which in theory should allow it to pass on those savings in the form of reduced sanctioning fees it charges promoters/tracks. With a lower sanctioning fee and less overall operating costs, tracks will be better positioned to profit from holding AMA Pro events. If the formula proves successful more tracks may decide to host AMA Pro Road Racing in the future, something that is badly needed right now.
But I certainly hope racetrack managers are wise enough not to try and charge the same prices for two-day events in the future that they charged for three-day events in the past. That would not go unnoticed.
Obviously the biggest drawback to the two-day schedule is its effect on fans and sponsors. Even though there may be no reduction in races on a weekend, fans will have less time to spend with the AMA Pro Road Racing teams and riders. And the elimination of one day will result in most overall event attendance figures going down--if for no other reason than promoters typically count every person who comes through the gate as a unique visitor, meaning that one person attending on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is counted as three spectators. But I think the potential downside will be outweighed immediately by the benefits.
I believe that reducing costs will help existing teams and riders keep racing in this tough sponsorship market, make the television coverage more viable for its producer and more reliable for everyone else, and will result in future growth of the series in terms of growing rider/team participation and attracting new promoters/venues.
Roadracing World Associate Editor David Swarts has been covering AMA Pro Racing events for 15 years.