Rick Doughty's Top Ten
A Clean Sheet of Paper
A clean sheet of paper can represent a new opportunity or a weighty burden depending on your perspective and your awareness of the responsibility that lies before you.
A clean sheet of paper is fresh start but it is also a true test of the person brave enough to fill in the void with their ideas, thoughts and convictions. Kind of a “live by the pen, die by the pen” scenario.
What if your grand plan doesn't measure up? What if the intangibles that you failed to consider end up haunting you as much as the creator you seek to correct? The quicksand of criticism has no regard for original intent; only the reality of the outcome and Lord knows the world is overstocked with critics.
So what the hell does any of this heady stuff have to do with vintage motocross? Well if you live within the great US of A, the answer is plenty. The vintage motocross scene in the US is at a crossroads with the once mighty AHRMA brought to its knees by bankruptcy.
The details of which are significant and insignificant all at the same time. The crazy ego driven vendetta that created the reality that AHRMA now faces is significant and real but the result is not.
The woeful lack of common sense leadership may be to blame for the current situation but the inevitable outcome was for lack of a better term, inevitable.
What the hell am I talking about? The Evolution Revolution, my brother. It was bound to occur, regardless of the arrogant efforts to put it off by the old guard.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then what is vintage is in the age of the participant. What a 60-year-old enthusiast finds interesting is more than likely not going to turn the crank of some guy in his 40's. A rider in his 30's that is no longer at home with the modern scene should find a new comfort zone in vintage racing but his nostalgic tendencies will not lean toward a 1973 Elsinore. No. It will be more about bikes from 20 years earlier, which is the late 80's my people. The late 80's? Vintage? Hell no. I say hell yes!
What is considered vintage is based on time and time is like a river that continues to roll uncontrollably downstream. You either accept that and enjoy the ride or get left behind to tread water in your own ignorance and as we all know you can't tread water forever.
As a AHRMA trustee back in the mid-90's I did my level best to get the “old guard” to look at the bigger picture and even mapped out the class structure that they are using to this day but back the I was labeled a heretic and black balled by the “Old boys Club”.
AHRMA may have reluctantly relented to allowing later model bikes to compete (now claiming it was their original idea) but they have yet to embrace the concept of an evolving sense of what “vintage” is for the years ahead. They have no road map for the future or guiding principle of implementation and that does not bode well for them as an organization. The sport of vintage racing however is bigger than any one person, any group or any organization. The sport will continue to define itself and make its needs evident. Smart organizations will meet those needs instead of trying to mold them into something that meets their personal agenda. Will the current leadership of AHRMA meet those needs? Time will tell. Their track record is not one of progressive thinking but sometimes folks learn from their mistakes. Will AHRMA?
So what if you had a clean sheet of paper and could re-create vintage racing from the ground up? What would it look like? How would it work? Most importantly, how would it evolve?
This question has rattled around the vacuum that exists between my ears for years and here are my two Top Ten list of changes:
- I may look at this ass backwards but I think we need to establish that “vintage” is also a synonym for obsolescence. Obsolescence occurs at different times in the different disciplines of racing but evolving technology is the driving force behind obsolescence. Motocross technology moves at a very rapid rate and ten years is becoming the widely accepted dividing line between current and non-current (read obsolete) machines. So we have a starting point to work backwards from. My first class is therefore the Decade class for bikes 10 years old and older. The Decade class would start at 1998 with this coming year but where does it go back to? In my utopian world it would be 1990 but that would change in the future, as the Decade bikes would become part of a newer era.
- The next thing I would do would be to take a solemn vow not to use stupid, non-sensical class name that have no meaning to racers or spectators. Instead I would recognize the different era and break them down into sub-categories that were numbered. Somewhat like the FIM's MX 1 and MX 2 class designations. For example the next class in line would be the Evo 4 class that would span 1989 back to the last drum brake models. Disc brakes made as big a change in motocross as long travel suspension and therefore it creates a clear dividing line.
