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Nov 8, 2002

Privateer Opinion: Quick-shifters Shouldn't Be Allowed In AMA Supersport/Superstock

Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>FIRST PERSON/OPINION:<BR><BR>AMA: "Electric Shifters are reasonably priced with less chance of high-rpm missed shifts." Huh?? <BR><BR>By Michael Hannas <BR><BR>AMA Pro Racing has proposed the legalization of electric shifters for the Supersport and Superstock classes for 2003. Says the proposal: <BR><BR>Supersport/Superstock- The use of electric shifters will be permitted in these classes. Such shifters are readily available at reasonable prices and may help provide quick, positive gear selection with less chance of high-rpm missed shifts. <BR><BR>Now I am not sure how the phrase "reasonable prices" is defined but I am assuming that around $500 for a bargain system and over $700 for a factory-type system are "reasonable prices" according to AMA Pro Racing since that is what it costs for the type of electric speed shifter they are proposing to make legal. The KLS MQS-LSL, the system that is currently used by factory-backed Superbike and Formula Xtreme teams, retails for $760. Less expensive systems are available from Techtronics for $475 and Tracklogic for $480. <BR><BR>The other questionable theory proposed is that these systems "may help provide quick, positive gear selection with less chance of high-rpm missed shifts." Well, positive rider input "may" help provide quick shifting as well, and in my experience in using KLS systems, which are probably some of the best available, rider error still results in just as much unwanted high-rpm engine revving. My question is, do the shifters present more problems than they solve? <BR><BR>At least some AMA crew chiefs and tuners think so. Brian Turfrey, whose experience with quick-shifters dates back to winning the 250cc World Championship in 1990 with John Kocinski and numerous AMA 250cc Grand Prix victories throughout the past decade--along with running the Marlboro Yamaha YZR500 F-USA program in the early 1990s--doesn't think they are worth the trouble. "I think they're pieces of shit! From a lot of testing and stuff I've seen in GPs, a lot of the advantage is in the rider's head. Really, I think they're OK, if you get a good one, like a KLS or whatever the factories are using. If it was my choice, I wouldn't use them. It's getting into a high dollar electronic thing that non-factories can't really afford. It kinda goes against the theory of trying to make a class that the privateers can compete in. I stopped using them on my team here in the U.S. because I know a lot of guys who have had headaches with them, and I just don't see the advantages to be worth the headache. I just don't really like to mess with more electrical stuff if I don't have to." <BR><BR>As for myself, I don't see the reasoning in the AMA proposal. It isn't affordable, and it isn't going to significantly reduce the number of blown engines or damaged transmissions. If electric shifters were more reliable, wouldn't bikes come standard with them? It just creates another item for the factory teams to spend time testing while privateers struggle to set-up if they can afford to buy and maintain it, not to mention fix it or replace if it suffers crash damage. Maybe the AMA tech guys are attempting to make something legal that they know factories are already using but can't enforce. To me, that seems like a more likely reason than providing better shifting. If that is the reason, say so, but don't say what they "may" help do while disregarding what they will most likely do. They will most likely make racing more expensive while creating a bigger gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Did I miss the memo that says KLS just took over sponsorship of the Superstock series or something? There are a million other things that the AMA could do with the rules to make things fairer and racing closer, and they spend time with this? Doesn't make any sense. Just my opinion as a concerned AMA Pro competitor and someone who knows what it is like to be a true privateer trying to compete with the factory teams.<BR><BR><BR>(Editorial Note: Michael Hannas finished 3rd in 2001 AMA 250cc Grand Prix points, with a best race finish of 3rd. Hannas finished 18th in 2002 AMA 600cc Supersport points, with a best race finish of 8th.)<BR><BR><BR><BR>