The Motorcycle Industry Council, under the direction of President Tim Buche, is launching the new premier professional road racing series in the United States. Called the USSB Championship Series, it will supplant AMA road racing as the top-level, factory supported racing series in this country.
“This is America, a big country with a big motorcycle market that deserves a world-class championship with full-on factory bikes raced by star riders,” says Ty van Hooydonk, USSB Managing Director. “The USSB Championship is our answer. We want to steer away from engine restrictors, away from mandated power-to-weight ratios, spec tires and spec ECUs. We want to set the stage for racing teams to compete, on the track, in the R&D shops, in the way they develop their bikes and help develop production bikes, in how they develop their engineering staffs and crews, and their riders, too. Let them do what they do best and go racing.”
Kicking off next year, the 2009 series will feature two classes: U.S. Super Bike, for 1,000cc fours and “larger-displacement v-twins” and U. S Sport Bike, a 600cc category similar to World Supersport.
Full details follow the jump.
(USSB Managing Director Ty van Hooydonk.)
What is The USSB Championship Series?
“The USSB Championship Series” will be the premier professional road racing series in the United States. Racers will include both world-class riders and upcoming stars. USSB is a factory supported pro-level series. It is designed to feature many brands, to attract the best riders, to develop and employ the most advanced technology the industry has to offer, with the nation’s fastest bikes, all at traditional racing venues. In addition to providing the highest level of road racing in the country, which hard-core enthusiasts will appreciate, USSB will attract new fans through marketing efforts that will generate mainstream media coverage and also directly reach out to consumers.
What classes will we see in The USSB Championship Series?
The premier class, U.S. Super Bike, will invite teams running the highly developed, factory-backed, fan-favorite racing motorcycles (1,000cc fours and larger-displacement twins) that have long been the basis for superbike racing. The inaugural USSB series will also include U.S. Sport Bike, a 600cc category similar to the World Supersport Championship, among others.
What are the 2009 Rules?
When finalized, the rules will be substantially similar to the rules used for the 2008 AMA season. In future years, the intention is to develop rules compatible with World Superbike and other national superbike series around the globe, which will encourage innovation and technological development, yet reduce manufacturing and testing costs involved in creating different-spec bikes for different series.
Why did The USSB Championship Series need to be created in the first place?
The AMA road racing series was sold to the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG). When initial reports of DMG’s plans for the series became known, many of those with years or even decades of racing experience voiced concerns that the series failed to meet the needs of riders, road racing enthusiasts, motorcycle manufacturers as well as gear, performance parts and other aftermarket suppliers. Rather, the plans seemed primarily focused on a radical alteration in motorcycle racing limited to severely restrictive motorcycles in place of the branded racing that stakeholders prefer. Numerous industry participants were concerned that unless key needs and expectations were addressed and improvements made, the AMA series as outlined would not serve the best interests of the sport and would severely limit their ability to participate. The USSB Championship Series is committed to addressing these key industry concerns.
USSB was developed by a team of industry veterans committed to carrying on the true tradition of U.S. superbike racing and producing a championship series that is exciting beyond great racing, which is a given. Manufacturer participation in the series will promote innovation and new technology that will ultimately find their way to production motorcycles. USSB will not restrict motorcycles to highly specified configurations and it will be the only series for unrestrained superbikes and their teams. USSB will focus on racing that best promotes rider safety, competition and innovation, racetrack attendance, television coverage, electronic viewership and ridership.
What is the operating structure of The USSB Championship Series?
The operating structure is based on several other successful series operations and best practices within professional racing. USSB, Inc. will be governed by executive management and a Board of Directors and will be responsible for promotions and communications, ensuring that the series remains responsive to the changing demands of technology and consumer preference. USSB, Inc. also will create an affiliated, but independent sanctioning body - USSB Sanctioning, Inc., which will govern the competition and employ the Series Commissioner who will be responsible for all competition-related decisions. In addition, four stakeholder groups will have a voice and participate in governance, similar to other series such as MotoGP:
- Riders Association representing the interests of all the on-track competitors.
- Manufacturers Committee representing factory interests and consisting of representatives from manufacturers fielding factory teams in the series.
- Sanctioning responsible to oversee tech inspection, rules and regulations and will manage race organization and administration.
- Promoters including individual promoters and a group representing them in collaboration with the USSB, Inc.
A Race Direction Commission and a Rules Commission, consisting of representatives of each stakeholder group, will be formed to contribute to series direction.
With manufacturer, sanctioning body, promoter and rider input into USSB, won’t it just be run by committee?
Input from all stakeholders is vitally important in order to produce world-class events. It is critical that riders, manufacturers, sanctioning body and promoters are working together towards the same goal – producing the premier U.S. road racing series. But the Series Commissioner, who is in essence the series CEO, will have the ultimate authority and final say on all competition-related issues in The USSB Championship Series.
Isn’t this just the two-wheel version of the damaging split between the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League? While initially the situations may appear to be similar, actually it’s really like comparing apples and oranges.
With the auto racing series, team owners were having difficulty making money and thought a breakaway series controlled by the owners would rectify the situation. Motorcycling’s top teams are in the sport to market their brands, and to do so, manufacturers want to continue to spend money on racing. That’s a major difference.
On the auto racing side, the ownership of the most important racetrack and the biggest race in the series, Indianapolis, wished to purchase the entire series and change its directio n. In the case of superbikes, the industry, the manufacturers, the riders and the fans all want to maintain the level of unrestricted racing currently enjoyed and build on it.
