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Jun 12, 2008

Updated With A Statement From Roger Edmondson: AMA Pros Will Now Race In The Rain At Mid-Ohio, Road Atlanta, Infineon Raceway And VIR

AMA Pro road racing will now race rain-or-shine at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road Atlanta, Infineon Raceway and Virginia International Raceway. That's the word from Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG) principal Roger Edmondson.

Roadracingworld.com contacted Edmondson Thursday to get more information on a press release recently issued by AMA Pro Racing that claimed that changes to the Mid-Ohio facility have made it possible to race there in the rain. But that release gave a slightly inaccurate impression.

"I proofread it, and I knew what we were trying to say and did not catch the word 'now' that was in there. That quite clearly changed the meaning," said Edmondson. "It was not intended to imply that the changes had just been completed at Mid-Ohio that now made this possible.

"The changes at Mid-Ohio have taken place over the last three years, and a tremendous amount of money has been spent there, and there is nothing more that remains to be done of all the things the AMA asked her [Track Owner Michelle Trueman-Gajoch] to do. Everything she was asked to do by the AMA she has done, and she did so with a commitment that the track would be approved for [racing in the rain] just like all the other tracks."

Edmondson said he was in the process of working on a revised statement to clarify the situation with Mid-Ohio. That statement, said Edmondson, will also include the announcement that, "We're also going to approve, put Road Atlanta, Infineon and VIR back on the schedule as all-weather events, too. An earlier management team made one decision, and this management team is making another one."

When the release on Mid-Ohio was issued during the AMA Superbike event last weekend at Road America, members of the official AMA Rider Safety Council for Road Racing (which included Ben Bostrom, Jamie Hacking, Tommy Hayden, Mat Mladin, Cory West and Jake Zemke) were asked if they had been involved in any recent discussions regarding changes to or inspections of Mid-Ohio that would lead to it being approved for riding in the wet.

Mladin, Bostrom, Hacking and Zemke all told Roadracingworld.com that they had not been involved in any such activity and had no knowledge of changes at Mid-Ohio.

This led to Roadracingworld.com asking Edmondson, does the Rider Safety Council still exist?

"I have no idea," said Edmondson. "I know that there is one, but I don't know who they are. But this is not an issue that riders should be taking up, in my mind. It's not appropriate that one rider determines whether or not another rider can ride. It's only appropriate that one rider determines whether or not he rides."

So will the Rider Safety Council be irrelevant in the future?

"It's irrelevant right this minute, as far as I'm concerned," stated Edmondson. "We have not met anybody, and nobody's ever presented themselves as being a member of it. And frankly, I haven't asked about it in this particular case. Because, once again, while you may determine that the track is not something you want to ride, I might determine just the opposite. This is my chance for a big payday. And so I don't think it's appropriate in issues of this type where a track is approved for competition period that we get riders telling us whether or not it's appropriate to ride there in the wet.

"Now, if there's changes that need to be made to racetracks and we need to get input from a variety of people, then certainly the riders can be helpful. I'd like to think that we're going to have a very close relationship with a rider committee once we get firmly in charge, but I can't tell you it'll be the same guys that are on there now.

"There seems to be a tendency to pick fast people with the implication that being fast means a greater level of intellect. And I don't happen to subscribe to that. It might be true, but it's not guaranteed. I think we need to have people with a long view who are capable of understanding the issues, both those that the rider deals with [and] that the promoter deals with and balance those things when they make the recommendations. Today's committee might be exactly those guys, but the bottom line was that it's not a question of racing in the rain or not. If a track's approved for racing it's approved for racing."

Asked for his thoughts concering top factory riders who have already said that they will not race in the rain at Mid-Ohio and how that might affect the August 1-3 AMA Superbike event there, Edmondson said, "I think it's typical. It's part of the current environment where the riders seem to feel that they're in charge and where's there been a complete lack of professionalism. I think that it's silly to be sending a message to spectators who might want to buy a ticket to Mid-Ohio that if the skies are cloudy you might want to stay home.

"On the other hand, they're certainly entitled not to ride and that's a position that's been respected by every AMA regime that's ever been around, including mine before and mine that's coming. I respect that. But I have no respect and will not abide by this concept that you go out and get other people and try to convince them or prevent them not to ride."

Last year, Edmondson's MOTO-ST endurance series raced at Iowa Speedway, a facility that had never hosted a sanctioned motorcycle road race and had not been inspected by any of the series' riders prior to the start of the event. Once the event started Brian Parriott, who rode for Championship contender San Jose BMW at the time, was part of a group of riders who tried to organize a boycott of the race. Parriott was fined significantly by MOTO-ST for his actions, including an interview he gave to Roadracingworld.com.

