What makes a road racer?

  So a friend and I was talking the other day…. He’s a dirt racer, drives a modified sprint car and does well in his series. The topic of racing comes up and he asks me about the road racing I’m trying to get involved in.
   I told him some clubs only race at one tracks but most have a schedule that takes them to different tracks, some in different states. I explained about the CMRA and how they have about 6 tracks they race at with most around Texas. Then he asked how many races we do and how much money could you win racing sport bikes at the club level. I told him we did about 9 or 10 races a year but there wasn’t a lot of return cash wise at the club level. I talked about contingencies and how some of the classes were sponsored but the prizes were small would never come close to what a racer would spend running a full season… He actually laughed out loud and said that’s crazy.” You go all over the place and don’t get hardly any real cash for winning?” That’s nuts!” I wouldn’t waste my time with that!” He capped that off with a comment about how if he could not have a chance to recoup his investment he wouldn’t be racing….

    I tried to tell him that even in sprint racing that not everyone was bringing in enough winnings to covers their expenses but he replied that at least the possible purses available were large enough to make it worthwhile. We continued on like this for a while longer but seeing no agreement in sight I changed the subject… I’m not the best person to be selling the merits of bike racing. Heck I am only a really rookie “rookie” and still don’t understand myself all the nuances of the club and the sport.

   Later on though I thought about his comments and maybe I guess I could agree with some of his sentiments but I think he misses the point of racing. At least as I feel what racing is about.  

   I as a parent supported my youngest son David in his dreams to become a Olympic gymnast. Though the chances were very slim He was motivated and he had some talent. We went to great lengths to give him every chance and opportunity to fulfill his goals. A lot of money and time was spent over a number of years pursuing his dream and if we had stopped and just broke it down to dollar spent vs. dollar return we would never had gone very far. Not being wealthy we struggled a bit to provide all that was needed in the quest. And we never questioned the validity of the endeavor.
   In the end Dave did not get on the men’s national team but he did get a good education out of it, made contacts and lifelong friends in the process and now is the coach of a successful club. Sometimes dreams don’t always come out the way you anticipate. My son still trains hoping to get a break and has never let go of his dreams. My wife and I as well as the rest of the family have learned a lot about ourselves and what it takes to be a champion through our son’s efforts.
   My friend I fear is very short sighted. I know he is talented and he may become successful in his racing but I don’t think he has what I feel are championship qualities.

  I may be mistaken but after talking to many in the sport of club road racing there seems to be distinct attitude among those in the sport at this level. I see a desire to win races or at least to find where each others highest personal performance lies. Rarely do I hear the riders talk about becoming paid pro’s… sure it’s a subject when there is a really talented youngster is involved. Young men always envision being the next Rossi or Kevin Schwantz! But the ranks of club racing are filled with many more participants who are only here because no where else can they fill the need for that special thrill of rocketing down a straightaway and then carving through some curves than on a racetrack. Mostly the talk in between sessions is about the ride and the racing. The banter on the forums concerning machine upgrades and equipment purchases are hardly ever discussed in a way that is focused on gaining a monetary return but rather on how they are going to gain that extra tenth of a second off their last lap time.
   I find that champions are less concerned on the business side of racing than concentrating on the skills to make them better racers. That being said I wonder if maybe in other forms of Motorsports there is a broad difference from the way motorcycle racers feel and approach the sport. Has the passion and desire to be the fastest and most skilled driver become less important to those four wheel competitors?  Has high profile sponsorship and advertising created a “win for the money” mentality that preempts a quest for finding where the driver’s limits lie?

   I don’t know but for sure but across motorcycling, it seems that individuality and personal competition are hallmarks of the sport and when I talk to many of the racers in club racing I sense companionship in the paddock and a desire to help fellow competitors that I don’t feel as strongly when walking through a local dirt circle track. I have attended many dirt races over the years and I know the drivers are very aggressive in competition but is it a desire to win for winnings sake or is it for the quest for money…or both?
   So the question that comes to my mind when I think of my friends comments is this … are motorcycle road racers a different breed? I really don’t know but I feel it’s so and I know one thing for sure….there’s nowhere else where you are guaranteed to spend all your money, all of your spare time and most likely get nothing in return. But most always end the day with a beer in your hand and a smile of your face…  that’s a pretty good trade off I think!

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