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Dec 13, 2011

Motorcycle Event Organizers Deny They Approved Controversial New FIA Curbs At VIR

During a December 8 phone interview with Roadracingworld.com, VIRginia International Raceway Operations Manager Kerrigan Smith said he had sought feedback from officials of motorcycle event organizations, prior to installing controversial new FIA-spec curbing at the Alton, Virginia racetrack. Smith claimed that the organization leaders signed off on his plan. But the officials Smith said he spoke to have told Roadracingworld.com that they didn't approve the curbs and one said he was never even contacted by Smith or anyone else at VIR.

"I seeked [sic] out feedback from, ah, the gentleman from Keith Code [California Superbike School]. I guess, sorry, yeah, Keith Code. I spoke with him," Smith told Roadracingworld.com December 8. "I believe we told Glen [Goldman] from Team Pro-Mo[tion], Kevin [Elliott] from CCS, Evelyne [Clarke] from WERA and told them this was what we were going after and working on. Everybody understood what we were doing and the direction what we were doing, but much to Keith Code's point he was like, 'When we're running in Europe that's where we run and that's what it [curbing] is.'"

But in a December 12th e-mail he sent to Roadracing World after seeing posted photos of the new curbs at VIR, Code wrote, "When Smith asked me about it I named NJMP [New Jersey Motorsports Park], Miller and Laguna Seca as (having) acceptable curbing for motorcycles. He never discussed this type of curbing with me, [and] I pointed out that their existing curbs were not rider-friendly. The way Swarts' article from 9 December looks is though I was consulted but doesn't say what I recommended, and it certainly wouldn't have been what I see in these shots."

California Superbike School has eight days of schools scheduled at VIR in 2012.

The photos Code referenced (seen above, right) also show different curbing than what Smith described to CCS boss Kevin Elliott, who has two weekend race events scheduled at VIR in 2012. "We spoke, but he [Smith] described FIA-style curbing that would be compatible with motorcycles," Elliot told Roadracingworld.com on December 8. "We did talk about it, and I expressed the concerns that sometimes FIA-style curbing is sometimes not conducive to motorcycles so you have to find that happy medium between the two that meets both standards. What he described sounded fine to me. When he described it there was no mention of the back wall."

The "back wall" outer edge is part of FIA's curbing specification, but noted racetrack designer Alan Wilson said the back wall is a potential hazard to motorcyclists who crash. Wilson said he eliminates the back wall on the curbs at tracks he designs -- including Barber Motorsports Park, Miller Motorsports Park and NOLA Motorsports Park and still gets FIA Grade Two approval. Wilson said he was not contacted by VIR for advice or guidance on their new curbing project, but he would be happy to help, if asked.

And in spite of Smith's claims, Team Pro-Motion owner Goldman said he was not contacted by VIR about the curbing project at all. "Nothing was brought to my knowledge at any point. Nothing at all was explained to me or anything of that nature," said Goldman, who has scheduled eight events at VIR in 2012. "I knew nothing of the curbing. I knew nothing of the project. If they're changing the track, to a renter, and I give them a lot of money, I'm a good customer, I would think it would be detailed even in a letter to me with pictures or photographs. If I'm renting the place and they're changing it I should have the right to inspect where I'm renting.

"Say they dig out Turn One and change the track layout, I think I should know as a renter what they are doing," Goldman continued. "The same thing with the curbing. Because it's not normal curbing. If it was normal curbing I should still be updated, officially updated like send me out something, 'Here's what happening.' That's how I would do business, but those people aren't me."

WERA Motorcycle Roadracing, Inc. President Evelyne Clarke said she was contacted by VIR. "I vaguely remember getting a letter talking about cars and them going off course and damaging the property, but I did not pay too much attention since it was directed mostly toward cars," Clarke said in a December 12th e-mail to Roadracingworld.com .

WERA has only scheduled one race event at VIR in 2012.