Sunday, December 2, 2012

What will happen to TTXGP in 2013 because AMA Pro Racing is not returning

In late October, the Sonoma Raceway (previously known as Sears Point and Infineon Raceway) announced: "The raceway in Sonoma will not host an AMA Pro Racing event during the 2013 motor-racing season, track officials announced today." That event has been the umbrella event within which each TTXGP North America season began. This will mean the 2013 TTXGP season calendar will not begin with an event at the Sonoma Raceway. We won't know the precise effect until the TTXGP announces their calendar, however.

Michael Hannas (Electric Race Bikes)
about to be passed by Kenyon Kluge (K Squared Racing)
during practice at the 2010 TTXGP at Infineon Raeway
The TTXGP race events have always been in conjunction with other race events. In the case of the Infineon race each season (Infineon Raceway being the name of the track at that time), it was the weekend of the AMA Pro Racing event. The TTXGP events themselves are not enough to support the cost of operating a race weekend. As I write below, the TTXGP cannot at this time host its own events and relies on other organizations to do so.

The announcement from the Sonoma Raceway says that "AMA Pro Road Racing has been featured on the raceway calendar every year since 1993," and that track management believe "that current conditions within the motorcycle industry and the economy at large did not provide the necessary confidence to promote a financially viable event in 2013."

“This facility has a long tradition of professional motorcycle racing and this was a very difficult decision. It’s particularly disappointing because the competition over the last few years has been outstanding and we’re sorry we won’t be able to bring this show back for our fans," said Steve Page, president and general manager of the raceway.

As an example of the outstanding competition, at the 2012 event Michael Barnes (who rides for Lightning Motorcycles in the TTXGP) was riding in the Harley race and took an amazing win that he had been working for years to achieve. He was hot on the heels of the lead bike all through the race, until the last corner of the last lap when he heard the transmission slip on the lead bike letting Barnes zoom past at the last minute to snatch first place. I was in the press room trying to write my TTXGP race report, but could not because the Harley race was so interesting.

In 2009 the sole TTXGP event in North America was held at the Mid-Ohio Racetrack in conjunction with the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days event in late July. In 2010 the TTXGP events were held in conjunction with AMA race weekends at several tracks, and in conjunction with the Canadian equivalent when the TTXGP came to Mosport near Toronto.

In the 2011 and 2012 seasons the situation changed a bit. In each year the first race was at the Sonoma Raceway (at that time, Infineon Raceway) in conjunction with the AMA Pro Racing weekend. The other races were held in conjunction with Club Racing events, or else in conjunction with the FIM e-Power series. For example the June 2012 TTXGP event was held during an OMRRA Club Racing weekend at Portland International Raceway (PIR).

The three races held at Laguna Seca during the MotoGP weekend (2010, 2011 and 2012) were all sponsored by the FIM e-Power series. The first year that occurred, 2010, was solely a FIM e-Power event. The second two years, 2011 and 2012, were joint events run jointly between e-Power and the TTXGP. There is an AMA race on the same weekend, but the presence of the AMA is separate from the presence of the TTXGP at that event. The entire event is organized and managed by Dorna, the company which organizes the whole MotoGP season. The arrangements under which I attended each of those races was made through FIM and Dorna.

The result is that because the TTXGP is not a big enough deal, on its own, to host its own race events, its' ability to host a race is subject to the whims of other organizations. The AMA and Sonoma Raceway probably didn't even consider the impact on the TTXGP from canceling the AMA Pro Racing event at Sonoma.

The TTXGP is doing fantastic fabulous things. There has been a tremendous movement in electric motorcycle technology since 2009, and I think it's correct to say the TTXGP played a large role in those improvements. But this did not result in throngs of fans coming to see the races. What pays for the race venues is those throngs of fans buying tickets, and more importantly the sponsors seeing an opportunity to put their brands in front of throngs of fans. Until the TTXGP fans are found the series is going to continue struggling to put on races.

AMA Will Not Return to Sonoma in 2013

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