MOTOAMERICA 101

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO...

  • MotoAmerica is the fastest motorcycle racing in North America featuring 190+ mph Superbikes on America’s greatest road racing courses.
  • MotoAmerica events feature multiple classes of road racing over one weekend including Superbikes, Supersport, Stock 1000, Twins Cup, Junior Cup, Mini Cup, Baggers Invitational and Heritage Cup.
  • MotoAmerica events are family friendly outdoor “festivals” with VIP packages, Camping, Kid Zones with FREE carnival games & riders, Stunt shows, vendor area and more

Superbike

We use the term almost synonymously for any high-performance sportbike and that style of road racing can be found around the world, but the origin of the name can be traced to 1976. Appropriately enough, the AMA Superbike Championship was founded during the American Bicentennial.

Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” Hall & Oates’ “Sara Smile,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen were playing on the radio while Reg Pridmore was racing a Butler & Smith BMW R90S against guys such as Steve McLaughlin (BMW), Mike Baldwin (Moto Guzzi), Keith Code (Kawasaki), and Cook Neilson (Ducati) en route to winning that year’s inaugural AMA Superbike title.

At the time, however, no one knew a support class called Superbike Production would catch the attention of road-racing fans and within a couple of years surpass the popularity of all other classes in America. It would also produce some of the elite riders in all of motorcycle racing.

By the mid-1980s, AMA Superbike and its stars were what fans came to see at the races. Little more than a decade after its founding, the class had spread so fast around the globe that in 1988 the FIM gave it world championship status. Fittingly, American racing hero Fred Merkel won the inaugural 1988 title.

In The Beginning
Superbike sprang up organically from the increasingly popular production racing movement at club events in the early to mid-1970s. Motorcycles like the Honda CB750, Kawasaki Z1, Norton Commando, Triumph Bonneville, BMW R90S, and Ducati 750SS, as well as the two-stroke Yamahas, Kawasakis, and Suzukis, were handling better but some had so much power that you couldn’t tap their full potential on the street. So more and more coming-of-age baby boomers took to the track on their street bikes.

Critical mass was reached by 1973. That July, race promoters Gavin Trippe and Bruce Cox invited production racers to Laguna Seca Raceway. Yvon Duhamel won Heavyweight Production over Steve McLaughlin, both on Kawasaki Z1s. Mike Clarke won Lightweight Production on a Yamaha RD350. The race proved very popular with fans so Laguna held a second event alongside the ’74 AMA national. That year, the production race was featured on the cover of Cycle with the headline: “Superbike National.” A class was born.

By 1975, Daytona International Speedway and Ontario Motor Speedway added Superbike Production to their schedules, and the AMA could no longer ignore the growing popularity of the class. (It should be noted that extensive coverage of AMA Superbike races in Cycle magazine and the on-track exploits of racer/editor Cook Neilson and tuner/editor Phil Schilling were hugely instrumental in fostering a massive fan base for the new class.)

Europe vs. Japan
The earliest big-bore, multi-cylinder Japanese production bikes were known for brute power, not handling. That’s where the less powerful but stable Europeans— BMW R90S, Ducati 750SS, and Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans—held an advantage. The contrast on-track, a duel between power and handling, was something to see. In 1976, European machines won every race and all the races for the first half of ’77. But that August, on the high banks of Pocono Raceway, Reg Pridmore rode a Pierre des Roches-tuned Racecrafters Kawasaki KZ1000 to victory and the trend began to change in favor of the Japanese multis.

When Suzuki launched its great-handling GS series with rider Wes Cooley, high horsepower was finally mated to stable chassis and the modern Superbike was born. Gradually, European brands became less competitive. Rich Schlachter’s victory at Loudon in 1979 on a George Vincensi-built Ducati marked the end of an era. A machine from the Continent would not win another AMA Superbike race until 1992,when Doug Polen put a Fast by Ferracci Ducati atop the podium at Laguna Seca.

Big H Enters The Fray
For its first four years, AMA Superbike was a support class for Formula 1. The tide began to turn and the stakes rose considerably in 1980 when Honda entered Superbike with wunderkind racer Freddie Spencer. Even though Spencer ultimately never won the title, the presence of a rider of his stature and participation by Honda with its accompanying media blitz set the stage for Superbikes supplanting Formula1 and, in relatively short order, becoming the premier class. In 1983, the AMA recognized these 1,000cc beasts were outpacing tire technology and cut engine size for multis to 750cc (twins were still allowed 1,000cc). This displacement defined Superbikes until 2003 when 1-liter bikes returned.

During the earliest years of the class, BMW, Suzuki, and Kawasaki primarily shared the spotlight. When Honda hit its stride in the mid-1980s, Fred Merkel, Wayne Rainey, and Bubba Shobert won five consecutive titles. In 1986, Merkel became the first rider to hit the 20-win mark. That record stood for 12 years before Canadian Miguel Duhamel—like Merkel, racing a Honda—became the all-time AMA Superbike wins leader.

