This week Yamaha announced a scale-back of their factory racing efforts in North America, specifically, for AMA Supercross, AMA Motocross, and AMA Road Racing. Yamaha partners, or “satellite teams” in racing vernacular, will carry forward Yamaha’s racing efforts in these areas.
For AMA Supercross and AMA Motocross, L&M Racing will carry the Yamaha torch along with other satellite teams (think Mach3 or Yamaha of Troy or the like). This makes sense; Yamaha’s factory team this year was a bust, whilst James Stewart for L&M won the 450 Supercross title. Satellite teams with factory support have proven to be extremely competitive in these series and in fact have won quite their fair share of titles.
Not so in AMA Road Racing. Satellite teams in AMA may have varying degrees of success, but the factory teams have historically pretty much ruled the roost in AMA Superbike, for example.
Last year, when it was announced by the AMA that the Daytona Motorsports Group was going to destroy AMA road racing once and for all, Honda followed with an announcement of their own, stating a new plan wherein Honda would no longer have a factory team, but instead would let the satellite team Corona Honda carry the Honda torch.
Gee, this sounds an awful lot like Yamaha’s announcement this week that Graves Yamaha will be the primary Yamaha road racing team in North America. In fact, you could almost accomplish this press release with a little bit of simple find-and-replace word substitution (Honda->Yamaha, Corona->Graves).
Where does this lead? Well, in Honda’s case, one year later they announced that they were pulling out of AMA Road Racing indefinitely, because the DMG has screwed up AMA Road Racing so badly. Of course, this is my interpretation; here’s exactly what Honda said: “Regrettably the current AMA/DMG racing environment does not align with our company goals.”
In other words, “NASBike is not really what we had in mind.”
It isn’t like Honda doesn’t know how to win in road racing. It was just a few years ago that Nicky Hayden won the MotoGP title for Repsol Honda, and a handful of AMA titles before that. Even more recently, James Toseland took the World Superbike title for Ten Kate Honda. When they pulled out, Honda was very competitive in AMA Road Racing also. This isn’t Kawasaki we’re talking about here.
The move to from full factory effort to pure satellite support was prompted by DMG’s promise to ruin AMA Road Racing. After a one-year trial, that immediately led to them pulling out of AMA Road Racing altogether. It is important to note that they are still fully involved in World Superbike and MotoGP. It isn’t that they don’t believe in road racing; they don’t believe in NASBike.
Now it appears Yamaha is on a similar path. Eerily similar, in fact. Their AMA effort was beyond competitive — some might say “dominant” — toward the end of the season this year. And of course, Yamaha took the World Superbike, World Supersport, and MotoGP titles this year. Yet they are pulling back in almost the exact same way Honda did last year.
Fast forward one year, and I will be completely not surprised to hear that Yamaha, too, is pulling out of AMA Road Racing. In fact, I’ll be surprised if it takes that long.
So, with Honda gone, Yamaha on their way out, who is left? Not Buell, the American make that the whole messed up class structure was presumably created for, since Harley-Davidson has announced the discontinuation of that make. Ducati, incredibly strong in both World Superbike and MotoGP, has hardly any presence in AMA Road Racing. And now that Mat Mladin has retired, you have to wonder how much longer NASBike can last.
Will DMG finally realize their stupidity and repent of their grievous sin? Or are they too proud to change, and instead they will continue to drive AMA Road Racing into oblivion? Perhaps I should have more faith, but I’m a realist, not an optimist. If I were you, I wouldn’t buy my tickets too far in advance, if you buy them at all.