It’s been quite a crazy week... well, actually it all started a couple of weeks ago, but who’s counting anyways, right? As most people already know by now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, Ricky Carmichael has been penalized 25 points for using illegal fuel at San Diego. Apparently, according to the AMA, he was cheating with the quantity of the lead found in his fuel.
As for the fuel rule itself, it was penned nearly three years ago when the AMA adopted the FIM’s regulations for fuel, which they did in order to hold the FIM sanctioned World Supercross Series. Back then, two-strokes were the top choice for most riders, and lead has a definitely performance advantage in two-stroke engines, as it helps boost octane and prevent detonation. In a four-stroke, which is what nearly everyone is riding today, lead isn’t an advantage whatsoever, and oxygen improves performance more than anything. Furthermore, in the sample taken from RC’s bike the oxygen level was well below the AMA’s limit. Now, we don’t know about you, but this ruling just almost doesn’t seem fair. So, we decided to do a little recap on all of the latest happenings to get a better understanding of what happened, and why.
For most people in attendance at the eighth round of the series in Atlanta, RC’s 25-point penalty was a shock. No one had even heard the news until the day the press release came out--Friday February 17th--not even some of the Makita Suzuki personnel. And when everyone arrived at the pits on Saturday, it was a media frenzy to get the scoop.
The morning of the race, team manager Roger DeCoster faced the press in a press conference held outside RC’s semi, and stated the team’s position on the entire situation. Basically, they felt the rule was unfair and unjust--a sentiment held by many. “I think the rule is overly strict,” DeCoster said. “If somewhere along the line there is a lead line, it could leach into the fuel and disqualify you. If you use a funnel that someone used leaded fuel in a week or so ago, it could disqualify you. You almost have to be in space suits and be in a green room to do the tests to avoid any mistakes.” As for RC, he too feels the rule is slanted. “I see a lot of ways that the AMA can improve in this area, because it isn’t fair to the teams, sponsors, and riders,” Ricky said. “I think us riders should stand up. I mean; they’re changing the tracks to make racing better and doing this and that. Why doesn’t the AMA buy the fuel, and we will pull up like NASCAR does and pump the damn fuel into the bike. Then if it comes back failing, someone has been tampering with it between the fuel dump and starting gate, so you know you’re busted.”
DeCoster also went on to say that after the AMA took the sample, he requested another sample for Suzuki to test and compare to the AMA findings. “We test our fuel,” DeCoster said, “and it’s ironic because I asked AMA for a sample of the fuel to test and then we got tested that week. I had not turned in mine to get tested, because I was going to do it the following week.” As for what happened with the sample Suzuki took, we have been hearing rumblings that they have been able to test their own sample that was taken from the same batch as the AMA. We asked DeCoster about this. “We tested the sample that we took from the AMA, and our results are completely different, but in a good way. I can’t say exactly what the level was that we found, because our lawyers say not to. If the AMA doesn’t allow an appeal then we are going to sue them,” DeCoster said. “After Atlanta I spent $5,000 in testing, and had our sample tested by a reputable testing agency that also tests fuel for large companies like Shell and Mobil. We also had all of the fuel tested in our truck, and it was good as well. And recently we sent a new appeal to the AMA by registered mail, so they have to sign it in order to receive it. That way we know if they got it. I think there is so much evidence supporting our side that the AMA almost has to allow our appeal to go through.”
On the AMA front, on Tuesday February 28th they sent out a press release stating that, “Our goal here is to get to the bottom of this ongoing fuel situation, AMA CEO Patti DiPietro said. “The rule on unleaded fuel is clear cut. If the lead content in fuel exceeds 0.005 g/l (grams per litre) it is illegal for competition. This is an objective, easily defined measurement that has been in place for three racing seasons. What concerns us here is that we keep finding fuel that is outside of the rule limits. We expect our competitors to take every possible step to ensure that their equipment is completely within the limits of the rules, but to penalize a competitor for an offense that is completely beyond his or his team’s control is not our purpose.” The AMA also went on to say, that one of their biggest concerns about the entire situation is the fact that it influences the outcome of the series, and that is not something they want. So in simple terms, to be safe they are going to investigate the penalty to be exactly sure it’s warranted.
On a little side note, a day later the message boards began blowing up about a change in the points on the AMA website. Had the AMA reversed the penalty, or just made another mistake? As it turned out, it was another mistake, and within that same day RC was credited back his penalty; however, the AMA took away too many points, yet again making another mistake in the whole situation.
In the end, not much has been decided yet about the penalty, and only time will tell if we will actually see the AMA come to their senses and reverse a penalty that was based on a rule made years ago when motocross bikes were different. So, here’s to hoping for our exciting championship battle to return. We can only hope... and as things happen we’ll keep you up to date.