You can’t keep secrets in motorcycle racing circles. Too many people like to demonstrate how well connected they are by letting friends, fellow racers and yes, even sometimes the media, know how well connected they are and how they know some “top secret” information.
The hot rumor circulating the paddock at Road America this past weekend was the possible formation of a new road racing series, spearheaded by former GP World Champion Wayne Rainey and backed by Dorna. Yes, that Dorna, the one that runs MotoGP and World Superbike.
There were various iterations of the rumor, but no one wanted to go on record. When a voice recorder came out, everyone clammed up.
The most popular version of the rumor is that the FIM has the power to institute “Continental Championships” since the FIM is divided into six geographic subdivisions. So, just as there can be a European Road Racing Championship, as there has been in the past, theoretically there might also be a North American Road Racing Championship (the U.S. and Canada).
That is apparently what is now being explored by Dorna. How Rainey fits into the equation is not totally clear at this point, other than with someone of Rainey’s stature leading the way, a new road racing championship would have instant credibility with fans and riders.
What I can gather is that Dorna would very much love to keep two MotoGP rounds in the U.S. In spite of the impact of the recent recession, the U.S. is still the largest big-bike market in the world and having the premier road racing championship here is considered vitally important to Dorna in terms of global advertising.
The problem is American fans are fairly provincial and there is a very real prospect that there will be no Americans in MotoGP next season. It is feared that without American riders MotoGP races here (especially two of them) will not be viable.
The current professional road racing system in America doesn’t seem to be producing riders who can compete on the world level (E.g. look at the results of AMA Superbike Champion Josh Herrin in Moto2). So Dorna feels there is need to form a better feeder system in America.
One would assume a Dorna-run North American Championship would take a form similar to the Spanish CEV Championship, which recently was upgraded to an International Championship status. If I were to guess in America, we would likely see a Superbike class and either a 600 Supersport or Moto2 class and possibly also a Moto3 class.
Everyone I talked to in the paddock at Road America was enthusiastic about the prospect of a Dorna series in the U.S. and Canada. Most feel the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG) is failing at the task of properly running road racing in this country.
What does this mean for AMA Pro Racing (DMG)? Well it’s not good.
When professional road racing was run under the auspices of the American Motorcyclist Association in Pickerington, Ohio, the manufacturers were very much vested. In fact, manufacturer representatives were on the AMA’s racing board. The Japanese makers were also very tradition and FIM-affiliate bound, so it was highly unlikely they would back any series outside of the AMA umbrella. And they never did.
That afforded a lot of protection for the old AMA Road Racing Championships. Now that a separate entity runs racing (DMG, whose board members primarily have a backgrounds in auto racing) and little direct involvement by the motorcycle manufacturers, the current day AMA Pro Racing in no way enjoys the same backing and across the board unity behind their championships that the old AMA had. That means the timing is right for Dorna to come in and expect to receive backing from the manufacturers.
It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out.
I for one feared this kind of fracturing of America’s domestic motorcycle racing championships once the AMA in Ohio, sold off the properties.
I too am excited by the prospect of a Dorna series headed by Wayne Rainey, but I doubt America can support two professional-level road racing championships. – Larry Lawrence