Oh man, here we go.
Oh man, here we go.
Should the 2-Stroke Displacement Eligibility be raised in AMA Pro Racing?
Swizcore- I stopped by the local do-it-yourself home center today. I was drawn there by a sale they were having on lightning rods and I picked up and industrial sized model. The description on it read, “Should the 2-Stroke Displacement Eligibility be raised in AMA Pro Racing?”
We’re all well versed in the tale of the OEM’s getting savvy and exploiting a short-sighted rule from the AMA Rule Book which stated clearly under “Engine Displacements”:
125 Motocross Class: 0 – 125cc 2-Stroke / 150 – 250cc 4-Stroke
250 Motocross Class: 150 – 250cc 2-Stroke/ 251 – 550cc 4-Stroke
You can’t blame the OEM’s for seeking a competitive advantage. It’s why they are in business, to win races and ultimately increase market share based on the public perception that they too can excel on their brand. It was the perfect storm of a poorly tended to rulebook, stale 2-stroke engine advances, and engineer’s drooling, googly-eyed at the prospect of a whole new technology to tune for MX and SX.
Is the AMA at fault for the demise of the 2-Stroke? Not intentionally but the argument can be made that a pro-active approach to the future of racing could have seen this coming and tended to a rule change before the future of racing was altered monumentally, for the foreseeable future.
So here we find ourselves more than 10 years after Yamaha took that bold first step toward a purpose-built 4-Stroke machine. A machine which quickly evolved and showed so many benefits that the other OEM’s were all but forced to follow suit, lest they be playing catch up in a sport that waits for no one.
The AMA Rulebook now reads that the maximum displacement for a 4-Stroke machine is 450cc’s, a change made shortly after the industry-wide shift to 4-Strokes was clearly becoming the standard. Why, after over 10 years has the displacement rule for 2-Strokes not been amended? As the rulebook stands they might as well make 2-Strokes ineligible because at nearly half the displacement of their 4-Stroke replacements, that’s essentially what they’ve done anyway. Even if the OEM’s were still developing and advancing 2-Strokes today, half the displacement is just too much of a deficit to even consider.
The 2-Stroke faithful are VERY passionate, some would say they only remove their tin-foil hats to put on a helmet and ride their premix burning bikes. Many times they come across kooky fanatics but in this case, they could not be more correct.
It is time, long overdue actually that the sanctioning bodies of pro MX and SX increase the eligible displacement in racing to make them viable again. The field needs to be level for both smokers and thumpers to coexist, not assimilate the other.
If the goal of racing truly is to sell machines to the enthusiasts, the OEM’s would be ignorant to move forward in tunnel vision fashion in this economy where recreational commodities are becoming harder and harder to rationalize.
Matthes- You start with a basic premise of the customer is always right and work back from there. Yes, the AMA was incredibly short-sighted in making the cc rule so much bigger for four-strokes and yes, the switch to unleaded gas in pro racing further killed the two-stroke advantage and yes, that was the AMA who made those rules. The glacial movement of the folks in Pickerington, Ohio caused all of us to go out and buy/race four-strokes because our buddy Pauly was smoking our ass at Chicken Licks Raceway on his new thumper.
And while Swizzle’s quest to up the displacement on two-strokes for pro racing is a noble one, it’s full of flaws and can’t work. Much like you can’t get toothpaste back into the tube once you’re done eating it, you can’t go back now, years later and allow the two-strokes back into the class.
That ship has sailed folks and thanks to the AMA and Yamaha’s forward thinking, we’ve gone down a path of valves and cams. We all know that if you have a comparison of cc vs cc, the four-strokes come up lacking. A 250 two-stroke will, on most tracks and with most riders of the same skill set, beat up on a 250 four-stroke. This is why the cc limit on thumpers was increased back when the rule was written.
When you have a racing series, the manufactures who dump incredible amounts of money into helping you have a show are very important. And these OEM’s have either cut back on development on two-strokes (Yamaha) or cut them out all together and no longer sell them (Kawasaki, Suzuki and Honda). Only KTM (a company so flush with funds and so aggressive that they made a 350 four-stroke from scratch and tried to race it) is actively dumping money into their two-stroke line of bikes. In these times, with such a small number of bikes being sold, you have to at some point give the consumer what they want.
And oh boy, in the early-2000’s we all wanted four-strokes! I was working at Yamaha and KTM back then and both sales managers for those OEM’s were talking about how the four-strokes were outselling two-strokes two or three to one. There were two-strokes on saleroom floors everywhere you looked! And why not, all the magazines were practically frothing at the mouth telling you to buy one, the top racers were all switching to them and winning and on top of that, you could ride it around your local track, leave it in one gear and clear that nasty double that had been giving you so much trouble. It was the perfect lazy man’s bike and being the society that we are, we loved taking the easy way out!
