The Pursuit of New Faces
Yamaha’s R1 Dirt Track car (R1DT) competes in inaugural race
We were recently invited by Yamaha’s PR crew to attend the debut race of their new prototype, dirt track racecar, which they are calling the Yamaha R1DT car.
The debut of these prototype cars would be held on Saturday, November 11 at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California. It was held in conjunction with one of the largest USAC Sprint Car races of the year as part of the Budweiser Oval Nationals.
The team planned on putting eight champion-caliber drivers from different motorsports disciplines in the prototype dirt track cars, and have them compete in an exhibition race on the half mile clay oval.
We were looking forward to the event, not only for the great USAC/CRA Sprint Car racing on the West Coast, but also for the serious drivers that would be competing in the exhibition.
The talent-laden field of racers was as eclectic as eclectic gets. It included future Sprint Car hall of famer Cory Kruseman, Dirt Late Model legend Donnie Moran, TORC series champion CJ Greaves, and AMA national champion Dustin Nelson. It was also a chance to see rising ARCA star Natalie Decker, in what would probably be her only dirt track appearance.
We arrived at the track expecting to hear how Yamaha was going to resurrect racing and save racers money. It seems that every new car or series is promoted as a way to save racer’s money – only to end up costing the same as every other series or spec car, if not more.
Happily, the folks at Yamaha made no such claims, which made us feel better from the start.
“We’re not looking to pull in racers from other classes,” said Dave Park, project leader for the Yamaha new business development group. “We are trying to draw in the guy that is on a budget but doesn’t have the time or money to work on a racecar full-time.
“This is for the guy that wants to buy a race-ready car, out-of-the-box, and doesn’t need to spend a fortune on it,” he said.
Initially it sounded like another sales pitch, but the more we thought about it, the more it sounded legit.
For most racers in an entry level class, it costs about $200 every time you pull out of your driveway to go to the track. With the repairs, replacement parts, maintenance hours, trips to the junkyard, etc… it can add up quick.
So if you purchase a race-ready vehicle that doesn’t require upgrades, and you take care of it, your costs go down exponentially. A motorcycle engine uses a lot less fuel than a methanol-eating, dump truck engine.
With all the potential savings, you actually might be able to justify financing the racecar, which was mentioned at the press conference.
Financing a racecar? Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen!
While there was no specific prices mentioned for the prototype vehicle, we estimated a price tag of somewhere near $20,000. So, if a racer puts five grand down and finances the rest, takes it out to the track and balls it up, he has a ball of junk that he still owes 15 grand on. The Yamaha legal department could stay busy for hours chasing their financed dollars.
“That’s not the customers that we believe are going to be interested in the car,” said Park. “This is an entry-level spec class racing. Guys that want to work on their car control and getting better on the track. Someone that is going to take care of the car. Maybe they move into another class later, or maybe they continue racing in a racing-club style series.”
After some considerable thought, we can see that happening.
For example, there is a group that races at Perris Auto Speedway early on the weekends with Dirt Karts. They are a club and race together in a very competitive set of races, without tearing each other’s equipment up, and they have some spirited racing.
So it is possible.
We heard a lot of reporters asking the “what-if” questions and the “what-about” questions during the exhibition.
Here’s the bottom line as we see it: For some time, the promoters and drivers have been wondering where the new drivers are going to come from. Here is a group that is going to try and bring in some new blood, without stealing drivers from other classes and watering down the existing pool of talent.
What is the harm in letting them try?