Popularity Peaks
In the early 1990s, only select AMA Superbike races were televised. With the explosion of cable TV and birth of channels like ESPN, TNN, and Speedvision, races were broadcast more frequently, and by the middle of that decade, the series was on TV full time. That, combined with explosive motorcycle sales, meant manufacturers had plenty of money to spend on racing. During a 10-year period, AMA Superbike peaked in popularity. Factory participation, fan turnouts, and rider salaries reached all-time highs.

This was also a period of unprecedented parity. Several manufacturers enjoyed periods of success, with Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki, and Suzuki winning championships. Key milestones during this era included Doug Chandler tying Reg Pridmore in 1997 for the most AMA Superbike titles (three), record-winning streaks by all-time-wins-leader Miguel Duhamel, the start of the Mat Mladin era of domination, and, in 2002, future MotoGP champ Nicky Hayden became the youngest-ever AMA Superbike champion.

Series Of Rivalries
AMA Superbike has long been marked with red-hot rivalries between riders and manufacturers.The earliest big-time rivals were Wes Cooley, Freddie Spencer, and Eddie Lawson, who enjoyed epic battles during the 1980 season.The season ended controversially, with protests and counter-protests filed by Kawasaki and Suzuki. Cooley had to wait two months before he was awarded the title.

The early 1980s marked fierce competition between Kawasaki and Honda, with Kawasaki cast as David versus the Honda Goliath. Kawasaki came out on top three years in a row on the strengths of Lawson, a young Wayne Rainey, and tuner Rob Muzzy. A few years later, Rainey would become one-half of perhaps the best- known rivalry in the history of the series. In 1987, following some of the most intense battles fans ever witnessed, the Californian beat archrival Kevin Schwantz for the title. Normally congenial competitions between the manufacturers were thrown out the window, with protests and charges of cheating flying back and forth between Honda and Suzuki. Rainey and Schwantz continued their war in Grand Prix racing.

Maybe the most contentious rivalry came in the mid-2000s between Yoshimura Suzuki teammates Mladin and Ben Spies. In 2006, Spies ended the Australian’s near-decade-long domination. That set up a two-year battle during which Mladin tried unsuccessfully to win back the title from his younger teammate. At many post-race press conferences,the tension in the air was thick. Spies went on to win the 2009 World Superbike title, following in the footsteps of fellow Americans Merkel, Polen, Scott Russell, John Kocinski, and Colin Edwards. Spies has often credited his trial by fire with Mladin for preparing him for the world stage.

AMA Superbike Eras
For most of its history, AMA Superbike was sanctioned and managed by the American Motorcyclist Association in Pickerington, Ohio. In 2007, AMA Pro Racing was sold to the Daytona Motorsports Group.That period proved to be a difficult one for the championship, in great part due to a dramatic worldwide economic downturn. While the series saw decreased factory participation and fan interest, on-track action was solid, with Josh Hayes emerging as the dominant rider of the era. In 2015, Hayes will attempt to win his fifth AMA Superbike title.

This season starts a new era for the championship, which is now run by MotoAmerica and once again sanctioned by the AMA in Ohio. MotoAmerica is headed by people with deep roots in the sport, chiefly two-time AMA Superbike and three-time 500cc Grand Prix World Champion Wayne Rainey. It is widely hoped that, under the guidance of MotoAmerica, the series will emerge stronger and continue to build on its 39-year legacy of producing some of the greatest motorcycle racing champions in the world.

The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), located in Pickerington, Ohio, is the world’s premier member-driven motorcycling organization whose mission is to promote the motorcycling lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling. From the street, to the track, to the trail, millions of Americans enjoy motorcycling. Some ride to work every day. Others ride for pleasure on weekends. Many ride off-road, or journey to places near and far. Still more seek the thrill of competition.

Since 1924, the AMA has protected the future of motorcycling and promoted the motorcycle lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life, and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world’s largest motorcycling organization, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists’ interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations and the court of public opinion.

Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition and motorcycle recreational events than any other organization in the world. Through its Motorcycle Hall of Fame, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. AMA members receive money saving discounts from dozens of well-known suppliers of motorcycle services, gear and apparel, bike rental, transport, hotel stays and more. The AMA is everything motorcycle. 

Please visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com for information on how to join.

AMA American Motorcyclist Association.

CC Cubic centimeters in reference to engine displacement.

CREW Mechanics and/or team assistants.

CREW CHIEF – The team’s technical leader and the person who communicates directly with the rider.

DISPLACEMENT The space covered or volume swept out by the engine piston at each stroke.

DISQUALIFICATION – Unless otherwise specified, the forfeiture of all points, awards, and prizes earned during a particular race.

CORNERWORKER – Workers stationed at various points around the track to advise riders of track conditions by using various color flags and lights. Also known as “track marshals.”

