Sep 15, 2002
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<BR>Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>Although they admit they had no idea how it would turn out, organizers of Sunday's First Annual WSMC Toyota 200 Unlimited Motorcycle World Championship at Willow Springs International Raceway called the race a rousing success. And based on the fact that it drew as many fans as past AMA Superbike races, organizers are making plans for a bigger, better 2003 version of the event.<BR><BR>The origin of the first ever WSMC Toyota 200 came about in late 2001 when AMA Pro Racing opted to take away Willow Springs' 2002 AMA Superbike event and give it to California Speedway in Fontana, California, about 90 minutes South of Willow Springs. <BR><BR>"That was what really brought it on," said Willow Springs owner Bill Huth. "We had that problem having to cancel the race when they flew the airplanes into the towers last year. They (AMA) didn't really want to cancel it. What they wanted was to keep the money. In fact, they told me they didn't have to give back the money. They finally said, ‘Well, we'll give you back the money.' They screwed around and screwed around, and they finally sent the money. It was before we got the money back that they said, ‘You're not going to have a race next year. We're going to give it to Fontana.' <BR><BR>"You never had any kind of idea what it was gonna cost, anyway. If it looked like you made money, the price (the AMA sanctioning fee) went up. They said the following year it was going to be $175,000. That's where I came up with the idea (for the Toyota 200). <BR><BR>"Originally when I thought of this race, I was going to put up $250,000. Then I thought, ‘That's too much. I'll put up $150,000 and raise it as it goes along.' So that's how it got started because I just got tired of it, dealing with the AMA. I think they had some hard feelings already because I started the Formula USA. <BR><BR>"I didn't want to make a big thing out of (the WSMC Toyota 200) because the purse was enough. If I make a big thing out of it and it's not really too good then people don't like it because it's supposed to be so big and it isn't. It ended up doing better than I thought it would. This is good. Now it's on its way. And it will be every year. <BR><BR>"Next year, we'll move this race to October when it will be a little cooler. I couldn't this year because I didn't have any dates. We're going to have a 10-race series for WSMC (in 2003) and it's going to end in October. So we'll have the (WSMC) Championships and this World Championship Toyota 200 the third Sunday in October. We can publicize it more because of being the Championship for both the club and this thing. It's going to be good." Huth ended by saying he has sponsors approaching him for next year's race already.<BR><BR> "It's hard for me to judge number-wise," said Bill Huth's son Chris, the Willow Springs Operations Manager, when asked about the spectator attendance of the WSMC Toyota 200 event. "It was a good turnout, I know that. As far as numbers, I don't want to even guess. I would say it was probably comparable to one of our earlier AMA events, maybe a big Formula USA, several thousand people. I'm happy. We're very pleased. Everything went very smoothly. <BR><BR>"Now that we've gotten our feet wet in this deal, we'll definitely be looking at our promotions that we did. One of the things we're gonna do (for next year's event) is probably have a cutoff-for-entry date so we'll have a list of people who are going to enter just to make the promotion a little easier. It was kind of tough this time not knowing anything until the day before the race in order to promote it. You hate to say somebody's going to be here and they aren't. It's kind of false advertising. We prefer to say ‘top riders,' and fortunately people believed it, came on out and we had great racing.<BR><BR>"I think we're probably going to see a stronger field next year. I have a feeling that the 70-plus guys that tried to qualify for the 40 positions will be more like 100 or better next year." Part of the anticipated increase in participation in 2003 is due to an increase in the already large cash purse.<BR><BR>"Oh, yeah! My father Bill has told me that he'd like to push the purse up. I'm looking at $200,000 or $250,000. Actually, what we want to do is increase the purse down the line a little bit more. I think the winner's share was plenty. What we'd like to do is give a little bit more to those guys that make the race and fill in the field. I have a feeling next year, the guys filling in the field, it's going to be a little tougher to fill (qualify for) the field."<BR><BR>"It's a pretty unique event, that's for sure," said four-time 500cc World Champion Eddie Lawson, who attended on Sunday. "I don't know anybody else that's done anything like this. It's pretty cool with the rules just being open, anything goes. It's a great chance for a privateer to make some good money. I think it's great what Bill's (Huth) done. I hope there's more of that in the future."<BR><BR>When asked how the WSMC Toyota 200 purse compared to racing purses he saw in his career, Lawson added, "I wish I could've got something like that when I was racing. This has to be the biggest one I know of anyway."<BR><BR>"I think it's awesome," agreed three-time 500cc World Champion Wayne Rainey at Willow Springs. "$50,000, that's a lot of money. If they have it again next year, I'm gonna put Eddie on my 500."<BR><BR><BR>