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Jun 1, 2014

Callous Disregard: Road America Downpour Proves Common Sense And Concern For Rider Safety Is Not A Priority For AMA Pro Officials

Multi-time Superbike Champion Josh Hayes (4) on slick tires during the Superbike race at Road America. When it started pouring, AMA Pro officials did nothing. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

FIRST PERSON/OPINION:

By John Ulrich

When it suits them, AMA Pro officials are fond of saying they can do anything they want, regardless of what the rulebook actually says. Yet any time they get a chance to use that self-assigned power for the greater good of rider safety, they consistently don't. Two of the latest examples: 1. Waiting to throw a red flag until after half a dozen riders crashed due to rain starting to fall in today's Supersport race at Road America, and 2. Keeping riders out on slick tires in a downpour that came after today's Superbike race was restarted in the dry.

When asked why the red flag hadn't been thrown as bike after bike flew off track in Supersport, an official walking in pit lane actually said, "They've got grooves in their tires, they should be able to figure it out." (My vote would be to throw her out on a Supersport bike and the minimally grooved DOT-labeled spec tires and have her demonstrate how it should be done!)

David Swarts asked the top three Superbike race survivors at Road America for their view of the situation.

Yoshimura Suzuki's Roger Hayden said, "I don't know who was making the calls there at the end, but they definitely didn't have rider safety first."

SIC/Motul/Fly Racing team owner/rider David Anthony said, "Bad decision by AMA (Pro). They really need to step up their game."

And Monster Yamaha's Josh Hayes said, "When we got to Turn One and it was a full downpour--call it a wet race or not--we were running dry (lap) times and it was pretty obvious we were all on slicks and I don't think it was the right call (to continue the race)."

FIM officials have already learned the lesson that sometimes conditions are simply too bad to continue, regardless of any rules giving them the "right" to keep riders on track because they've declared a race to be "wet." But it took a dead rider to drive the point home.

At Road America on Sunday, the Supersport race started and the Superbike race restarted in conditions that required the use of mostly-slick or slick tires designed for dry pavement. In both those races, changing conditions made those tires unsuitable. In Supersport, it was localized rain that sent bikes flying and riders who had already crashed running out of the impact zone. In Superbike, it was a major downpour.


It is already very clear to me that using common sense--or caring a bit about the welfare of riders or teams or anybody else in the paddock--is not important to the people now running AMA Pro Racing.

Here's hoping it doesn't take a dead rider or two for those AMA Pro officials and their DMG masters to finally understand and accept their responsibility to do the right thing when a race is started in conditions that require the use of slick or mostly-slick tires, and conditions change into rain. Especially when that rain arrives in the form of a downpour, and regardless of what the rulebook they so often choose to ignore, actually says.