Saturday, April 19, 2014

Lloyd Brothers Motorsports' Dave Lloyd Talks with Barry Boone's 'Talking Motorcycles' About Growing the Sport of AMA Pro Flat Track

Lloyd Brothers Motorsports' team co-owner Dave Lloyd made an appearance on Barry Boone's 'Talking Motorcycles' radio show earlier this week and made another strong case for the current state of the sport of AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship series racing.

As many know and many others have ranted and railed about and against, The Rolling Thunder Show, the greatest racing series on two wheels in the world, has lost a significant market share over the course of the last decade or so. Many of those same rants and rails about and against the current state of affairs in AMA Pro Flat Track have pointed fingers at not only the state of the economy, the sanctioning body (AMA Pro Flat Track as owned and operated by the Daytona Motorsports Group, and not the AMA out of Pickerington, OH. which sold off the racing rights in 2008), the lack of television coverage and many other issues they wish to point fingers at.

Although producing the same, high-speed level of the best racing that can be seen and has been seen for decades, the big show has also lost a significant share of paying butts in the seats at even some of the long and best-hosted events in the country, namely long-time fan favorites like the Springfield Mile, the Peoria TT, the Lima Half-Mile and the Hagerstown Half-Mile, just to name a few.

In spite of the great racing that the series still continues to provide, the same high level of sportsmanship seen in the series, and the improved fan and racing show experience itself, the sport has suffered for what could be a multitude of different issues, and LBM team co-owner Lloyd made an awfully good case this week on Barry's radio show to at least institute some different areas of change, as he did earlier this year (see below), to help or help to turn the great show around.

You can listen here to the archived version of the show to hear and decide for yourself about what Lloyd had to say, and coming from a long-time fan of the sport, I must say he has some viable and interesting ideas to help get the fan and sponsor interest built back up. Everyone has an opinion, and after having followed this sport for over 40 years now I have witnessed some of the best racing in the world up close for a long time. Speaking just for myself, I don't know what the answer is, but I know those that aren't witnessing the action up close or in the stands in AMA Pro Flat Track, are truly missing some of the best on-track action in any racing series anywhere in the world. However, I do know when to shut up and listen to those that really are cognizant of what changes could be and do need to be made, and Lloyd makes a helluva case here and it is well worth the listen.

In the shot above, LBM crew chief Brent Armbruster goes about getting the #5 LBM/Ramspur Winery/Foremost Insurance Group-sponsored Ducati of rider Jake Johnson ready for the first round of practice at round 8 of the 2013 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship at the Indy Mile on August 17. Also seen in the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports pit area are the Ramspur Winery-owned and LBM-operated Harley-Davidson XR-750 of Henry Wiles and another of the big Ducati's of then-new rider Johnson.

Having been involved with and in the great sport of AMA Pro Flat Track for over two decades now, as both a rider and now a team owner, Dave Lloyd knows a thing or two about how to put a successful operation together and along with his brother, Mike, has done so year in and year out for over a decade now, campaigning some of the greatest looking and most well-prepared bikes for the likes of riders Wiles, Larry Pegram, 2000 AMA Grand National Champion Joe Kopp, 2013 AMA Grand National Champion Brad Baker, current rider Jake Johnson, Aaron King, and a special one-off ride for one of their highly respected sponsors and fans, 2006 MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden at the Indy Mile in 2010.

With rider Henry Wiles checking things out in the background, team co-owner Dave Lloyd goes about his duties with his laptop checking out the data on the team's machines in the pits at the Indy Mile on August 17, 2013.

Dave's brother, Mike, who seems to enjoy staying back and out of the limelight while working feverishly to ready the team's mounts, is also a very big part of the team's success in bringing the level of professionalism and diversity to the sport as his brother has and does. Mike is involved with not only the regular at-track activities at each event, but spends his time away from the track talking up the sport and the team and displaying the team's machines at special events such as the Dealer Expo Show here in Indianapolis in February 2012, and at various bike night events prior to some of the series' National races, such as some of the Columbus, OH. outings prior to the Lima Half-Mile in late June of each year.

One of the cool things the brothers did recently was turning over the team's Aprilia's, last campaigned by rider Aaron King in the 2012 season, to rider Shaun Russell last season. Russell was looking for a Twins Series ride for some of the 2013 events, and handed over the bikes to Russell for him to campaign at Indy and the Springfield Mile I & II over the Labor Day weekend.

In the shot above, Russell can be seen making some adjustments to the #28 LBM Aprilia during the Indy Mile last year while team co-owner Mike Lloyd looks on and offers support.

