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Apr 18, 2002

Updated Post: Readers Comment On Sears Point And AMA Pro Racing

This just in:<BR><BR>Just a note in comment to the issues raised by Hannas and Sadowski in relation to Sears Point and all the "improvements" that have been occurring there. I am just a local motorcycle shop guy, but have been building bikes and supporting local racers for several years now. I walked into Sears this weekend, and was stunned by what I saw. Firstly, a grandstand on the front straight that looks like Cape Canaveral misplaced on of their gantries. This thing must be at least 8 stories tall! Then I take a walk around the new track to check out all of the "improvements". More grandstands for fans everywhere. I was suprised to see that even the hillside stands have seat numbers on them. Are they selling Nascar tickets for these seats? "Hey, you're on my paving stone, man."<BR><BR>For the track, in one or two areas, runoff has slightly improved, but in many others, been significantly reduced. It seems like Sears has spent all of their money to support their fans, and very little to protect their racers. I have a friend who took the new riders school on Saturday, and was extremely excited before the weekend to ride there. He called me Saturday afternoon and told me there was no way he was going to race on a track that dangerous. I have another friend at the other end of the spectrum, who is one of the top 15 AFM riders. He was hit by another rider in Turn 11, and was ejected off his bike, 8 feet in the air and OVER the first line of haybales, with both bikes slamming in behind him. It is with only the most unbelievable luck that he escaped with only minor injuries and walked away from that crash. Sears needs to address these problems, and it is with regret that I say that in some areas not even Air Fence will make it safe. More of us who are involved in the sport need to speak up.<BR><BR>Chris Van Andel<BR>Moto Italiano<BR>San Mateo, California<BR><BR><BR>And now this:<BR><BR>I think the AMA Road Racing Division needs to take a good look at itself. I believe they have their head up their butt so far it's unbearable. I think if they are supposed to watch out for the safety and well-being of the riders they should do more on setting up a track far better and pay attention to what the racers have to say and not tell them we will look into it.<BR><BR>I think myself that not giving the true privateer a chance is not right and when the organizers change the rules and not tell anyone first "about the 250GP race on qualifying" they should have let the grid be filled rather than try and reduce the class as it so seems.<BR><BR>A far as things go right now I am thinking of not renewing my AMA membership until the board is filled with people that care about the riders and racers as people and not as a money maker. <BR><BR>Lee Simmons<BR>Long-time AFM member<BR>Vallejo, California<BR><BR><BR>Now More:<BR><BR>(Regarding the comment by) Chris Van Andel, "I have another friend at the other end of the spectrum, who is one of the top 15 AFM riders. He was hit by another rider in Turn 11, and was ejected off his bike, 8 feet in the air and OVER the first line of haybales, with both bikes slamming in behind him."<BR><BR>I was a cornerworker in turn 11. Please be aware that the AFM does not use the same turn 11 as the AMA. I did not see a single person who made it that high. In fact, none of them went any higher than where they were when they were on the bike. The only incident that involved two riders was not nearly that spectacular. Guy on inside, guy on outside, guy on inside did not quite make the turn, guy on outside had nowhere to go, they came together, went into haybales which then sent them into the Air Bale. Both riders popped right up and walked away.<BR><BR>I feel that some good improvements have been made to Sears. I also feel that they could have done a lot more. The "improvements" that were made were to keep NASCAR happy. Bikes are a low priority for Sears and most other tracks in the USA. The exaggeration from above was just too much to keep me quiet.<BR><BR>Julia M. Green<BR>Team Skidmark Racing<BR>AFM #659 & 77w<BR><BR><BR>Yet more:<BR><BR>I know this horse has been flogged quite a bit in the last few days, but I thought you might appreciate a new racer's perspective.<BR><BR>On Saturday I completed the AFM New Racer School and entered my first race on Sunday. At the very conservative lap times I'm putting in the track feels moderately safe. However, I cannot imagine just how razor thin the margin for error might be for the top finishers in AFM or any other racing organization, regardless what they ride or drive. This past weekend saw more crashes than I care to remember, mine being one of them.<BR><BR>Entering turns 7 and 11 at speed are only a brake failure away from becoming a really bad day. I can only look at the race leaders in complete awe as they suppress any fear they might have when diving into these corners. For those unfamiliar with Sears Point turn 11 is a sharp right hander with only haybales and tires just a few feet away preventing the rider from launching off the track all together.<BR><BR>My only question is why track organizers chose not to extend this and other sections of track to provide adequate run-off. I can understand the need to provide better access to fans so they can watch the action from various points on the track, but if racers don't feel comfortable with the track layout they will either, 1. choose not to race, or 2. not push themselves nearly as hard. Either way, the fans will end up paying for an inferior product unless safety concerns are addressed so racers can compete at a high level.<BR><BR>It's obvious that the majority of construction in progress is geared towards the benefit of the spectator. What actions does the racing community need to take in order to insure our safety? Maybe I am naive, but I would think track improvements would be the first thing developers would want to tackle, then follow-up with improvements to grandstands and other seating arrangements.<BR><BR>My two bits,<BR>Ian Gillies<BR>AFM #967<BR><BR><BR>And even more:<BR><BR>It is hard to believe that with the AMA having a full time position with safety as one of its responsibilities, that there is any debate at all when it comes to setting minimum standards for track design and layout. It is obvious that separate standards would be required for existing facilities already homologated, standards for future homologation, and standards for new tracks.<BR><BR>With the sudden increase in new racetrack construction, there should be no fear that by promulgating and enforcing new safety standards, that there would be nowhere to race. And strictly taking riders' opinions from track observation and riding somewhat degrades the safety movement, because it falls back on opinions. It is not difficult to analyze existing course design, looking at historical crash data, utilizing radar guns to determine corner entry speeds (and anticipated future speeds), and calculating weights, impact velocity, etc. As a former (and hopefully again future) motorcycle racer, and safety professional, I understand both sides of the story. Just remember, safety does not mean the absence of risk, just how you control it. <BR><BR>Setting minimum standards is the way to go.<BR><BR>Patrick D Moore, CHST<BR>Director of Safety<BR>JM Olson Corporation<BR>St Clair Shores, Michigan<BR>