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Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.
Rich Oliver said Sunday that he practiced at Fontana last Friday against doctor's orders because he had to learn the track prior to next weekend's AMA National, which does not include Thursday practice.
"The reason I was there was actually against doctor's orders because I am supposed to continue to allow my injuries from Daytona to heal, but since there is no Thursday practice (before next weekend's AMA National) I had to arrange with my teammate Perry Melneciuc to drive (the team truck and equipment) from Florida a week early to make this Fastrack Riders day on Friday.
"My entire focus of that day was not to go out and set a track record, but just to learn which way the corners went because I knew I wouldn't have the Thursday to familiarize myself with the track. As much as Team Oliver Yamaha is supported by all our great sponsors, we don't have enough money to do a private test.
"This Friday's Fastrack Riders day was the least expensive thing we could come up with and it's just unfortunate that we had to do this instead of relying on Thursday.
"My feeling with Thursday practice has always been that it is a safety issue, most important it affects track safety. Under practice conditions, not under qualifying conditions, the track can be adjusted, altered, improved, especially a man-made track like Fontana because they have artificial chicanes. If they need to make a change, the day can be written off, instead of changing the track once qualifying starts.
"It's a way to fine-tune everybody's systems. The AMA has on occasion had problems getting lap times out on the first day of practice, sometimes the timing and scoring system has a few bugs to work out and I think Thursday is a good day to get all the bugs out before the real pressure-cooker of qualifying starts.
"How may times has Yamaha been to Fontana already? Anthony Gobert has been to Fontana, at least twice, (for five days total). I've been there none. I got 30 minutes on Friday. Just think of the people who didn't go on Friday. Thursday practice can be an advantage to everybody. If the factory teams don't want the additional expense of Thursday for the crews and the higher usage of the engines, that's a very specific financial requirement that affects a few guys, it's very understandable to me that they would be opposed to Thursday practice.
"But if you add up all the tests that they do, you wonder what the costs are of all the testing they do as opposed to a single day on Thursday before a National. And they don't have to come on Thursday if they don't want to.
"Teams like mine can't afford to test, and we find a test day at the racetrack when we're already there, far more productive and useful.
"As a small independent team, I really appreciate the opportunity to come to a track on Thursday and test. I am what makes the AMA the AMA--a team like mine. Without teams like mine, all you're gonna have is factories. It seems like you'd want to help the middle guy like me and keeping Thursday practice around is a really easy way to do it.
"Thursday practice is also good for Jason DiSalvo, for Chuck Sorensen, for Mike Himmelsbach, it makes racing safer and better for everyone. If all I cared about was getting a personal advantage, I'd try to raise the money and do independent tests and get an advantage on those guys. But having Thursday practice is the right thing to do, for everybody. I think Thursday practice is the best answer for everybody."