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Track oiling proved to be a problem at Portland International Raceway during Friday practice for this weekend's combined WERA National Challenge Series/AMA Pro Thunder National weekend.
After Roadracingworld.com webmaster Sam Fleming crashed the Army of Darkness Suzuki GSX-R600 on oil in practice, he was told by a cornerworker that his was the fourth bike they saw slipping on oil in that corner and that they were about to deploy a red flag when he crashed. Immediately after his crash, workers spread oil dry on the track. Prior to Fleming's crash, no oil flags were displayed ahead of or in the corner.
The source of the problem, Fleming reported, is that the event is combined with an OMRRA event, and OMRRA rules do not require all bikes to use oil-catching fairing lowers or belly pans, an innovation introduced by AMA Pro Racing and now used by leading racing organizations nationwide.
The AMA Pro Racing oil-catching fairing has proven to be spectacularly successful in keeping oil from blown engines off the racetrack, dramatically reducing oil-induced crashes and also cutting time lost to track cleanup.
Some OMRRA riders have resisted rules making the oil-catching lowers mandatory, citing the additional cost. Aftermarket fairing manufacturers include oil-catching lowers in their designs, and several firms also make oil-catching lowers for bikes not originally equipped with fairing lowers. The cost of an oil-catching fairing lower or belly pan is small compared to crash-damage repairs or medical expenses related to a crash on oil.
The WERA/AMA event has drawn a sparse turnout, with 15 teams entered in today's WERA National Endurance Series 6-hour. Both the WERA National Endurance Series and the AMA Pro Thunder Series are "best of" series, allowing teams and riders to drop their worst finishes.
That fact, for example, motivated Buell Pro Thunder points leader Mike Ciccotto to skip the Portland event in favor of racing with Formula USA at Virginia International Raceway this weekend.
The WERA/AMA event at Portland is also is being run without the benefit of AMA Air Fence, despite WERA being an AMA affiliate and the event itself being the first combined WERA/AMA Pro Thunder race.
There are, however, several sections of Air Fence, owned by the racetrack, deployed for the event.
Citing truck problems, AMA Pro Racing officials asked teams and riders to carry Air Fence sections from Loudon, New Hampshire to next weekend's Laguna Seca Raceway. Grant Lopez, for example, is hauling two sections of Air Fence to Laguna Seca in his trailer. Chris Ulrich's trailer, now en-route from VIR to Laguna Seca, is also carrying two sections of Air Fence.
Ron Barrick is representing AMA at the Portland event.
This Just In from roadracingworld.com reader and OMRRA racer Jason Hatfield:
"About the Portland oiling issue: I am an OMRRA member and for some reason the rules have made it mandatory for all major classes like 600 Supersport, 750 Supersport, Open and all the Superbike class equivalents to carry oil-catch lowers which must be presented at tech. I think the rule says something like all 600 supersport and above 4-stroke machines originally equipped with fairing lowers or which have had fairing lowers added will incorporate an oil catch-pan capable of holding 4 quarts of oil. But for some reason they allow the Vintage, sportsman and a couple other classes to run amok without oil-catching lowers even though it is these machines that are responsible for oiling the track about 75 percent of the time."