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Double Technical Rule for U.S. GP Being Considered

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As the Grand Prix of Netherlands began under generous Dutch sunshine at Valkenswaard near the 700,000 populous of Eindhoven, another development emerged in the rush of build-up to the U.S. Grand Prix, now set to occur in just over a month. It seems that the FIM have proposed to the MSMA (Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association, a coalition of the brands involved in the world championship and represented by a single Japanese figure) that the Glen Helen meeting, round six of the series, could run under both FIM and AMA technical rules. This would involve differentiations in fuel and noise regulations with the GP bikes measured under the 2 meter max rule at 81db from 100m and the AMA’s higher 94-96db ceiling.

It is understood that all the manufacturers have rejected the suggestion, which is due to be submitted on Sunday. The final decision will be made by the Grand Prix Commission involving three parties; FIM, Youthstream and MSMA, with the majority winning through.

The motivation for the idea lies in making the Grand Prix as accessible as possible for any American participants. A naturally healthy inaugural visit for MX1/MX2 to the USA will pave a more concrete path for the remainder of the five-year contract. Youthstream President Giuseppe Luongo has already informed Grand Prix teams that their participation is not obligatory at Glen Helen and indeed the absence of some smaller teams will leave more room in the gate for native entrants. Apart from a vocal rally from KTM, committing their U.S.-based riders to the event, there has not yet been any public confirmation from other top-flight American teams and riders, with the majority engrossed in the final phases of the AMA SX campaign and of course thinking of the first AMA National at Hangtown the weekend before the Grand Prix (and at which some GP riders are making noises about contesting). The Glen Helen entry list will not be compiled until two weeks before the meeting, and never will the contents of the FIM document carry more interest or anticipation.

The advantage of the scheme makes Glen Helen a more attractive competitive proposition for Americans (without added testing) and also increases the fecundity of the spectacle, but on the other hand it is a blow to all of the GP teams and brands who have worked tirelessly to decrease noise but maintain performance under the 2010 rulebook. For some it also puts a question mark over the integrity of the championship framework.

“The U.S. GP is a dream scenario, heaven on earth for any racing fan, and represents a fantastic opportunity to see some of the fastest riders on the same track,” said KTM Off-road Racing Director Pit Beirer. “However, it must be done in the correct way within the world championship regulations. We feel strongly about this. I think the fuel is not so much of an issue and even the main exhaust suppliers are working with European teams, so to provide a change of material is not a major complication. Noise control has been a threat to our sport for some time now and to show that this race will adhere to European rules and lower the limit can even be seen as a positive move. We have put a lot of time and effort into making our bikes fit the world championship rules. It is also an important issue of performance; all the bikes should fit the same guidelines.”

“The views on the Japanese are very strong about this, and I think there will be disappointment if the double rule is allowed; it is unacceptable really,” remarked a manufacturer representative in the paddock, echoing much sentiment. “The performance difference will be noticeable and it is a step in the wrong direction environmentally that the FIM have been pushing so hard for.”

“I think the decision for teams to race comes down to whether they want to do it or not,” added Beirer. “For those based in California and who use Glen Helen or tracks nearby to practice, I cannot believe that running the Grand Prix is not a huge problem of budget.”

From the FIM side, Dr Wolfgang Srb, head of the CMS, commented: “I am waiting for the verdict from MSMA and then we will decide among the Grand Prix commission. I can respect the wishes of both parties; the manufacturers and teams who have worked to meet what we have asked but also the request of the promoter to make this event as easy as possible to run well in the first year. We have to mediate in a delicate matter because we want the best event possible.”

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