Getting it right beneath the St. Louis Arch.
The economy has wreaked havoc on our sport. Participation is down, both at trackdays and in club racing. Organizations are trying everything they can think of to make events profitable. In St. Louis, the Midwest Café Racing Association has come up with a formula that could be the model for the future of racetrack riding.
Believe it or not, the St. Louis area is a small, isolated trackday market. There really aren’t any other major population centers nearby and the only racetrack in the vicinity is Gateway International Raceway, a 1.25 mile oval with a 1.6 mile roadracing circuit carved through its infield. Essentially, St. Louis is a one town, one track microclimate of our motorcycle sport. The MCRA website has a forum that is very popular among local riders, including racers, trackday participants and the street crowd. This unified online meeting place has inspired the MCRA to create racetrack events that feature something for everyone. The club saturates local bike shops with flyers and posters before each event and encourages members to drag along every motorcyclist that they can find. MCRA trackdays draw SPECTATORS, fer cryin’ out loud! Admission is a mere five bucks; low enough to bring in the curious. The Gateway infield becomes a real family affair, with spouses, moms and dads, kids, friends and neighbors showing up to watch. There are enough street rides parked around the paddock to start an impromptu bike show, something you almost never see at other trackdays.
If you’re drawing spectators, you’d better put on a show. MCRA has enough activities going on during one of their events to keep the entertainment level high. In addition to their traditional three-group format for trackday riders, a few actual races, known as the MCRA Challenge Series are held each afternoon! The main event is an actual, purse paying sprint, financed by a local bike shop and open to all licensed racers. The rules are run-whatcha brung, making for a wild mix of riders and machines, with everyone looking to get a little richer when the checker falls. The action is intense, especially if you’re entered! (No, we didn’t win…)
Guess what? As a trackday rider, you can be involved in these races as well. There is a Sportsman group, aimed at true competition beginners. This class is an outstanding way for trackday riders to get their feet wet in an actual race. Best of all, you’re only allowed to run a few of these events before you’re required to step up to licensing school, so the grids are always filled with true novices. (Damn, now you need a new excuse to not try racing…) Can you imagine going to a trackday and finding out that you have the option of tasting what it’s like to be a competitor? SWEET!
Would you like to become a licensed racer? Race schools are available at each event, occasionally with guest instructors from this very magazine. What if you’ve never ridden on a track before but are curious about whether or not you’d like it? MCRA has you covered with their Test the Track program. Riders are given a guided tour of the circuit, that while slower than the pace you’d expect from a regular session, still attains speeds that would get you jailed on a public road. “I could go faster than those guys” types are routinely shoved into this group by their buddies, so spectators should be prepared to back up any loud talk they bring to an MCRA event. Here, there is something for everyone!
An MCRA trackday is a one-day affair but on the occasions that the Championship Cup Series motorcycle races come to town, the two groups split the weekend. When this happens, you have the opportunity to ride, race, spectate, earn your competition license, join CCS or enjoy any combination of the above, all in one place and during the course of a single weekend. Those who lack monetary discipline should leave their credit cards at home, because there’s no end to the magnificent, awesome, expensive adventures you could get yourself into when these clubs combine for an event. If you’re a motorcycle fanatic, this is the best show in the Midwest.
As insurance and track rental costs continue to rise, many trackday organizations and racing series have found themselves struggling to stay solvent. To maintain its customer base, any group must work towards bringing in new participants while retaining those currently involved. MCRA’s game plan ups the excitement quotient for everyone involved by putting every type of egg into the same basket. Guess what? All those different eggs have a blast sharing an event and they all pay with American dollars. “Sold out” is a term which applies to every date that MCRA offers, so if you’d like to experience the future of our sport, then register early and “Meet Me in St Louis”. MCRA’s final event for 2010 will be held on October 10. We’ll be there. How about you?