I came across this photo of Chris Thomas coming over the jump at Grattan in a WERA race in June of 1986. The thing that caught my eye is if you look closely you can see light underneath the rear tire of Chris’ Yamaha FZ750 Superbike. So in addition to lofting his front wheel over the jump, Chris carried enough momentum over the hill to actually get slightly airborne. Mark Tanner is behind Chris.
MotoGP PREVIEW: GRAND PRIX OF QATAR
EVENT: Grand Prix of Qatar
WHERE: Losail Circuit, Doha, Qatar. Circuit is 3.343 miles (5.380 km), with 16 turns. Race is 22 laps.
WHEN: Sunday, April 11. It is the first of 18 events this season.
2009 RACE WINNER: Casey Stoner, by 7.771 seconds over Valentino Rossi
2009 POLE WINNER: Casey Stoner, 1 minute, 55.286 seconds
U.S. TV: 4-5 p.m. (ET), Sunday, April 11, SPEED (live). Moto2: 11 p.m.-midnight (ET), Sunday, April 11, SPEED.
THE AMERICANS: U.S. riders Colin Edwards (Houston, Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Nicky Hayden (Owensboro, Ky., Ducati Team) and Ben Spies (Longview, Texas, Monster Yamaha Tech 3) will compete in the MotoGP race. Kenny Noyes (California, Jack&Jones by Antonio Banderas) will compete in the Moto2 race.
•Colin Edwards: (About opening the season with a night race): “I’m the guy who wears a dark shield in the rain, so the worse I see, the better I ride. We could turn half the lights off, and it would be better that way. But I like the night race. I grew up racing Friday night motocross races under the lights every Friday night. And I was faster when I couldn’t see the ruts. So night racing, no problem. I enjoy it.”
•Nicky Hayden: “Finally the first race is here. We seem to have started later than everybody else, and I don’t know if I could have waited any longer. Testing went fairly well. We met some of our objectives and still have a lot of work to do in other areas, but overall I’m satisfied. We established a good base setting in Qatar, and hopefully we can use that for the first race. It has been a couple of years since I made a good start to the season, but I feel in good shape, the team are fully behind me, and I can’t wait to get started.”
•Ben Spies: (About transition from World Superbike to MotoGP): “For me, I’m trying everything I can to be as fast as I can and be as close as I can and beat everybody else. And I think one thing that has helped me is when I came over, after riding the bike at Valencia and the Valencia test, I really kind of sat down and said what I think and what I thought I knew and do know how to go fast on a Superbike, it’s not the same. I don’t know how far I’m going to go and how the differences that are going to happen from now until three races in or after the season, or if there are going to be any more improvements. I have no clue. But I think at least what has helped me in my transition so far is that I came in and said I know I need to change, I know this isn’t going to work, and I’ve got to figure out how to make it work. So I kind of just cleared the chalkboard coming in.”
THEY SAID IT: “Well, dude, I’ve got a few more mouths to feed than when I was 30. College tuition, you know, frickin’ Cocoa Krispies to have in the pantry. I’ve got to buy all of this crap now, so I’ve got to keep racing.” – Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards on why he continues to race in MotoGP at age 36
FAST FACTS: 2007 World Champion Casey Stoner has dominated this event, winning three consecutive years from 2007-09 … This is the only night race on the 2010 MotoGP schedule … This is the first time since 2008 that there will be three American riders in MotoGP, as 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden, Colin Edwards and rookie Ben Spies will fly the Stars and Stripes … Only Spain and Italy (five riders each) have more riders on the MotoGP grid than the U.S. … 2008 Red Bull Indianapolis GP winner Valentino Rossi will start a quest toward his eighth MotoGP class championship and 10th overall. He has won the last two season titles … There are five rookies among the 17 riders on the MotoGP grid this season: Spies, Hiroshi Aoyama of Japan, Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera of Spain and Marco Simoncelli of Italy … The new Moto2 class, which replaces the 250cc class, will debut at this event. Riders will compete on machines with 600cc Honda engines, closer in spec to prototype 800cc MotoGP bikes … Rookie Kenny Noyes will represent the United States in Moto2, riding for the Jack&Jones by Antonio Banderas team co-owned by Hollywood star Antonio Banderas. Noyes was one of only two riders to finish in the top five of all three Moto2 preseason tests … SPEED announced April 7 that it is televising all 18 MotoGP events this season in high definition, including the Red Bull Indianapolis GP on Aug. 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Nearly all races also will be televised live, with enhanced production features.
