Nov 1, 2012
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by David Swarts
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Evelyne Clarke (left) confers with other WERA officials at Barber Motorsports Park, during the 40th annual GNF. Photo by David Swarts/Roadracingworld.com.
After being held at Road Atlanta, in Braselton, Georgia, for nearly 30 years, WERA's 40th annual Grand National Finals (GNF) National Champions run-off event was moved to Birmingham, Alabama's Barber Motorsports Park, where it was held October 25-28, 2012. And although one goal of making the move--increasing spectator attendance--wasn't reached, the relocated event was still deemed a success.
"I think I would call it a big success," WERA Motorcycle Roadracing, Inc. President Evelyne Clarke told Roadracingworld.com at Barber Motorsports Park. "I'm really happy that we did this, and hopefully we will start building a 30-year tradition here."
Asked why she changed the venue of the GNF, Clarke said, "This year we brought it here, [and] part of the reason was Barber [Motorsports Park] had been asking us for this event for quite a few years. And with Road Atlanta including the Petit [Le Mans, sports car endurance race] in the month of October it kind of diminished the GNF and we weren't able to draw as many spectators to it as we had in prior years because everybody saved their money to go to the Petit.
"This year, in 2012, [the GNF] would have been the week after Petit, so we opted to change our October Road Atlanta event to a Sportsman event and end our National Endurance Championship there, [and] we brought the GNF here to Barber."
Clarke said she received lots of positive feedback ever since the move was announced but an increase in spectator attendance did not materialize.
"I wish the weather would have cooperated more so we would have had more people [spectators] see the fantastic racing we had, but we'll take it," said Clarke. "We had two really good days, then one really cold day, then half of a really good day again. The racing was phenomenal.
"It was good to see riders from all the different regions come here and figure out, yeah, they're fast in their region but there are some riders who are fast from other regions. Like Mr. [John] Palmer who came from the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. People were like, who's he? Well, he's fast up there and guess what? He was fast down here, too. So the GNF has always been kind of a cool event, and it was very, very cool this year."
Clarke could not pinpoint whether it was the change of venue or the improving economy or some other factor but participation at the GNF increased approximately 10% when compared to 2011, she said.
Clarke has already decided that the 41st annual WERA GNF will be held at Barber Motorsports Park October 24-27, 2013. The only detail left to finalize is whether or not the finale of the WERA National Endurance Series will return to the GNF.
"Chances are good it might be here," said Clarke, "and if it is it will probably be Thursday afternoon. We'll do practice Thursday morning [and] do the endurance [race] from 1-5."