Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Riding outside your class

I'm often quick to compare domestic superbike championships, usually in the context of the British and the American series, but one thing occurred to me today whilst reading a report on last weekend's AMA event at Barber in Alabama. The AMA championship is probably the only one in the world where superbike riders also ride in the support classes. I started thinking why this might be.

The primary difference with how the two championships work is financially: a rider in the AMA series can earn much more staying in the US than they could virtually anywhere else in the racingsphere, except perhaps as a top factory rider in MotoGP. Even the top riders in World Superbike are probably making less than their counterparts in the AMA. This is a common reason from US riders who seem reluctant to ride overseas.

In the USA, factory teams strive for success in all classes, since superbike is not viewed with quite as much reverence as in the UK or World championships, thus the importance of winning in support classes. Although you'll find indirect factory support in supersport and superstock in the British and World series, it's is much more prevalent in the USA. There's factory Kawasaki, Yamaha and Suzuki efforts in Supersport, factory Suzuki and Yamaha in Superstock and Honda provides good support to the Erion Formula Extreme outfit.

Given that the support classes are taken so seriously, it's not surprising that the factories want their best riders involved. And given a rider's salary, they're only too happy to "tow the party line" and jump on small-bore bikes, stock bikes or both. It's not seen as a step down like it would be elsewhere, another major reason that it's rarely seen in BSB or WSBK.


Dusty said...

I had no idea AMA riders made so much. That explains a lot of the stagnation in the series.

Clive said...

That makes AMA sound like "the good old days" of bike racing. The other day I stumbled across a reference to Gary Hocking, a Zimbabwean bike racer in the late fifties and early sixties. The Wikipedia notes that he rode in the 125cc, 250cc and 350cc classes in 1960 and became world champion on an MV Agusta in the 350cc and 500cc classes the following year. And my ancient memory tells me that John Surtees, too, held the championship in multiple classes in several years. Good to know that there is still somewhere in the world that the riders aren't too high and mighty to have a go at different classes.