Ask anyone that is in the know, and you will be told that the only thing better than sex is the smell of two-stroke race gas. For as long as bikes have been going fast around a racetrack, there's the smell of burned race fuel out there that brings out the savage in many a man, both young and old. If you've not had this experience, you really need to sign up for it. The intoxicating smell will change your life forever.
For me, racing started on a two-stroke, and it was where I found my passion. Researching most (if not all) of the current racers out there, you can see how many of them over 30 took the nod from the two-stroke community to get their start. In fact, my personal perspective is that everyone should actually learn how to control a two-stroke smoking beastie before getting on something with more power and finesse. Unfortunately, the EPA is starting to really crack down on them because of their inability to be a "cleaner" vehicle. Now they are looking to exclude them from future venues, and if I'm not mistaken, we will truly see the end of one of the finest eras in racing in the very near future.
Looking forward into the racing community here in the U.S., I have a hard time seeing and understanding the new direction. I know where we've been with it all, but I'm not quite sure where the next stop is. I can say with certainty that if the Daytona Motorsports Group stays involved, and continues to make subtle changes to motorcycle racing as they did with the Daytona 200, they will surely lose much of their core membership. In fact, many conversations have been overheard on this very porch already about how the Daytona race was an absolute sham. It began with the husband/wife entry of Mr. and Mrs. Hayes, and continued on when they did the side-by-side rolling start. Then there was some issues following the rules in the pit, and a fairly large pace-car fiasco. That for me, was the end of it. I had to turn it off, in fear of getting any more angry and disappointed than I already was. Sad thing indeed.
With the continued flux of the nation's racing, I find myself looking higher on the ladder to watch my favorite sport. World Superbike never really appealed to me in the past and I had always labeled it the Hooligan class. To me, these guys are all great riders with tons of real-life experience but it just did not seem that exciting.... that is, until Ben Spies came into the fray to mix it up. The 2009 race season seems like it's going to be much like GP has in the past, with the very experienced riders chasing the ones with natural ability. Spies' shake up of the WSB grid has made for some fantastic conversations while bench racing, and leaves me on the edge of my seat for the upcoming race. With all that is going to happen to American Road Racing, I think it prudent to look at the international venues for more excitement.
Then there are the big kids. MotoGP is still the lesser known of all motorcycle racing here in the U.S. It was not until just recently that we got a track in the U.S. for them to play on. Laguna Seca, if you've not been to a GP race, is a great place to watch the best of the best show us all how it's done. With custom-built motorcycles that have over 200 hp and weigh just over 300 pounds, it's tough to not have a good race. MotoGP bikes are prototypes that are effectively one-offs of new motorcycle technology. All of these bikes come with a price tag in the millions of dollars, and with parts we could only imagine having on our old-tech street or race bikes.
The riders are charismatic as well, with something always going on in the pits. While the majority of the riders are European, there are a few Americans in there to mix it up as well. The most well-known American on the roster these days is Nicky Hayden, hailing from a small town in Kentucky. Nicky spent a few years on his most noted sponsor in his career, Honda. Just recently, though, Nicky swapped teams to go ride with Ducati, which seems to be experiencing a new burst of life in the North American market. Together with his teammate, Casey Stoner, I really do think that my favorite rider, eight-time World Champion Valentino Rossi who rides for Yamaha, will have some competition. Both Nicky and his partner Casey have been world champions themselves, and have a great team backing them up.
This year poses to be one of the best for motorcycle racing yet, so make sure you stay up on it.
Ben Steinberg hails from Canada and is an experienced racer, with many years racing everything from two-strokes to superbikes and even F-1 sidecars. Currently, Ben is employed as the general manager of the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort, just over the state line in North Carolina.