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Formula USA officials hosted a team owner meeting at Pocono International Raceway Thursday evening, after a day of practice, school and track ride sessions.
Chaired by Formula USA Director of Road Racing Bill Syfan with Kenny Abbott and Mike Murphy also in attendance, the meeting gave team owners and riders a chance to discuss their concerns with-- and ask questions of--the officials.
Major concerns expressed by team owners at the meeting included the need for a consistent TV package, revisions in the team owner program to include payments to participating teams during the season, and the need to continue with the basic dyno-based restrictions to control costs while also improving race-to-race dyno calibration and finding a way to institute graduated penalties for dyno infractions, similar to the system used by the Canadian Superbike Series.
Syfan and Abbott said that Clear Channel Motorsports' television liason man--who also handles the company's Supercross, Arenacross and dirt track series--has been pitching F-USA road racing to a number of television networks. One problem the company has encountered is that Speedvision is already loaded up with road racing coverage, televising the Grand Prix World Championship, the Superbike World Championship and the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship.
While tape-delayed CBS network coverage of the 2000 race at Pocono drew higher ratings than a live CART car race in the same time slot, it cost about $250,000 to produce and air the show, and ad revenues did not cover that cost. As a result, there has been no TV coverage of Formula USA since.
But a new property synergy program within Clear Channel Communications has allowed the Motor Sports Division to do deals with various company-owned radio stations, trading a percentage of event ticket sales for promotions and advertising. As a result, promotions for this weekend's event at Pocono have been broadcast for the last several months on 78 Clear Channel-owned radio stations in the Pennsylvania-New York-New Jersey area, according to series promotions man Murphy.
F-USA officials will also look into doing a better job of providing event highlight videotapes to television motorsports shows like Moto World on ESPN2 and Bike Week on Speedvision, Abbott said.
Syfan said that he and his staff will consider suggestions concerning the dyno-controlled horsepower limits, including the idea of using a standard bike or a standard electric motor to reference/calibrate the official series dyno at each event. Blackmans Cycle's Kris Bickford, who has a manufacturing background, advocated the use of an electric motor to calibrate the dyno.
Syfan said he would also look into the possibility of revising the team owner program.
Syfan said the series would likely include 10 or 11 events next year. Several team owners, including Dan Zlock and Eric Wood, said that having to do 10 or 11 races would be a significant financial hardship for smaller teams, with Wood suggesting that the current 6 races was too few for the series to seem serious, and that
about 8 races would be just right.
Syfan also said that the GPRA 125cc and 250cc classes currently held on Formula USA weekends would likely be dropped next year due to low participation. "Those classes aren't paying their way," said Syfan. The freed-up time in the schedule would allow spectators to explore the ever-growing F-USA-organized Expos held with each race, and to attend rider autograph sessions and other special events.
The need for teams to keep their pit areas "friendly" and to interact with fans, including displaying team and rider information on pit signs and handing out posters, was also discussed from the viewpoint of team owners as well as F-USA officials.
The availability of highlight videos for teams to use in seeking sponsorship and drumming up local media interest was also discussed, and Abbott said that Murphy had such tapes ready for the asking.
About 50 people attended the meeting, including Blackmans' Bickford, Mike Himmelsbach and Bill Himmelsbach; Arclight Suzuki's Chuck Warren, Lee Acree and Brian Parriott; KWS/Millenium Technologies' Kevin Hunt and Shawn Higbee; Shogun Motorsports' Chuck Giacchetto; Aprilia's Robert Pandya; Zlock Racing's Dan and Dale Zlock; Hooters Suzuki's Mike Fargnoli; Valvoline EMGO Suzuki's John Ulrich; and many others.