AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman discusses vintage racing at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- In the following interview with AmericanMotorcyclist.com, the website of the American Motorcyclist Association, AMA President and CEO...
AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman discusses vintage racing at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- In the following interview with AmericanMotorcyclist.com, the website of the American Motorcyclist Association, AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman speaks out about the dispute that has arisen with the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) and the future of that organization's role at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days.
AmericanMotorcyclist.com (AM): AHRMA has been posting on its website statements regarding a vaguely defined "dispute" over its sanctioning agreement with the AMA, the most recent being on April 15. These statements have led to a number of rumors that AHRMA will not be involved with this year's AMA Vintage Motorcycle Day at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Can you tell AMA members and our readers what the fuss is all about?
Rob Dingman: The dispute is not between the AMA and AHMRA, though readers of the AHMRA website are being led to believe that it is. We were drawn into a lawsuit between AHRMA's founder, Rob Iannucci, and its existing leadership back in 2001 and have defended the AMA for seven years. This past February, the AMA settled with Mr. Iannucci. There remains an ongoing dispute between Mr. Iannucci and AHMRA.
AHRMA's most recent public statement says that the AMA's leadership has agreed to join AHRMA and meet with Mr. Iannucci in an attempt to resolve their dispute. No meeting has been scheduled with Mr. Iannucci, and we are certainly not a party to the dispute. We have only said that we would attend if both parties agreed that we could help them work out their differences. I am very disappointed that AHMRA is choosing to negotiate this issue publicly, because it does a disservice to their members, many of whom are also AMA members.
AM: Can you explain what is at issue, and how it arose?
RD: First, I want to acknowledge the role that AHMRA has played over the years in the growing popularity of historic motorcycle racing. Many racers participate in vintage racing, and these individuals are the reason why so many people are enthused about the sport today.
Mr. Iannucci's lawsuit was filed against AHMRA on behalf of himself and his team, Team Obsolete, in 2001. The AMA was named in the suit because we sanction AHRMA racing. The nature of the dispute has been written about extensively elsewhere. Sadly, the suit cast a shadow over the very future of AHRMA, which subsequently filed for bankruptcy.
In 2007, the bankruptcy court in Tennessee settled the financial claims between Mr. Iannucci and AHRMA. However, the AMA was left holding the bag for a dispute between the two parties that had nothing to do with us. This suit has cost AMA members three-quarters of a million dollars and, ironically, it was not even about money. That's just outrageous.
The current management of the AMA was not involved in the actions that led to the lawsuit or its ongoing prosecution, and I have never believed that the AMA and its members were being served by continuing it. After eight years, the AMA said, "Enough." AMA Board of Directors Chairman Stan Simpson and I met with Mr. Iannucci last year to settle the matter. On Feb. 19, 2009, the AMA announced that we had entered into a Settlement Agreement, which resulted in the case being dismissed. I understand that AHRMA believes that the AMA should continue to fight with Mr. Iannucci and spend AMA members' money, but that would be foolish for the AMA.
AM: If the case against the AMA is now settled, what exactly is the problem?
RD: The terms of our Settlement Agreement are confidential; however, Mr. Iannucci has agreed to allow us to discuss them for the purpose of this interview.
One of the key provisions of the settlement is that, in order to receive future AMA sanctioning, AHRMA must resolve its differences with Mr. Iannucci and Team Obsolete on or before April 30, 2009. We arrived at this date because AHRMA had pending sanction requests with AMA at that time, and to be completely fair to AHRMA, we approved all of them, which took us out to the end of April. We continue to believe that it is in the best interest of vintage motorcycle racing to end the litigation and disagreements and move forward.
On Wednesday, March 4, Stan Simpson and I met with the AHRMA board and its officers to explain our reasoning, answer questions and reiterate the need for them to reach a resolution. Despite what they wrote on their website subsequently, we provided them with a full understanding of the issues. So they've known for six weeks that they needed to work out their differences with Mr. Iannucci.
Unfortunately, AHMRA has chosen to air the dispute publicly, and has left the impression that the AMA is responsible for the very problems that AHRMA created. This is not our dispute. We cannot resolve it. Only AHRMA and Mr. Iannucci can settle this matter.
