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Sep 25, 2001

Pace Car Will Be Used For AMA Superbike Race At VIR, In Apparent Policy Reversal

Calling into question the claim made earlier this year by an AMA Director that AMA Pro Racing only uses a pace car at Daytona because the Speedway has existing sponsorship agreements that promise use of a specific pace car at all events, the AMA Superbike race at Viriginia International Raceway this coming weekend will include the use of a pace car.<BR><BR>The use of confusing orange pace car flags--mistaken by some riders as yellow flags--and deployment of the relatively-slow-moving pace car directly onto the banking and in front of the field at Daytona resulted in a horrendous high-speed pile-up during this year's Daytona 200. Shortly afterwards, AMA Pro Racing CEO Scott Hollingsworth placed the blame for the pileup squarely on the shoulders of the involved riders and decried widespread criticism of existing pace car procedures--and even the use of a pace car itself--in the press.<BR><BR>And asked why the AMA even uses a pace car at Daytona, an AMA Pro Racing Director said that the organization did not want to use a pace car and would not use one if not forced to do so by Daytona International Speedway's pre-existing sponsorship commitments.<BR><BR>Apparently everything has changed, as the AMA will now deploy a pace car at another racetrack, with a significantly modified deployment procedure.<BR><BR>An AMA press release on the pace car situation at VIR follows:<BR><BR>PACE CAR SYSTEM READIED FOR USE AT VIRGINIA INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY<BR><BR>PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- This weekend's final round of the AMA Chevy Trucks Superbike U.S. Superbike Championship at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va., will include the use of a pace car in lieu of a race-stopping red flag, as circumstances warrant.<BR><BR>According to AMA Pro Racing's Road Race Operations Manager Gary Mathers, "The procedures for using a pace car during AMA road races has been revamped with the assistance of the Road Race Advisory Board, and we believe this new system will enhance the safety of the racers on the track while also creating better racing. The main purpose of the pace car system is to keep the racers on the track and moving while dangerous situations (such as debris on the track or downed riders) are cleared. The use of a pace car also eliminates the need for a restart and the attendant complications that can arise." <BR><BR>Under the reworked system, during a hazardous situation the flag marshals will display a newly generated pace car flag with larger dimensions and distinctive graphics that make it easily identified by riders at racing speeds. In addition, two strobe lights placed at the straight-away preceding the start/finish line will be flashing a warning, and a large "Pace Car" sign will be displayed at the start/finish line prior to the car's entry onto the track. When the field has slowed and conditions are safe, the pace car will then deploy from the pit lane and merge onto the track.<BR><BR>"We are very conscious about rider safety," Mathers added, "and we believe this system will work to the riders' benefit. Pace cars are being used with fine results in other venues of motorsports that attain even higher speeds than we see out on the track during our events. We are confident we can configure a safe pace car system that will serve our racing needs." <BR><BR>Additional details concerning the pace car system will be outlined for competitors preceding the event at Virginia International Raceway.