If you could say one thing about the Lloyd Brothers team, it is that they have excelled at bringing a high-level of diversity to the sport, which whether you realize or believe it or not, was turning into a spec series in the late '90s and early '00s with almost every successful team campaigning the long-running Harley-Davidson XR-750s, the machine long-considered the stalwart of the sport. But with the forty-plus year old platform that the Milwaukee iron has been great for, the level of change isn't far reaching. Of course, the sport overall hasn't seen or needed vast changes over the decades in order to provide fans with the close, high-speed action that it is known for, but especially after Honda pulled out in the late '80s and the departure and collapse of the British manufacturers preceding that time in the mid-'70s, the sport was left with very little in the way of multi-brand involvement, or a diverse level of multi-brand competition.

That is where the Lloyd Brothers have filled a very large gap in the series by campaigning, in this case, some of the most pristine machines in the form of the team's Aprilias and Ducatis. Henry Wiles came close to winning the Lima Half-Mile in 2008 on one of the team's Aprilias, which saw it's first action in a National main event at the season-ending Du Quoin Mile in late September 2004 with rider Larry Pegram.

The team has also, as previously mentioned, supplied some very capable riders with some of that great equipment over the seasons.

In the shot above, the team goes about getting the big Ducatis ready for rider Brad Baker during the I-96 Speedway Half-Mile in Lake Odessa, MI. in mid-July 2011. Baker ended the season ranked in 6th-place for what would see him earn the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Saddlemen Rookie of the Year Award. Former team crew chief, Dave Gamble, can be seen to rider Baker's left overlooking the team's efforts.

It took several years and a lot of hard work, but the team finally realized it's dream of winning an AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship event with rider Joe Kopp at the Prescott Mile I round in May 2010, when Kopp, riding the team's big red Ducati, nipped Sammy Halbert at the line to capture the first Twins Series event of the season in Arizona. It was also the first win for a non-XR-750 fielded entry since Rich King's win on the Corbin Racing Honda at the Joliet Half-Mile in August of 1998, a 12-season span of Harley dominance on the big tracks.

In the shot above, Kopp acknowledges the fans as he dismounts the #3 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati after winning semi race #2 at the Springfield Mile II in round 15 of the 2010 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship on September 5, as AMA Pro Flat Track announcer  and 'Talking Motorcycles' host Barry Boone gets the crowd fired-up at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

After a great start to the season at the Daytona Short Track season-openers on March 13-14, current rider Jake Johnson will be looking to take the team forward for the 2014 season, which will now resume at the Springfield Mile I event on May 25, some 36 days away.

Johnson, who split from the Zanotti Racing squad in late summer of last year, the team he clinched the 2010-2011 AMA Grand National Championship with, will be looking to garner the Lloyd boys their second AMA Grand National Championship event win aboard the big #5 LBM Ducati beginning with the series' first Twins event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile oval over the Memorial Day weekend. And after rider Henry Wiles was let go late in the 2013 season, the season ahead will see Johnson as the team's sole entry for this year.

Jake can be seen in the shot above on the #5 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Ramspur Winery/Foremost Insurance Group-sponsored Ducati in his first outing with the team during one of the qualifying sessions at round 8 of the 2013 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship at the Indy Mile on August 17.

Whatever you may make of what team co-owner Dave Lloyd's shot at trying to get the great sport of AMA Pro Flat Track headed in the right direction to re-establish more fans, more sponsors and more coverage, you can't take away the fact that the team, and the series overall, provides some of the best racing and close competition that it has always been known for. I know the passion these guys have for the sport and for the competition, and I also know what the series has to offer in terms of excitement, close racing, a family-oriented aura in the paddock, and brand diversity.

However, I am not a marketing guru so I myself have no clue what it will take to make people realize what they are missing in this great sport. I just know what I'm NOT going to miss and that I myself will continue to attend and enjoy and promote what is the best choice for your dollar in terms of sheer excitement for as long as I can and as long as I am able, and I strongly suggest to all of you to continue, or begin to do so for yourself. You won't be disappointed and you won't leave any show after attending one of The Rolling Thunder Show events wanting anything else other than to be wanting to see more.

You can also check out below Dave Lloyd's original plea for change in the sport, as was penned by the long-respected team owner back in January of this year, to read what he is trying to say and make people see in order to get the sea of change in motion for AMA Pro Flat Track.