Rich Schlachter (4) leads fellow American riders Skip Askland (11), David Aldana (10) and Wes Cooley (8) at Mallory Park during the 1980 Trans-Atlantic Match Races. This was during the period when F-1 rules allowed 1000cc four-strokes with the 500cc and 750cc two-stroke road racing machines and this photo illustrated the variety. I believe Schlachter and Askland are on Yamaha TZ750s, while Aldana is on a Yoshimura Suzuki GS1000 Superbike, Cooley on a special GS1000-based Suzuki F-1 bike, utilizing a specially-designed racing frame and full fairing. The Americans, led by Kenny Roberts and upstart Freddie Spencer won that year’s Match Race. This photo is part of my monthly feature of Match Race photography by the legendary writer/photographer Jim Greening.
Reno Karimian (in leathers) talks with fellow racer Johnny Rock Page before the start of the 2009 Daytona Superbike race. Reno was a leading Willow Springs racer who hit the pro circuit on his own. He found it to be tough and expensive and is back to the club ranks. Page is still racing in Superbike. Interestingly Johnny and Reno finished right next to each other in the final 2009 AMA Superbike standings with only a single point separating them. Both scored points in four races. The two represent hard-working, underdog privateer racers trying to make it in the highly competitive national series.
I was talking to a friend today who is very prominent in motorcycle racing circles. A two-fold question came up in our discussion.
1.) Why did the Daytona 200 fall in prominence to the point where it’s little more than just another round of the AMA road racing series?
2.) What would it take to bring the race back to its former glory?
For me the answer to the first question is relatively easy to answer, but the second question honestly stumped me.
Let me say that I approach the Daytona 200 with reverence. It’s the oldest, most historic motorcycle race in the country. In its heyday it was covered in the New York Times, drew the top road racers from across the globe and attracted hundreds of journalists, also from around the world.
There is no single answer to why the mighty race has fallen so drastically. Look at a race like the Isle of Man TT – it used to be a part of the World Championship and was undoubtedly the most famous motorcycle race in the world. Since losing world championship status, the TT no longer attracts top racers, yet it still remains a viable event that has major international drawing power at least in terms of fans. Perhaps it’s the scenic setting, the even richer and longer history (dating back to 1907), the sheer test of man and machine trying to overcome the vast challenge of racing 37 miles of most challenging roads in the world. Whatever the case, the Isle of Man has moved on from its days of attracting the world’s best riders with grace. Daytona not so much.
If the Isle of Man is a graceful, classy lady who has aged into a handsome and much-beloved, albeit still dangerous dame. Daytona by comparison is a once flashy party girl, who stole the attention for a time, but became a lush and now only dares to come out under cover of darkness.
Back to the questions. Why did Daytona fall from prominence? The reasons are many. Here are a few I can think of:
1) Lack of international riders: In the 1970s Daytona attracted international riders like Giacome Agostini, Barry Sheene, Jarno Saarinen, Johnny Cecotto and many more. Now it’s only the AMA regulars and maybe a smattering of unknown international riders who come to Daytona to race and enjoy the winter sunshine.
2) The race purse never grew: In the 1970s the Daytona 200 paid a pretty decent purse. The winner at one time earned what would be equivalent to $100,000 today. It also paid well down the field. So a foreign rider, in the days before multi-million dollar contracts could be attracted to race Daytona.
3) Track safety: Track safety standards have changed dramatically over the years. While Daytona has made improvements by installing a chicane, increased run-off room and used soft barriers quite extensively, the bottom line is running wide open around NASCAR banking has such potential for lethal consequences that it would never be homologated for world-championship competition.
4) Other American races have become more prominent: With MotoGP and World Superbike racing regularly in America Daytona has fallen to the fourth most prominent motorcycle road race in the country. If you want to see the best racers in the world you now go to Laguna, Miller or Indy.
5) TV is no longer the exclusive domain of Daytona: At one time Daytona was about the only road race that was shown on television. Now you can watch national and international races every weekend during racing season.
6) Price gouging: In the salad days of the 1990s Daytona-area hotels raised rates and instituted minimum stays. It got to be very expensive to come to Bike Week. In recent years the economy has taken a dive, but some of the pricing and other restrictions remain. Daytona hoteliers helped push along the demise of the race and Bike Week itself, which is just a shell of its former glory.
7) Friday night is a bust: Having the Daytona 200 at night sounded like a cool idea, but Friday night just isn’t working out. The locals worked all week and are too tired to come out and watch a late race. And, as we found out this year, nighttime weather in March is not always ideal. Also a Friday night race makes the Daytona 200 look to play second-fiddle to Saturday night’s Daytona Supercross.
Those are some of the reasons the Daytona 200 is no longer the race it once was. In the next installment of File POV I’ll take on the harder challenge of trying to answer the question of whether or not the race can once again gain the prestige and respect it once garnered.