HIGHSIDE A crash where the motorcycle generally loses traction on the rear tire and the rider goes over the top of the bike, as opposed to laying it down, or a “lowside.”

HOLESHOT  Having the race lead going into the first turn of a race.

HOMOLOGATION The process of acquiring eligibility for a motorcycle to be entered in competition. Homologation rules are formulated to create parity among race bikes, and to maintain a level playing field for all competitors.

LAPTOP – The amount of time it takes a rider to circulate one lap of the race course.

LOWSIDE  A crash where the motorcycle generally loses traction on the front tire and lays it down.

OEM Original Equipment Manufacturer.

PADDOCK Area primarily designated for the preparation and maintenance of race equipment. May also include parking for transporters and other support vehicles.

POLESITTER The fastest rider in timed qualifying, who starts in first position on the starting grid.

PRIVATEER – A racer competing without benefit of a factory contract or major sponsor support.

PROGRAM The predetermined outline of events that make up a race.

RACE LINE The fastest way around the track, or through a particular part of the track. Can vary with changing course conditions.

Q TIRE A super-soft, extra-grippy rear tire used by Superbike competitors in Superpole. A Q tire generally yields the fast laptimes, but it only lasts one or two laps before wearing out.

QUALIFY – To advance to the final race event by time trial.

STARTING GRID – The assigned spots where all riders start the race, as determined by their fastest qualifying laptimes.

STOPPIE Riding on the front wheel only, usually under hard braking.

SUPER POLE – A special, 15-minute final qualifying session for the fastest 12 Superbike riders. A Q Tire is generally eligible to be used during the session.

WHEELIE Riding on the rear wheel only, usually under hard acceleration.

WRENCH A slang word for a mechanic.

HONOS SUPERBIKE – MotoAmerica’s premier race class, HONOS Superbike showcases the top road racers aboard top-of-the-line, highly modified motorcycles capable of speeds approaching 200 miles per hour.

SUPERSPORT – MotoAmerica’s middleweight race class, supersport features the series’ rising stars competing aboard production-based motorcycles.

LIQUI MOLY JUNIOR CUP –  MotoAmerica’s entry-level race class, Liqui Moly Junior Cup presents the series’ youngest riders competing aboard small-displacement, production-based motorcycles

STOCK 1000 – A feeder class for Superbike, Stock 1000 gives MotoAmerica riders the opportunity to gain experience aboard 1,000cc motorcycles with an eye toward eventually moving up to Superbike.

TWINS CUP – Putting middleweight, twin-cylinder motorcycles in the spotlight, Twins Cup enables regional and club racers from around the country to step up to the MotoAmerica series and compete on a national level.

Mini Cup by Motul – Riders ages 6-14 years of age riding OHVAL GP bikes.  4 classes available:  110cc, 160cc, 190cc Kids & 190cc Adult.

Heritage Cup – Exhibition racing at Road America #2, Indianapolis & Laguna featuring 1986 and older superbikes and other vintage racing motorcycles.

Drag Specialties King of the Baggers Invitational – Exhibition racing featuring highly customized V-twin Baggers.

In MotoAmerica, as in most forms of motorsports racing, a system of flags and lights is utilized by Race Control to inform the riders of specific situations on the track. There are 10 individual flags used by MotoAmerica, which are described below:

GREEN – Start of race or clear track conditions. Green lights are also used.

CHECKERED – End of race, practice or qualifying session.

WHITE – Final lap of race

YELLOW – Stationary: Potentially hazardous situation on track, proceed with caution, passing allowed. Yellow lights are also used.
Waving: Serious hazardous situation on track, proceed with caution, passing not allowed. Flashing yellow lights could also be used.

BLUE – Indicates to a rider that they are about to be overtaken or lapped. These riders must allow the overtaking rider(s) to safely pass at the earliest opportunity.

BLACK – Rider has been assessed a ride-through penalty. Usually accompanied by a number board

BLACK W/ORANGE CIRCLE (MEATBALL) – Rider needs to exit race track. Usually accompanied by a number board.

RED – When displayed on track, indicates that all riders must slow and go to the pits. Also indicates pit-lane exit is closed when displayed at pit out. Red lights could also be used

YELLOW W/RED STRIPES – Indicates debris, fluid or a potentially hazardous situation on track.

WHITE W/RED CROSS – Safety vehicle on course.

ROLLED UP WHITE AND GREEN FLAGS – When crossed, indicates 1/2 total race distance is complete

Each round will have specific set times for when on track activities occure. On event weekends, a schedule can be found on the front page. Typicaly the weekend goes as follows:

FRIDAY – Practice and Qualifying for all classes

Saturday – Qualifying and Superpole in the morning followed with the first round of races in the afternoon

Sunday – Morning Warm-Up sessions, an extended lunch break with autograph and open pitlane walk, with an afternoon of Races.

Each class will have a championship with points earned based on finish position of a race. Points are earned by finishing within the top 15 positions. The rider with the most points in their class will be awarded the championship at the end of the season.