Courtesy of Lloyd Brothers Motorsports' Dave Lloyd:

The circumstances that have brought the AMA Pro Racing Dirt Track Series (I prefer Dirt Track over Flat Track for its marketing value so that is what I call it) to its current state has nothing to do with the economy, rules or the on-track racing action. It has nothing to do with the efforts of the AMA Pro Racing Dirt Track team as I can attest that everyone from the AMA Pro Racing Director of Dirt Track, Dan Johnsen, down to the crew loading the gear at the races work hard and with passion. The problem is the business model that they have been directed to work within. I am willing to bet that any company that has maintained the same business model that they had 40 years ago has lost market share just like we have.

There is an incredible amount of passion for the sport of motorcycle dirt track racing. Well directed passion will breed success. We are in need of a unified promotional organization properly resourced to enable and implement a coordinated vision between AMA Pro Racing, teams, riders, sponsors and venues to ensure future success and growth of the series.

To realize the potential success of the AMA Pro Racing Dirt Track Series, adoption of a revised business model is necessary and we don’t have to look much further than Supercross or the Pro Bull Riding Association. A fundamental change to the current business plan for dirt track is warranted to not only reach an acceptable level of sustainability for AMA Pro Racing teams to continue to compete in the series but also to grow the sport, expand the fan base and deliver consistent profits with proper track location, selection and promotion. 

The AMA Pro Racing website states:
“In 2008, the American Motorcycle Association announced the sale of certain professional racing properties to AMA Pro Racing, based in Daytona Beach, Florida. The move was brought about by the need for the association to place the management of pro racing in the hands of a well resourced motorsports entertainment company.” 

Despite the stated reasons for purchasing pro racing from AMA, Ohio; AMA Pro Racing continues to operate with the same business model as AMA Ohio, acting as a sanctioning body and series administrator, not an entertainment promotion company.

The current business model requires the sale of many individual sanctions to promoters (some with no experience) that barely offset the cost of goods sold associated with the officiating of each event. Other income is generated through registration fees charged to competitors and crews. Lastly, income is generated by selling sponsorships to series sponsors. This strategy is deficient in that:

• Location and scheduling of the races is dependent on the promoter. 
• In order to build a series with enough races to attract sponsors, AMA Pro Racing is forced to compromise standards when selling sanctions to some tracks and promoters that are not national level in terms of facility quality, location, demographics, promotion experience and potential sponsor and fan draw. 
• The success of the event lies largely with the promoter and his ability to promote and manage the event. The track location, advertising budget, pre-race promotional activities, media relations, facility condition, track preparation equipment availability, ticket pricing and fan experience are all in the hands of the promoter and are outside of the direct control of AMA Pro Racing. Thus creating an inconsistency in quality.
• The series ends up with events spread widely geographically and many with low spectator attendance and a less than excellent fan experience. 
• Many events do not reach enough spectators to create an acceptable return on investment for sponsors to commit to levels of sponsorship to make it possible for AMA Pro Racing and race teams to offset the high costs of travel to these events, leading to low rider turn out, unhappy promoters and a poor fan experience.
• With the fate of the series in the hands of so many different promoters, the quality of the series is compromised and it is impossible to sell a series sponsorship. There was no series sponsor for the 2013 expert division because the series hasn’t realized the marketing value of which it is truly capable.
• When a single event is a success and has adequate to high spectator attendance, the promoter benefits the most financially, not AMA Pro Racing or the teams. When an event is a failure, the promoter, AMA Pro Racing and the teams all suffer the consequences.

A revised business model where AMA Pro Racing, or a new separate entity, partners with existing top-rated promoters and events and also exclusively targets new locations and promotes new events is necessary. This will benefit AMA Pro Racing, the race teams and the series in that:

• There will be more conformity and better efficiency between the events as related to promotion, preparation and execution. Lessons learned at one event can be immediately implemented for a better, more successful next event.
• Standardize promotional items and procedures.
• Better managed and improved fan experience.
• Better control of sponsor, media and participant relations at each event.
• Sponsors and marketing partners will be more attracted to the series and teams when events are well attended and are located in strong geographic markets.
• AMA Pro Racing will be more profitable hosting well attended events than it will ever be by just selling sanctions.
• AMA Pro Racing, teams and riders will directly benefit from successful events in lieu of just a third party promoter.

Once a unified promotion company is in place then the work can begin to:

• Implement a television package.
• Promote the athletes and teams to build a strong fan base and broaden the awareness of the sport. 
• Improve paddock presentation.
• Create events – not just races.
• Find series sponsors.


Keep it nice, but keep them coming!

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