- Next would be Evo 3 or any bikes with drum brakes front and rear.
- Evo 2 is the “original recipe Evolution class” and is the air cooled, drum brake and no link class. The fact is you can simplify it as the no link class with only a few exceptions like the '81 YZ 125.
- Evo 1 is the Pre-78 class that is the early generation of long travel bikes. Basically vintage bikes with long legs.
- Vintage 3 would be Pre-75 machines.
- Vintage 2 would be 69-72 bikes as none of them are competitive with the Elsinores and other '74 models.
- Last but not least would be the earliest days of motocross in America. Vintage 1 would be everything up to 1968. No pre-units, movie premiers or fantastic classic classes. Just motocross the way it was back then. Run what you brung.
Does this formula work around the world? Nope. Europe had a different history than we here in the Colonies and they should do what works for them. So did Australia, Japan and many other regions around the world and they should create something that works with their rich history just like we should do here in the US…
- On a regional level (Nationals are a different ball of wax) I would allow the coordinator and promoter to work together to run whatever support classes they need to make the events profitable enough that the promoter will want to continue to support vintage racing. I honestly don't care who is on the track when I am not on it. Run whatever works in that region. That would include a kid's class and a modern bike class. What better way to indoctrinate these two groups into the vintage-racing fold? It is a proven fact that exposure to our sport is the most effective means of creating new participants. Notice I didn't say members?
- I would also change the rider ability levels to Sportsman for the Novice and slower half of the Intermediate riders and Masters class for the quicker intermediates and Experts.
These changes would increase the number of people on the gate but it would also cut down the number of classes and allow for two full motos and an overall shorter day.
More major changes
The other major changes I would make would center on removing the obstacles that may prevent participation.
- I would not require AHRMA membership at a regional event. Let prospective members “test ride” vintage racing before they decide to join.
- I would do away with the mandatory pre-entry at all Nationals.
- I would do away with the “one class maximum for post entry at all Nationals.
- I would make the trustee terms only two years instead of three and I would put a two-term limit on trustees before they had to stand down for two years. No more “permanent trustees.” Any one that had served two or more terms would need to step aside for two years and let some new blood take a shot. At this stage that would include the vast majority of the board of trustees. Sorry guys…
- I would put the sponsorship of the various series out to bid instead of doing “sweet heart” deals with trustees for a fraction of what could be generated.
- I would reduce the National series to three events. One in the east, one in the west and one in the middle of the country. This would increase the importance of the regionals and in turn increase participation of those events. It would also get the Nationals back to racing rather than proof of who can most afford to run around the country.
- I would get rid of tech inspection and leave the monitoring up to the competitors. If someone is running a bike that does not conform to the rules, there should be a simple protest form that a competitor in the same class could fill out and let the referee take up the matter. Why make 400 guys stand in a tech line because 10 guys can't conform to the rules?
- I would have a short list of do's and don't for the promoters of a National event that pertained to the design, layout and prep. If they didn't comply, they simply wouldn't have a National the following year. If a promoter doesn't want to make the effort to modify his circuit for a vintage National, then he obviously doesn't care about the participants enough to have the event.
- I wouldn't run any classic only, vintage only or evo only Nationals. The group that races together, stays together. Plus you increase the chance of “cross pollination.” A guy who only sees Evo bikes will more than likely only ride Evo bikes. If you expose that rider to the earlier generation of motocross bikes he just might find something that interests him enough to get involved in the vintage scene, thus you have created a new participant without having to find a new person.
- Lastly, I would put together a marketing team that would not only do a great job of covering every National (all three of them) in a timely manner but they would also be charged with the task of going to media outside of the vintage realm to create stories, interest and participation within the motorcycling community. You would be surprised how many people don't know a thing about AHRMA and vintage racing.
Don't get me wrong; I don't think vintage racing is headed for ruin without the implementation of my suggestions. I actually think vintage racing in America is good but I can't help thinking how much better could it be?