It’s the Economy Stupid
by Fred "900" Guidi
It is no secret that the cost of racing has gotten a whole lot more expensive this season. At no other time has there been such a spike in race related costs. There are suddenly, “no close” tracks anymore, and one must decide to forego other expenses to just make it to the course. Many have cut back, and the regional and national attendance numbers reflect this reality. And it is not just AHRMA, it’s everyone. “Practice Day” numbers are much lower, due to riders not being able to afford making it to the track during the week, and then again on Sunday. Modern events are down sharply, as well, and some folks who ride three classes, are now riding only one. At the modern nationals, attendance has dropped off a cliff. The combination of gas, the escalating gate fees, and the lack of competition, have forced the NPG to regroup. In 2009, these folks will see night races, and a possible one moto format.
I will admit that the Mid-Atlantic was caught a bit off guard, along with everyone else. Just as our expanded 2008 schedule was set in stone, gas prices skyrocketed! Regionally our attendance is down about 35%! And from what I am told this is about what everyone else is experiencing. Nationally, some events like Mid-Ohio were up, while others dipped. I don’t think that the decline can be all blamed on gas. I think that there are just too many national events. This has not only hurt the regional attendance, but one would have to be independently wealthy to make the national tour. So what s on the burner for 2009?
For starters there will be a reduced regional schedule in the North Atlantic. We will reduce the number of events and we will do a better job positioning these events in areas where the greatest number of riders reside. In addition, scheduling some of the races with other groups like the ACR, will make turn outs more appealing to the promoter. An experiment that we tried this season was to schedule multiple events in a single weekend. For example we scheduled 2 day events at Budds Creek, and Summersville. In 2009, we are working with a resort that sits next door to our Summersville race, to offer a “Racer’s Package”. This all inclusive vacation which will include a Cabin for the week, along with swimming, horseback riding, white water rafting, and oh, Cross Country, Motocross, and daily practice sessions. If we can make this an inexpensive family vacation, we may have hit pay dirt.
Nationally, I am pushing Alex for a much reduced schedule. I think that a better thought out program would boost attendance in the regions, and give back some of the luster that it seems the Nats have lost. In my opinion 14 is a good number. I would like to see another Premier Event like Mid-Ohio, with Barber being the logical location, but to do this, the much talked about MX facility will need to be completed. And speaking of Barber, the fiasco regarding the cancelation of the PV event, is unacceptable. We need to do a better job of having contingency plans in place when these types of things occur.
Overall we are in for some changes over the next year. With insurance and ambulance costs heading upwards, along with the prices for awards and fuel for tractors, we are all going to have to make some adjustments. I am looking at this as an opportunity to pack more riding time into our events, and hope that anyone with suggestions will step up.
As always I thank the volunteers who come out each race day to work events, even when they themselves are not riding! Without these folks, there is no Vintage racing in the US! Thank you folks!
See you at the Gate!