There has been no call for heavily restricted superbike racing, other than from the AMA series new ownership. The teams of the manufacturers and their supporters want to go racing. They don’t want to manufacture the racing. We may see no split among the major teams between the various series because USSB is the only series designed to meet the needs of major teams. However, teams always have the option to participate in USSB and other series. At USSB races, superbike racing fans can expect to see factory rider stars on the factory bikes on many of the familiar tracks, watch them on TV and read about them in their favorite enthusiast publications and Web sites.
What is the 2009 schedule and what tracks will host the races?
USSB will seek dates on many of the same tracks AMA has raced on in the last few years. We expect the 2009 series to run from April through September. Updates and news about the series can be found 24/7 at the USSB Championship official website www.USSBCHAMPIONSHIP.com.
Who is the managing organization for USSB? What qualifications and experience do they have?
The USSB Championship Series or USSB is owned and operated by USSB, Inc., a subsidiary of the Motorcycle Industry Council. The MIC is a not-for-profit, national trade association created to promote, protect and preserve motorcycling and the U.S. motorcycle industry.
As an industry association, the MIC is uniquely qualified to leverage its more than four decades of industry experience to help create, operate and produce USSB. MIC staff and a team of experienced industry veterans conducted the initial work on USSB. USSB, Inc. will retain additional professional staff to handle race operations, sanctioning functions and promotion services as needed.
Why did the MIC get involved in this?
The MIC was not looking for any direct involvement in racing. However, MIC has been associated with racing for many, many years since great racing events in this country serve as an impressive venue for industry business activities. They can be a draw for the major mainstream media that motorcycling needs to progress, and also for the celebrities who can help promote the sport and are now “media” in their own right.
But since the AMA series is headed away from decades of American Superbike tradition with a radically changed series formula it is time for the MIC to become more involved.
Many years of effort by factory teams, from mechanics to crew chiefs, to engineers and designers in faraway R&D shops are at risk of being simply wasted. America’s best riders, and the competitors who came here to race against our best, all of whom had developed powerful working partnerships with these teams, faced an uncertain future. Several of the country’s most respected professional riders spoke out loudly against these sudden changes. Some talked about leaving to race overseas.
Even teams who had not recently won the Superbike championship, or even a race over the past few years, expressed the view that they did not want to lose the current racing formula. They wanted an opportunity to rise up and beat the defending champions with the existing rules left in place. They wanted to show that they had the ability to build stronger teams and develop faster riders. They wanted to continue to race, under the current rules, for the challenge and for the sake of pride. The desire to compete is part of their corporate DNA and the top superbike riders and teams could be ranked among the best in the world. They are that skilled, that accomplished.
There are a good number of factory, manufacturer-supported teams in today’s Superbike series. There are four full-factory teams now racing and not long ago there were five. The manufacturers spent millions upon millions of dollars supporting these teams, and additional money sponsoring individual races across the country. By the manufacturers’ own words, the new AMA series was not going to meet their companies’ needs.
And reaction among most fans, as judged by letters to enthusiast publications and Web sites, was almost universally negative. They said they wanted to see the best riders on the fastest bikes. Many of them stated that they did not want to see, either in person, or on TV, highly restricted bikes, or what they feared would be glorified club racing.
The AMA Superbike Championship, as we have known it through 2008, may not be ideal. But there was no MIC interest in developing another road racing championship until it was clear the AMA series would no longer exist as it has been known.
So the motorcycle manufacturers are doing their own racing series, then? No. This is a common misperception. The Motorcycle Industry Council is initiating USSB on behalf of its members. This is the industry starting its own racing series, which will be independently operated.
Can the MIC really pull this off?
Absolutely. The MIC will start and nurture an entirely new and independent enterprise, USSB, Inc., with the sole mission of owning and operating the nation’s premier road racing series. USSB, Inc. employees, board members and business partners will be selected for the expertise they can bring in promoting and operating this racing series.
We believe there is no better entity to start a proper motorcycle racing series than the industry itself. No one can know motorcycle racing better than motorcyclists. No group has more at stake or will care more about achieving success. The MIC has but one motive: Improving the industry. Accomplished by promoting, protecting, preserving.
Note that the industry has strived toward nearly 15 years of rapid growth. Motorcycle sales in the early 1990s were a quarter of what they are today. The industry worked extensively to turn around the generally bad image of motorcycling that existed 20 years ago. Media coverage two decades ago was almost universally negative. Today, motorcycle industry representatives are welcomed inside the offices of the biggest media outlets in the country. The motorcycle industry can count among its friends more CEOs, celebrities and Capitol Hill officials than ever before.
Meanwhile, American road racing has not enjoyed similar levels of growth and increased awareness.
How is this part of the MIC’s mission?
MIC is initiating the series for the teams, for the manufacturers, for the riders, for the fans, all to better promote the business of motorcycling in America. It is the function of the MIC to preserve, protect and promote motorcycling. A world-class road racing series in the United States, done right, will help promote motorcycling here.
What does the MIC have to gain?
The 300-plus MIC members and their thousands of employees and all of motorcycling in America stand to gain much from a successful national championship road racing series. The MIC is a not-for-profit association that works on their behalf. A great deal of business is accomplished at world-class racing venues, which can serve as the backdrop that attracts major media, corporate and celebrity involvement in motorcycling, not necessarily just racing. And the showcases that great racing venues provide also help generate a lot of consumer sales and can inspire new riders. Win on Sunday; sell on Tuesday when the bike shop opens.
USSB, Inc. was established specifically to create a sustainable, popular superbike championship that will benefit many across the industry.