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Mar 21, 2001

Mike Hale To Fill Empty Ducati Seat Or Go Car Racing, Or Both?

When Scott Russell was laying injured on Daytona's pit lane, thoughts could only be for his well-being. Now, a little over a week later, thoughts must now go to who will fill the seat of Russell's HMC Ducati in the very likely event that Russell is unable to ride in the AMA Superbike National at Sears Point.<BR><BR>Also in question at this point is whether Aaron Slight has decided to commit to Competition Accessories Ducati for the entire AMA Superbike series or to concentrate on his own transition to car racing overseas.<BR><BR>The first name that comes to mind as a possible replacement for Russell or Slight is former AMA, World Superbike, and 500cc GP rider Mike Hale. Hale tested the factory Ducatis at the December 2000 Dunlop tire tests, but many observers figured that Hale would continue pursuit of his new car racing career and not race motorcycles.<BR><BR>Roadracing World spoke to Hale March 20, in a telephone interview.<BR><BR><BR>Roadracing World: Are you in line to fill either Scott Russell's or Aaron Slight's Ducati seats?<BR><BR>Mike Hale: "We've been really focusing getting this car racing thing off the ground. We're making really good progress. We've got a lot of good contracts for equipment, everything's in order there, and we're getting closer with our sponsorships every day with the car racing thing. But at the same time, I would definitely do one of those Ducati rides if everything was in place. There's just a few things that you have to make sure are right. But I think both of those teams have their stuff together. They're factory-backed teams. When I went to the tire test in December, I saw everything first-hand. They looked like first-class organizations." <BR><BR>RW: Has anyone from Ducati or the teams been in touch with you yet?<BR><BR>Hale: "I've been in constant contact with them since the tire test. That's about as deep as I really want to go with that right now. It's one of those things that if I committed to doing the rest of the AMA Superbike Championship, I would do it. Then we would structure our car racing program around those Nationals. So I would make it (the Superbike series) my priority. I grew up racing motorcycles. That's what I love doing, but it's that time in my life to make that transition (to car racing). That's the future. <BR><BR>"Look at the success that this new TV deal has done for NASCAR. It's kind of almost taken it to another level. All of the tests and time that I've spent in cars over the last eight months has all been positive. I've done really good. If there's an opportunity where I can get in to go all of the way with the cars, I'd be stupid to turn that down because of the success that they're having. I saw a breakdown of this new TV contract. By the year 2004, the average purse for a Winston Cup NASCAR race will be $11.62 million and there's 43 cars in a race. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at that and figure if you even have a chance at getting involved in that to take it. With the contracts and agreements that we've got in place now, I have a real possibility at that in the future. I've got to go after that."<BR><BR>RW: How are you able to succeed in that when guys like Dale Quarterley, Jamie James and Kevin Schwantz have fallen short of reaching the big NASCAR show?<BR><BR>Hale: "I think Dale is a success. Even though he's still running the Busch North Series, I think of Dale Quarterley as successfully making that transition. For me, we are putting together a program for this ARCA series. That's a pretty big level to start out on. It's pretty expensive. I would say the biggest factor is money and sponsors. That is the probably the biggest determining factor. That and if you're able to hang around long enough to prove yourself in cars. There's not a question in my mind that Kevin Schwantz has the talent to get out there and be a successful car driver. I know he's got the talent, but go ask Kevin how expensive that series is. For him to jump in and start in the Busch series, that was a big statement. He did good, but you've got to have the funding and the sponsors behind you for you to get out there and prove yourself and get the results and get the right people around you." <BR><BR>RW: Do you have a car race scheduled for your debut this season?<BR><BR>Hale: "No, we do not have a definite debut race. We've got the cars. We've got the engine program. Basically we've got the team agreement. I can't really go into it yet because we're not ready to release all of that information. I'll say I've got a Winston Cup team owner behind me. Which is a big, big benefit. We've got a couple of associate sponsors that we've got verbal commitments from. We've got three title sponsors that we're working with now to be on the deal. When we get those things signed up then we'll start scheduling. <BR><BR>"It depends on what markets they want us to be in as to what races we do on the schedule. If they have more stores down in Georgia, we'll do Atlanta. It just depends what the sponsor wants. Our initial proposal now is for 12-15 races of a 25-race series. It's expensive, but it's not near the money to do the whole series or what it takes to do like the NASCAR trucks or NASCAR Busch series. We're looking for a big company to come get involved with us at a lower financial commitment because we're at a little lower level series. <BR><BR>"The ACRA series and Winston Cup cars are the same cars. Our motors have a little less horsepower. A lot of the races are support races for Winston Cup guys. So we would be racing Saturday when the Winston Cup guys are racing Sunday. So we're still racing in front of 150,000 people. We have national TV. We're racing on the same tracks. So you get that experience and you get that experience in the same cars. So it's a really good training series and stepping stone. I guess it would be considered like 750 Supersport and the NASCAR Busch series would be more like 600 Supersport because it gets more recognition. The Winston Cup would be more like the Superbikes. That's about how it breaks down. <BR><BR>"When I went to Daytona, we were looking at doing our own motorcycle team. The reason for that was we had a really big corporate sponsor that was interested in doing both the motorcycles and the cars which is kind of what I would like to do. I would like to do them both and be a crossover with the same company. Nobody's really doing that. I think it would be really cool. I would like to go out there and podium at Laguna Seca on one Sunday and then the next weekend put it in winner's circle in the ARCA series. That's something that would be really neat to me, and it's something that we're still working towards. I think that if we can get some results in NASCAR and stay involved in motorcycles in some way, I think it would be great. If I could bring a corporate sponsor into AMA Superbike, it would just help the whole series in general."<BR><BR>Ducati North America Race Manager David Roy said that he would know more about possible replacement riders in the last week of March.<BR><BR>