When Honda, a company that built its international reputation on racing, pulled out of AMA Superbike racing nearly a decade ago, it was a symbolic blow to the series. Now, Honda is returning to what is now the MotoAmerica Superbike championship, and that has to be seen as an equally symbolic move.
American Honda announced today that it will support Team Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda with Jake Gagne riding the new CBR1000RR and veteran team manager Danny Walker in charge. After years of competing in AMA Superbike, Honda dropped out when Daytona Motorsports Group took over management of the series and alienated many of the factory-backed teams. Of course cynics could say that the manufacturers, suffering from the dramatic collapse in motorcycle sales during the financial crisis, were looking for any excuse to cut costs and found an handy one in DMG management's antagonistic attitude toward the factory teams.
Regardless of the cause, Honda pulled out of the top roadracing series in the United States, something some people would have called impossible just a few years before it happened. Honda is now back and that's clearly because of the new tone set by MotoAmerica, the managers of the series for the past two years.
"Wayne Rainey and the MotoAmerica group have been doing a great job in bringing back American road racing, and we are very happy to get back involved in the premier class," said Mike Snyder, Senior Manager for Honda Racing.
In Gagne, Honda has one of the most promising young riders in the MotoAmerica field, and Walker has plenty of experience in managing a team. The combination won the MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 championship in 2015 as the Roadrace Factory team. For 2016, the team moved up to the Superbike class, but they struggled to make the transition, finishing in the top 10 in only four of 18 races on the proven Yamaha YZF-R1. Now, they face an even bigger challenge in turning the new Honda CBR1000RR into a Superbike contender.
And now, the back story
I don't usually talk inside baseball here at Common Tread because I live by the rule that readers don't care to hear how we did our job, they just want us to do our job. In this case, however — and in these times — I'll make an exception and tell you a little of the story behind this story.
Spurgeon caught wind of this potential development back in October when he attended American Supercamp. We knew negotiations were under way and that Honda could possibly return to Superbike racing in the United States. We also knew the details were probably not firmly nailed down at the time and I'm very aware of how the best laid plans can fall apart in the racing world.
Some publications would have published that news immediately. Without any confirmation that the deal was really going to happen, however, we held off, hoping to get something more firm. If we had run the story last fall, we'd look like geniuses now. But if we'd run the story and the deal had fallen apart, we'd look like just another outlet for that "fake news" everyone wants to talk about these days.
Any non-fiction writer's most important asset is credibility. So if you read this news elsewhere first, I regret you didn't see it here first. And while I'm sure we'll make mistakes from time to time, I'd rather be late on five stories than wrong on one.