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Decide what to Ride

How racers determine what classes to ride and who's paying what

By Simon-Pierre Smith

When spending an afternoon at the track, one often finds the announcer calling the same names over and over as leaders in different classes. Sometimes they're even on the same bike. Other times, a rider will win a class handily and never be heard from again. What drives some racers to enter six classes while some enter only one? The answers are as varied as the racers, but boil down to rider's goals and the resources available to achieve them.

Above: #68 Richard Crippen leads #127 Jeremy Smith and #232 Matt Gehrke through Portland's turn 3. Crippen ran 4 races that day versus Smith's 2 and Gehrke's 3.

For the newer racer, whose only goal is track time, it is advantageous to enter as many classes as possible. With fixed costs such as the price of the bike, tow vehicle, safety gear, etc. spread out over several classes, the cost per lap drops significantly. Most displacement categories have a stock (Supersport) and built (Superbike) version, as well as the ability to bump up one displacement level, so a typical bike has 4 possible classes. In only one of these is it able to excel. Some bikes, like an open displacement Superbike, have no bump up class.

A common goal of the more seasoned racer is to earn the highest number of season points, aiming for one of the top 5 number plates. In Oregon, the number plates are awarded based on a rider's 2 best classes. In Washington, the best 3 are used. Many racers run the minimum. Others run an extra class for a while; waiting for the inevitable mechanical failure or crash, then drop the class with the poor results. The risk they run is that a failure in an auxiliary class may leave them stranded on the track or injured during a later class.

The goal of some racers is to make money. While hardly any racers actually turn a profit, it can be a rewarding exercise to pursue a hobby while minimizing expenses and maximizing income. These are the racers who choose their bikes not just based on performance potential, but also on available contingency. Most of the major manufacturers offer contingency money to the top ten riders on their brand of machine. Yamaha typically leads the field with $2,000 to win. Contingency money is usually paid in the Supersport classes, and only 4 times per year. The frugal racer forgoes tire wear and potential crashes by not racing for an empty purse. In Washington, some of the races have prize money, with a win paying several hundred dollars and paying down to mid pack. This, combined with smaller contingencies such as tires, oil, brakes, and leathers can drive faster racers to add classes.

Above: #89 John Dugan, running 4 classes, leads Mike Sullivan in Turn 4. This is in Open Production, a contingency paying class and Sullivan's only ride that day.

font class="auto-style2">Other racers use club racing as a training ground. Tom Wertman is running the full AMA circuit this year. He runs as many as 6 classes in a day, for a total of 84 laps, to be sure his endurance is ready for the long national races. At the Sears Point (now Infineon) races he raced 2 back-to-back Superbike races as well as the Superstock race for a total of 73 laps. All this happens on a track with no real straight sections for resting.
The desire to run a large number of classes creates a need for something most racers don't have, a competent pit crew. With 4 or more races planned, it is more than likely that some will be back to back. A crew member is needed to be ready with the gas can in the 30 seconds between races. If a different bike is used, then tire warmers must be pulled to get the bike ready while the racer is still on track. Some of the heavier and more powerful machines may need new brake pads before a practice and 4 races are completed. While only a 20-minute job, a rider can't do it while he's racing.

font class="auto-style2">AMA racer John Dugan runs up to 4 classes in the Northwest and is out there for money and testing time. In years past he has won up to $4,000 in prize money for a season. It sounds good until you compare it to his $20,000 yearly tire bill.
With all the talk of money, trophies, points, and #1 plates, it is good to remember these words by John Dugan, "I love to go out there and win a race. Period. I ride to dominate."

table class="MsoNormalTable" border="1" cellpadding="0"> td style="padding: .75pt">

Sponsor td style="padding: .75pt">

Classes td style="padding: .75pt">

Payout td style="padding: .75pt">

Aprilia td style="padding: .75pt"> font class="auto-style2">RS250 - 4S
Mille/MilleR - OT td style="padding: .75pt"> font class="auto-style2">$200/$125/$75
$250/$200/$100 td style="padding: .75pt">

Bridgestone td style="padding: .75pt">

All td style="padding: .75pt">

$75/$50/$40 td valign="top" style="padding: .75pt">

Dunlop td style="padding: .75pt">

All td style="padding: .75pt"> 1 st - 5th, up to $300 td valign="top" style="padding: .75pt"> font class="auto-style3">EBC/
Silkolene td style="padding: .75pt">

6P/7P/OP/6T/OT td style="padding: .75pt">

$30/$20/$10 td style="padding: .75pt">

Honda td style="padding: .75pt">

6S/6P/OP/OT td style="padding: .75pt"> 1 st - 5th, up to $1500
+$2500 for championship td style="padding: .75pt">

Kawasaki td style="padding: .75pt">

6P/6S td style="padding: .75pt"> 1 st - 5th, up to $500 td style="padding: .75pt"> font class="auto-style3">Pirelli/
Metzeler td style="padding: .75pt">

All td style="padding: .75pt"> 1 st - 4th, up to $100 td style="padding: .75pt">

Suzuki td style="padding: .75pt"> font class="auto-style2">6P/6S/7P/7S/OP/OS
6T/6V/OT td style="padding: .75pt"> 1 st - 10th, up to $1000
1st � 5th, up to $500 td style="padding: .75pt"> font class="auto-style3">Vanson
Leathers td style="padding: .75pt">

All except SC/US td style="padding: .75pt"> font class="auto-style2">$200/$100/$50 or $100
+$100 if wearing Vanson td style="padding: .75pt">

Yamaha td style="padding: .75pt">

6S/6P/OS/OP td style="padding: .75pt">

$2000/$500/$250 For more details about who's paying what visit http://www.wmrra.com/contingency.htm . In fact WMRRA has scored over $450,000 in contingency money for 2003!


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