AM: What does this all mean for fans of vintage racing and AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days?
RD: Make no mistake, there will be racing at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. We can't stop the process because AHRMA hasn't decided what they are going to do. So come May 1, we are going forward with our planning, one way or the other. We have advised AMA Organizers that if this issue is not resolved on or before April 30, the AMA will no longer sanction AHRMA events or activities, or otherwise engage in business with AHRMA.
AM: Can you comment on the rumor that AMA is telling AHRMA what to do?
RD: That is totally untrue. The AMA is not telling AHRMA what action it must take. That is up to AHRMA and Mr. Iannucci to work out to their mutual satisfaction. There is no reason why AHRMA cannot work this out. We met with Rob Iannucci and worked this out, and they need to do the same thing.
AM: On April 7, the AMA announced that AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days would feature the inaugural AMA Racing Vintage Grand Championships. Some people have interpreted this to mean that AHRMA is already "out" this year at VMD. Why was the announcement was made at this time?
RD: The timing of our announcement was forced upon us by a statement that AHRMA posted on its website, which essentially says that AHRMA is working on a replacement venue for AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, in case the dispute is not settled. We also learned that AHMRA tried to secure one of AMA's Vintage Motorcycle Days venues out from under us. We were flooded with e-mails from members asking us if AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days was cancelled, and we took this as a direct threat to our event. So we had an obligation to tell AMA members and vintage racing fans that there will be vintage racing at Mid-Ohio this year.
Frankly, we were shocked that AHRMA would put themselves in competition with us. Why would they jeopardize our 20-year relationship in this way?
AM: Can you tell us more about the AMA's vintage racing program?
RD: The reason for the AMA Racing Vintage Grand Championships is simple. Vintage motorcycle racing has become very popular in recent years in all its forms, including road racing, motocross, dirt track, hare scrambles and trials. The AMA believes it is only fitting that we elevate this genre to the same level as our other amateur championships, and that we do so at the granddaddy of all vintage racing events, AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days. The creation of the vintage grand championship is the next step for us to grow AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days and also increase the visibility of our AMA brand.
We are doing this by honoring the top rider in each vintage discipline with a championship title, and premier class winners will receive an AMA Racing No. 1 plate. In addition, the rider who excels across multiple disciplines will be named the AMA Racing Vintage Grand National Champion. The class champions and the Grand National Champion will be invited to attend our AMA Racing annual awards banquet, where they'll be recognized before all of our AMA Racing national champions.
AM: If AHRMA and AMA go their own ways, what will become of vintage racing at AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days in the future?
RD: I want to emphasize that the AMA sincerely hopes there will be an amicable resolution between AHRMA and Mr. Iannucci, and that we can continue to sanction AHRMA racing.
That said, the AMA is committed to sustaining and growing this exciting form of amateur competition for the teams, the racers and their fans. That is why we created the AMA Racing Vintage Grand Championships. If AHRMA cannot work out its differences with Mr. Iannucci by April 30, then the AMA is fully prepared to conduct quality vintage racing in each of the disciplines at Mid Ohio this year -- and in the future.
AM: Do you have a message for AHRMA's leaders and Mr. Iannucci?
RD: Don't try to settle this in the court of public opinion, because that is not working. Both parties need to meet in a room, face-to-face, and work this out. It can be done. We did it, and so can they. If they both agree that it would help for the AMA to attend while they work out their differences, we will do so.
About the American Motorcyclist Association
Since 1924, the AMA has promoted and protected the motorcycling lifestyle. AMA members come from all walks of life and they navigate many different routes on their journey to the same destination: freedom on two wheels. As the world's largest motorcycle organization with nearly 300,000 members, the AMA advocates for motorcyclists' interests in the halls of local, state and federal government, the committees of international governing organizations and the court of public opinion. Through member clubs, promoters and partners, the AMA sanctions more motorsports competition events than any other organization in the world. Through its Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum, the AMA preserves the heritage of motorcycling for future generations. For more information, visit www.AmericanMotorcyclist.com.