Jul 3, 2001
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Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>Posted 12:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, July 3<BR><BR>Former Kawasaki and Honda racing manager Gary Mathers will take over control and direction of AMA Pro Road Racing, perhaps as early as this coming weekend at Laguna Seca, an AMA Trustee said Sunday.<BR><BR>Mathers, who recently retired from American Honda, was hired as a consultant to attend several recent AMA Nationals and report on operations to AMA Pro Racing CEO Scott Hollingsworth.<BR><BR>Mathers compiled such a scathing indictment of bungled operations and inconsistent policies and rules enforcement that he fully expected to be dismissed and ignored after turning in the report, according to associates. The report specifically criticized the reign of AMA Pro Racing Director of Competition Merrill Vanderslice, National Technical Director Rob King, and AMA Superbike Operations Manager Ron Barrick.<BR><BR>But instead of getting him fired, Mathers' report made a deep impact on Hollingsworth and reinforced what several members of the AMA Pro Racing Board of Directors have been saying for years, namely that continual problems created or added to by Pro Racing staff members are holding back commercial development and general advancement of the AMA road racing series.<BR><BR>Those problems have been laid mainly at the feet of Vanderslice, the former GP mechanic who came to the AMA over a decade ago professing that he wanted to do away with "the old AMA" and bring fairness and fresh thinking to the organization's professional racing operations.<BR><BR>Critics say that over the years Vanderslice has morphed completely into a classic example of "the old AMA" he once said he reviled, and his tenure with AMA Pro Racing has been increasingly marked by conflict with the Board of Directors.<BR><BR>Vanderslice in the last 12 months has complained long and hard about what he sees as Directors--who he feels know nothing about racing--interfering with his ability to run Pro Racing as he was hired to do. That charge has irritated several individual Directors who have long been involved in managing or sponsoring riders and teams, as well as the one Director who is a former professional racer.<BR><BR>The Directors have also been angered by what they see as staff members presenting incomplete or selective information when the Board has been asked to make or ratify a decision; as a result, Vanderslice has lost all credibility with some Directors.<BR><BR>It is unknown at post time exactly what responsibilities Mathers will assume, what title he will hold and to whom he will report. Similarly, the fates of Vanderslice, King and Barrick are unknown. They could be fired, reassigned, told to report to Mathers, or left in position with Mathers firmly in control behind the scenes.<BR><BR>But given that some Directors have plainly stated that, to persons outside the AMA bunker, AMA Pro Racing looks the same as it did five or even 10 years ago, it is unlikely that Vanderslice, King and Barrick will retain their jobs.<BR><BR>Directors have complained that the appearance that nothing has changed--and that the interface between AMA Pro Racing and the riders, teams and sponsors that participate in AMA races is as rough and rocky as ever--is diverting attention from successful efforts to increase the size of purses, increase television coverage of races, and increase safety measures.<BR><BR>The debacle at Loudon two weekends ago reinforced the idea, advanced in Mathers' report, that AMA road racing is completely mismanaged and that any time a choice between the right reaction and the wrong reaction to a problem presents itself, the current management has managed to consistently make the wrong decision.<BR><BR>Vanderslice did his cause no favor with his handling of problems at Loudon, at one point refusing to allow riders five laps of practice prior to the 600cc Supersport race being flagged off on an artificially-dried track, instead declaring (of the riders) "they don't run the AMA, we do!"<BR><BR>See related posts dated 6/18, 6/19, 6/21, 6/24, 6/25, 6/26, 6/27, 6/28, 7/1 and 7/2.