A group of Daytona Motorsports Group execs visited all four of the Japanese OEMs last week to discuss their plans for the 2009 AMA Superbike series and receive feedback on what the OEMs would like to see next season. CEO Roger Edmondson and his group visited Suzuki and Yamaha last Wednesday, and Kawasaki and Honda on Thursday.
The current plan is for the AMA Superbike weekend to undergo major changes. While Edmondson has repeatedly said that there won't be any kind of firm format to the series until later this week at Barber (after he meets again with the OEMs) the current plan seems to consist of a 600 Superbike class which would incorporate several different machine-types and also the MotoST series. Beyond those two classes, Edmondson seems open to discussion, but cautions that he currently has no interest in 600 Supersport or the out-going AMA Superstock class. Moreover, the series in 2008 may include a spec tire rule for all classes and also a spec fuel.
(The latter which should prove interesting on the tire front as Dunlop just signed up all the factory teams through 2009.)
"We went to see them in spite of there being other manufacturers in our sport of roadracing. Those four companies have from one degree or another supported the entirety of motorcycle racing, including Supercross and Motocross, in this country. I thought that they should be consulted. I felt that we should not go in there to tell them anything, only to answer questions and uncover what their fears and concerns were and at the same time learn what is important to them. I'm going to give an example, before we ever got there we had one of them (who looked) at our NASCAR genes and wondered if we were going to make them put carburetors on their bikes because there are carburetors on NASCAR cars. That made me realize that the level of anxiety was a lot higher than I thought."
"We went to visit Suzuki and Yamaha on Wednesday, and Kawasaki and Honda on Thursday. Each meeting I opened by thanking for gathering the group, making it clear that we were seeking a collegial relationship, not a continuation of the adversarial or difficult relationships of the past. And while we had a vision, we didn't want to jump out and present our vision without having an opportunity to temper it or modify it based on what they had to say."
Edmondson would not confirm that it happened at Suzuki, but it is widely known that his first stop, at Suzuki, his presentation and vision for the series were not received enthusiastically, to say the least.
"I felt that at three of the four companies their management people should be proud of the professionals running their race department. Obviously, that does not mean that they agreed with everything that we said. It means that we had a good, solid exchange of views that can only lead to better understanding of each others positions. Three of them made an effort to give us advice and where appropriate share concerns. And one didn't. One simply ... went off. Behavior of one of the four was, in my opinion, shameful."
He continued, "I made it clear that we are not in the motorcycle business. We're in the entertainment business, but that our businesses are inextricably joined at the hip. And what's good for them is good for us and vice-versa. Remember the context. We went there to seek counsel and guidance. We made it clear that our decisions would be taken after we had meetings with all of the companies. And for one of them to be on the phone calling the others before we were even out of the parking lot was totally out of line. That put paid to any perception that particular group of motorsport execs had any interest in working with us. They were clearly lining up against us, and that's not beneficial in the long term."
Regarding the content of the meetings Edmondson commented: "I didn't go there to lie or duck any questions. I was very honest. They asked what our plans were at this time were. I told them that we had no plans at this time to run Superstock next year, as it is canceled. And we had no plans at this time for 600 Supersport. However, I hope everyone keeps in mind the context—we're still finalizing our program at this time. We are making plans, not that we had a solid plan in place before we walked in there."
"At the moment we see two bookend classes and we will develop the rest," Edmondson said. "We will include the MotoST series and a new Superbike category using middleweight performance equipment with a wide variety of configurations. At one of the manufacturers there was a lot of consternation when we said this."
Three of the four manufacturers he spoke with want a 1000cc platform in the '09 series, Edmondson said, but one didn't seem to feel a 1000cc class was crucial. Whether the 2009 Superbike series will include a 1000cc Superbike class remains as yet unknown.
Based on the content of the meetings that Edmondson and his group had with the OEMs, he is taking a very close look at the proposed 2009 Superbike rules. At the same time he clarified that he wasn't committing to the proposed 2009 Superbike rules either.