"I hope it doesn't happen, but somebody's gonna get hurt," predicted Parriott, who was concerned primarily with the unpadded retaining wall outside of Iowa Speedway's Turns One and Two.

The worst fears of Parriott and several other racers came to be when Shawn Higbee was knocked down by another rider, crashed in that area and slid into an unpadded wall. He suffered a compound fracture of his femur, a broken pelvis and a broken shoulder. Brian Kcraget then crashed trying to avoid Higbee's motorcycle, which was engulfed in flames in the middle of the racetrack, and suffered a severe head injury. Both Higbee and Kcraget recovered from their injuries and returned to racing later in 2007, but Iowa Speedway did not return to the MOTO-ST schedule for 2008.




More, via e-mail from DMG boss Roger Edmondson:

It has always been my belief that it is important that we say what we mean and mean what we say. This also requires that we exercise care in what we say and how we say it. Unfortunately, things don't always come out as intended. The recent notice we released by way of AMA channels is a case in point.

Last week, during a hectic Road America weekend, I asked my staff to prepare a notice that could be distributed to the teams and other interested parties that would let them know of our intention to remove the stigma that had been applied to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road Atlanta, Virginia International Raceway, and Infineon Raceway. These facilities have been listed on the Supplemental Regulations as locations where AMA Pro Racing would not conduct competition under wet conditions. The timing of the notice was intended to ensure that teams participating in the test sessions at Mid-Ohio this week were aware of our intent. I wanted them to have the opportunity to test under wet conditions should they occur, knowing that it could be of benefit to them should it rain on the weekend of the National Championship event.

Unfortunately, the wording of the release implies that the efforts taken to satisfy the requests of AMA Pro Racing were recently completed, rather than accurately recognizing the completion of all AMA requested improvements over the last three years. The context where it is stated that the track is "now" approved creates this unfortunate false impression.

The facts are quite simple. Every request of AMA Pro Racing has been completed by Mid-Ohio. There are no unfinished improvements to be completed. Indeed, there is nothing more that can be done. When the requests were made of Mid-Ohio, it was stipulated by AMA Pro Racing management that if they did the work, racing could take place in both wet and dry conditions. Unfortunately, this commitment was not kept by the recent management team. I intend to do so.

I also intend to restore Road Atlanta, Virginia International Raceway and Infineon Raceway to their rightful positions as facilities approved for racing in both wet and dry conditions.

Road Atlanta has completed a comprehensive remodeling of specific areas of concern, as well as a complete repaving of the track surface. Infineon Raceway has been a leader in our sport in their efforts to deal with motorcycle racing related issues and other racing organizations have used the track in wet conditions without significant problems. Virginia International Raceway has no outstanding characteristics that justify the prior dry-only designation.

I recognize that this is an emotional issue with many and will polarize some elements of our participants, but we must work together to meet the needs of every constituent.

Our spectators need to feel confident that when they leave their homes and take the expense and time to attend our events that they will see racing. While watching riders and officials behaving poorly may be entertaining to some, it is not an activity that will attract sponsors or keep our fans coming back.

Our television partner must have the assurance that we are going to provide them with content for the time slot reserved for our races. The costs to produce a non-race and a race that runs on time are nearly identical. The demand for our racing by networks is not so great that we can treat them in a cavalier fashion.

Our promoters must be able to sell advance tickets and sponsorships with confidence that we will meet our contractual obligations to organize an event. If we cannot accomplish this we will start to see dramatic shrinkage in our annual schedule, including some facilities that have supported our sport through thick and thin. The threat of not racing has created a "thin" level too great to sustain. The investment required to hold a National Championship event is too substantial and the profit potential to small to gamble on good weather.

Some riders think they can ride in the wet and some think they can't. Both are correct. Riders who are comfortable racing in wet conditions deserve the opportunity to exhibit their skill doing so. Riders who are not confident racing in wet conditions are free to not participate, however they are forbidden by rules to attempt to interfere with the conduct of the race or participation by others.

These decisions are not taken lightly. Obviously, the issue of safety must be paramount. There are no statistics that prove or even imply that wet conditions are a special hazard too great to be chanced. In the 35 years I have been involved in the sport, I am unaware of any fatalities that have taken place under wet conditions on any tracks approved for both wet and dry racing. Further, I note that AMA Pro Superbike, MotoGP, World Superbike, World Supersport, British Superbike, AFM, ASRA, CCS, CMRA, LRRS, MRA, MOTO-ST, WERA, WSMC, etc. all race in wet conditions at race tracks all over the world. I cannot accept that the four facilities that are the subject of this document represent such unique characteristics that they must be "cut from the herd" and singled out for such discrimination.

In closing, I take full responsibility for any confusion created by our wording and commit to working more diligently on future releases to ensure that the only interpretation possible by reasonable people will be the one we intend.

Roger Edmondson