The new owners of the premier AMA racing series south of the border promised huge improvements to the superbike and supersport racing regimes in the U.S. After two races, it has to be said that the entertainment value has increased, but it’s been pretty much in the off-track activities.
After the pace car/red flag/scoring fiasco at Daytona, the second round of the series at Fontana, California, has resulted in one rider suspension and several probationary warnings, none of them related to on-track activities. Meanwhile, the hoped-for improved level of competition hasn’t materialized, as Yoshimura Suzuki still has a stranglehold on the superbike podium, with Mat Mladin taking wins both Saturday and Sunday, his team-mate Tommy Hayden close behind.
Even worse, the new "development" series for young riders, in the racing hotbed of Southern California, had a total of eight riders entered. Eight. That’s beyond pathetic.
Honda’s Neil Hodgson, who was well in the superbike mix at Daytona, didn’t show due to being stuck in the hospital with a collapsed lung and reported broken ribs after a motocross accident the previous week. Amusingly, his seat on the Corona Honda CBR100RR went to Jake Holden, who at the start of the season was bumped to make way for Hodgson and at last report had been suing the team.
In the first superbike race, Geoff May on one of the Jordan Suzukis got third, while in the second contest Larry Pegram took the last podium spot on his Ducati, despite suffering the effects of a big high-side crash on Saturday.
The Yamaha R1s of Josh Hayes and Ben Bostrom have yet to display the strength of the World Superbike versions, Hayes taking a fifth and sixth, Bostom collecting seventh and fifth.
In the Pro Daytona Sport Bike class (the oddball handicap mélange that replaced the popular 600 Supersport category), Danny Eslick and his Buell showed that their Daytona speed was no fluke, taking both races. On Saturday he won by a mile, ahead by more than six seconds and backing off the last couple of laps to take a 2.5 second win over Jamie Hacking’s Attack Kawasaki. Martin Cardenas on the M4 Suzuki GSX-R600 took third.
On Sunday, Eslick squeezed out a tenth of a second victory over Hacking again, with Jason DiSalvo third on the other M4 Suzuki. This set up the comedy for the weekend, as Hacking and DiSalvo got into a war of words in the post-race press conference that ended up with Hacking storming out after reportedly expressing his opinion of DiSalvo in rather colourful language. This led to the following press release from the AMA:
"AMA Pro Road Racing rider Jamie Hacking has been suspended indefinitely following this weekend’s event at Auto Club Speedway for conduct detrimental to the sport of professional motorcycle racing. ‘No premier sporting organization would tolerate, whether it be motorsports or major league stick and ball sports, the level of disrespectful, profane and vulgar language in a public forum as demonstrated by Jamie Hacking this weekend at Auto Club Speedway,’ said AMA Pro Road Racing Managing Event Director Colin Fraser. ‘His behavior was totally disrespectful to the media, his competitors and the sport of motorcycle racing in general.’
"Hacking will be considered for reinstatement pending payment of a $4,000 fine and delivery of a public apology to AMA Pro Road Racing officials. Subsequent to payment of the fine and receipt of an apology acceptable to AMA Pro Road Racing, Hacking will also be suspended for one full event weekend.
"All fines paid to AMA Pro Road Racing will be donated to Camp Boggy Creek, a Paul Newman Hole in the Wall Camp located in Eustis, Florida, and the Roadracing World Action Fund."
To add to the silliness, "AMA Pro Road Racing also placed riders Michael Beck, Kevin Boisvert, Mat Mladin, Mark Simon and Dustin O’Hara on probation due to failure to participate in Sunday’s mandatory autograph session."
With Hacking out for at least one race and Roger Lee Hayden still Missing in Action (lots of rumours here), you’d be forgiven for wondering about the mood at Attack Kawasaki, not to mention at Kawasaki U.S.
So far, Daytona Motorsports Group hasn’t delivered much in the way of improved competition, but the organizational and off-track burlesque is absolutely Simpson-esque. At least you can watch the Simpsons on TV; not a chance with the non-existent AMA TV package this year unless you want to wait a couple of weeks for an 11 p.m. Saturday night slot.