The OEM’s soon gave the people what they wanted and that was more four-strokes! A 250cc thumper? Done! A 520 and a 450? Done! A 150cc bike for the kiddies? Done! The bottom line is the OEM’s gave us what our dollars were asking for. And yes, it was at the expense of freeing up assembly lines and cutting models that were not selling. Bye bye all you reed cages, it was nice knowing you.
So Swizzle asking that the cc limit be raised is simply not fair to the OEM’s that are not making two-strokes anymore. They are your partners in racing and to start cranking out two-strokes when all their sales numbers say to not do it in this economy, well that’s just not cool. Don’t blame them, they gave us what we wanted.
Swizzle- Two things. First, the customer always being right is hogwash, we all know it. It’s a cliche’ sales term from decades ago that no longer applies. The customer may have an idea of what they want but in the end, they are forced to choose based on what is made available to them. When the choices are a 2-Stroke with bold new graphics, or a shiny new, dripping with innovation and millions in marketing telling them how amazing it is, 4-Stroke; the choice is all but made up for us. Especially in a sport such as moto where the latest and greatest technology is always primed to be snatched up by everyone in an effort to get that leg up on the competition. Of course if that new technology is smoke and mirrors it won’t work but the 4-Stroke was legit. In many ways better than 2-Strokes but it was so shiny and new and we were so infatuated with them that we, as customers, didn’t break our drooling gaze at them to even consider the long-term ramifications of abandoning the 2-Stroke. You see, the OEM’s done good. They saw the benefits of the new innovations, anticipated the spike in profit from the more expensive 4-Stroke, and that was that.
Secondly, the AMA and OEM’s made this bed together, not through collusion but rather a neglected rule book and a disinterest in possibilities with future 2-Stroke engine technology. We as customers didn’t really have a choice, it was made for us with the neglecting of 2-Stroke R&D, marketing telling us the 4-Strokes benefits AND the 4-Stroke really being a better bike for us, the masses. We are not elite pro level racers who train on the daily. The majority of us benefit from the 4-Stroke which allows us to be less fit and make more mistakes with less fatigue. 2-Strokes require more skill and less mistakes to ride fast and both of those traits are what separate the Pro-Elite racers from us, the schlubs at Chicken-licks raceway.
I feel like we’re getting off-point here. This isn’t about 2-Stroke OR 4-Stroke. It’s about giving the 2-Stroke a possible life again by doing the SENSIBLE thing and getting the displacement ratio back in line with being at least comparable. If 2-Strokes really were at the pinnacle of development when the neglecting began, then a racer *should* be able to install a big bore(leveling the displacement ratio) and have a fighting chance at being competitive. No one is asking the OEM’s to abandon the 4-Strokes now. Let racers make use of aftermarket suppliers to find the edge. That’s all that needs to happen. Level out the displacement game so the racers TRULY have a choice of what to ride because the choice of a 250cc 2-Stroke and a 450cc 4-Stroke isn’t a choice it all, it’s a freaking joke!
Matthes- You’re right, I did go off topic a little bit there but I wanted to give out the history as to why we’re at where we are at right now. Which is no two-strokes. But I did touch on my point to your point and that is the OEM’s are somewhat partners in this racing business. You just can’t change the rules to allow bikes that may (I say may because we don’t know what a 200cc two-stroke could do against a 250 thumper) be better than the competition.
If you’re Honda, Kawasaki or Suzuki and you’ve (rightfully) discontinued production on the two-strokes and all of a sudden people are showing up on bored out KTM’s or Yamaha’s and winning races, you’re pretty pissed. After all the building of a motorcycle by a giant OEM is years in the planning. I know if I was Mr. Honda, I’d be pretty pissed that I commit millions of dollars to your series in the form of teams and riders and now you change the rules to favor a bike that I (again rightfully based on sales numbers and consumer buzz) discontinued. I’d wonder why I want to race said series as a matter of fact.
And if you want to see proof that this would happen, check out the American road racing scene after DMG took it over from AMA Pro, changed a bunch of rules (whether the rules were good or not isn’t the debate- it’s the fact that they were suddenly changed and left some OEM’s hanging) and the OEM’s promptly went “See ya!” and pulled out of racing. And the series is still hanging on by a thread.
I like the technology we’re seeing on the four-strokes and let’s not forget, the advancement of two-strokes had long ground to a halt before the first Honda four-stroke hit the floor. I suppose we’d see aluminum frames here and there and maybe some FI but really, the bikes had grown so good, they weren’t advancing much.
Your idea is noble if someone at the AMA back in the day had the foresight to try and make the two bikes competitive against one another but it’s too late now I’m afraid. Unless you want to show up at Anaheim and see two OEM’s battling each other.