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An insider look at...

WMRRA From The Outside

Editorial By Simon-Pierre Smith

 

Motorcycle road racing in Washington started at Pacific Raceway, renamed Seattle International, and now Pacific Raceway again. In 1974, the private interests that were running the races were overburdened. Racers came together to form an organization that would continue to this day, the Washington Motorcycle Road Racing Association. WMRRA is, and always has been, a volunteer organization. Dozens of volunteers are tapped to make a race day, and the day-to-day operations of the club. Only a small percentage get a token payment for gratitude. This volunteer nature of the club gives WMRRA moments of brilliance and moments of hilarious failure. Brilliance, when inspired, hard working people make things happen, like when Bob Martin and Betsy Seidel shut down the streets of Hoquiam so we could race. The local police were recruited to give us our straight-away speeds, learning that radar could be used for the forces of good, not evil. Who can forget the hilarious failure of the "Great Harley Rally"? A predicted caravan of over 5,000 leather vest and wallet chain types turned into the usual handful of racer's moms and pit crew. The only ones dancing to the band were the crowd control crew with no crowd to control.

Personalities

The internal operations of WMRRA involve a series of well defined activities overlaid on a variety of personalities. Mark McGuire, past president and current Executive Board member, is the organized, firm, sometimes cheerful, hard working, businessman who pushed the club through two years of visible growth. Barry Wressel, current president, is likable, approachable, fair, and likely the fastest president the club has had in a while. Aggression on the track, however, has not translated into aggression in the boardroom as troubles in the ranks sometimes fail to be taken up and dealt with. Chris May is the irreverent, slapdash, old timer who is one of the hardest workers on race day. He's grown his way up over a decade's time from the elected position of "Club Asshole" to a well-deserved 2nd VP. His loose operating style works well for those in his favor, but is a hard pill to swallow for those not on the "inside." Brian "The Reverend" Lockhart is the new guru of promotions for 2002. He seems well organized, and like every promotions person before him, is bubbling with enthusiasm and aiming high. John Muir, the treasurer in 2000, and now again for 2002, is exactly what you'd expect a treasurer to be. Precise in his accounts, frugal to a fault, his "penny saved is a penny earned" mentality sometimes struggles with the "spend a dollar to make a dollar" Executive Board. Despite his apparent timidity, he has shown bravery on the track, returning to race after severe injury and being neither too dumb to feel fear, nor frightened enough to quit.

The Challenge

The challenges facing this group of personalities can be daunting. At this time of year the biggest challenge is schedule. Race days at Pacific Raceway, Spokane Raceway Park, and Bremerton Raceway must be balanced with the needs of sprint racing, vintage days, sidecar racing, TT racing, endurance racing, and new racer clinics. Where possible, conflicts must be avoided between WMRRA and the neighboring Oregon Motorcycle Road Racing Association as well as the newly rejuvenated Westwood Club in Canada. Matters like these are all discussed, debated, and voted upon in an organized and constructive manner. The club functions well internally, with a number of positives for this season. Radio advertisement successfully used in 2001 will be supplemented with television in 2002 for only the second time in the club's history as part of the $55,600 promotions budget. Racedays in Seattle, gradually dwindling to four have been increased to seven for the new year. Spokane Raceway Park, which inflicted a severe toll on rider health in 2001, is being forced/guided into considerable safety improvements for 2002. Commercial crash barriers, tested at Spokane in 2001, will be used in certain corners at Seattle as well.

The Problem

The lingering question is, "If the club functions so well, why is there such a strong perception of disorganization from the outside, and who's to blame?" The first part of the question has an easy answer. The club fails in communication. A large percentage of riders don't have any idea what's going on. Racers need to be promptly informed of a number of things. Schedules, rule changes, special events, fees, contingency plans, etc. all need prompt announcement. Without this information, opportunities are missed. WMRRA has 5 basic forms of communication. These are riders meetings, membership meetings, web site ( ), email list, and the newsletter (the Apex). Riders meetings are ineffective because they happen only on race days, too late for any important communication. Membership meetings are vacant. At the December meeting there were less than 20 members who weren't on the Executive Board. It is also exclusionary to a membership that ranges from Alaska, to California, to Montana. The web site has all the needed information (except all the final season points, which still are not up to date), but review the numbers; only 81% of the members have email accounts. Assuming this percentage reflects web access, this leaves close to 100 members disenfranchised. Worse than this, a web site only functions if you look at it. A sudden important announcement may not be seen by over half the members. The email list as communication is a bitter joke. Everything goes out to the list; minutes, rule change proposals, schedule changes, everything. The bitter part is that only 216 members out of 481 subscribe to the list, and some of them may be non-racing street riders. The joke part is that to get the real information, subscribers are subjected to the semi-lucid ranting of has-been racers, would-be tuners, and wanna-be Rossi's. 

The only form of communication that has full coverage of the entire membership is the newsletter. The failure is that the newsletter only came out twice in 2001, early in the year. This failure has had some wide reaching repercussions. Advertisers and sponsors who paid money, expecting space in the Apex, are being placated with $400 worth of advertising in Roadracing World. Racers who won season trophies were never sent season points. Trophies unclaimed by riders who never knew they earned them are being returned for recycling without any written notification. 11,000 schedule cards and 1,300 posters with schedules were distributed at the International Motorcycle Show. One of the days scheduled was then cancelled by Pacific Raceways. Since you are reading this on an ezine, you know, or can find out, which day. Those that aren't reading this will find out about it in the Apex, in March. Maybe.

The Blame

Deciding who's at fault is a difficult game. First Vice President (promotions) for 2001 is the obvious choice, but the problem runs deeper than this. The position of promoter is to advertise, to bring in fans and racers who are new to the sport. The Apex is primarily a vehicle to inform existing racers. In this role, it is the secretary who has the greatest stake in its success. The treasurer, taking money in for advertising and sending out none for printing costs, should have raised a red flag (or at least a waiving yellow). Fourth Vice President, head of registration and scoring, should have complained that racers weren't getting points or pre-entry forms. The fact that one racer continues to send entries scrawled on scraps of soiled and torn notebook paper should have served as a hint. In the end, any failure can be said to be the responsibility of the president. It is his responsibility to reassign a critical task if the original owner cannot complete it.

The Cure

The immediate cure is obvious. Publish a newsletter. The real cure runs deeper. No organization should be at the mercy of one person's failure. The lack of a newsletter is insignificant compared to the consequences of not having insurance, ambulances, or a properly functioning registration crew. What is needed is a detailed review of job descriptions, and a planned architecture of back-ups, should critical tasks fail. Current job descriptions hardly go past three words such as "scoring and registration" or "publicity and promotions". Extensive job descriptions would help identify when things were going wrong. This would also likely increase the ease of finding volunteers, as it is difficult to commit to a job when the full work statement is unknown. Will the Executive Board take this task on? That's hard to say. Monthly meetings are filled with the management of immediate needs with little time for an overall view how the club is operating. Vision tends to be of the next race day, or maybe next season, rather than embarking on the Russian "Five Year Plan". WMRRA is a member run club with both general and executive meetings open to the membership. There is no reason the forces of change cannot come from outside the Executive Board. Like any lasting good, it will need to be the work of many, guided by a single strong voice. SR!


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