Friday, June 22, 2007

AMA: Team Ball of Fire

Motostrano has been sponsoring pro Supermoto riders since the re-birth of Supermoto in the USA 5 years ago. Back in 2003, I can distinctly recall what a boot strap effort it was, working with Vertemati and our star rider Leo "Pucho" Bagnis who was always in the top five and got on the podium in Columbus. No sponsors, no high end trailer, we paid our way to the podium with dollars and lots of hard work. It got just a little easier as the years accrued. We've had the opportunity to work with some great names, including World Champion Gerald Delepine (on Pole at Irwindale and damn fast in Vegas), Johnny Murphree, Travis Marks (always in the top ten) and now the crew of Cary Hart. In those times, Motostrano camped under its own tent, worked out of a pick-up and trailer (a luxury item), brought in all the gear, the bikes and the riders. One of our motto's has always been that we race what we sell.

We've always kind of been one of the underdog teams in AMA Supermoto too. We've never had any factory or any other big sponsorship and we've pretty much had to pay our own way for everything. We'll hook up often last minute with a wild card rider that will sneak up on all the fast guys and wind up on the podium. Max Gazzaratta was a great example of this, causing plenty of "Who the F*%K was that" comments on the track while being passed by Max. We've had a few podiums in our past and we've always been in the top ten in team points and often top five.

This year, all the elements of the universe alligned in just the right way to build a larger-than-that team effort. Motostrano's name positioned strategically with some big names from the MX world: Cary Hart, Rockstar Energy Drink, Tyler Evans. Good stuff when you're a small little retail store. Motostrano plunked down some heavy cash for the team. We drew in some heavy sponsorship too in the way of Supermoto wheels supplied by Alpina, the maker of the trickest tubeless spoked wheels around; and brakes from our partners at Moto-Master. Bikes were lined up, tires from Dunlop and all the rest of the stuff (sliders and catch cans from Supermoto Engineering) that goes into creating a mobile race set-up ready to conquer the world.

Once you get involved with some big time names- dudes that are used to the jetset mx lifestyle of big sponsorship, supercross and the 'action sports' business, it's not all peaches and cream, that's all I can say. Just two races into it, it seems to me that "The Show" can often overshadow the competitive aspect of things and suddenly the low-budget rider effort, that lone guy with his girlfriend helping out, camped out at the far end of the pits with no logo on his canopy, no stickers on his bike, his bike propped up on a center stand with a grungy old gas can standing next to it, next to an old Toyota truck, looks really appealing. And that guy is a hell of a lot more appreciative if you give him a discount on some brake pads or a tire groover, so he can have a slightly better chance of keeping up with the fast guys.

Don't get me wrong, it's really cool to see all the attention the Rockstar camp gets in the pits from fans and to have our name "associated" with that gives a certain sense of satisfaction, if there is an association.

Well, our big plans for 2007 literally seemed to have burned up in a great ball of fire on I-15 this year. As I read the news story forwarded to me from John Tai Wednesday morning, it took a few minutes for the info to really sink in, before I realized that the article was telling me that all 8 fully modified race motorcycles, 8 sets of Alpina Supermoto wheels, a gob load of slicks, tire warmers, wheel stands, riding gear, canopies, bike stands, tire groovers and all the rest of the items that go into a race rig just disappeared off the face of the planet.

You feel a little cheated at first, almost like having your stuff stolen by some a$$hole out of your van. Suddenly that big presence at the track, the marketing machine of parts and photos and logos, just went away.

In a true display of how generous and thoughtful a lot of people involved in US Supermoto are - there was no shortage of offers to help out with gear and parts to help get the team back on track. This I think is also a sign of how well Cary Hart and the rest of the team are thought of in the pits.

As I look at it all a few days later, I'm thinking this is really a kind of cleansing phenomenon. No one was hurt. Back up bikes have been arranged, spare parts have been borrowed. Perhaps this will bring the team back to a more grass-roots energy that is really so much more appealing than the high end rockstar approach, to me at least. The show... or... The Race, will go on.

We'll see.

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