by Gus Breiland
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Receives FIM Homologation In Preparation For July’s Moto GP
This year the MotoGP ciruit will return to the US for the first time in 10 years for the Redbull US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, CA on July 10, 2005. The Californian track played host ot Grand Prix events from 1988 to 1994 but advancements in MotoGP racing machines required the event to be moved elsewhere while the track was modified and adapted to meet present day safety requirements. Since December 2004 the circuit has undergone major changes, primarily to increase track safety. The modernization includes an expanded exit lane, replacement of the curbs and part of the main straight has also been widened. The circuit’s principal features however remain the same, with 3.58 km of track and 11 curves.
MotoGP is reporting on their website (www.motograndprix.com) that following the conclusion of a $2 million track improvement project that saw the run-off areas increased and improved in all turns and the installation of more motorcycle-friendly curbing, the world famous 2.238-mile, 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has been homologated by the Federation Internationale de Motorcyclisme (FIM) for next month’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix (July 8-10).
“The inspection was very good”, said Claude Danis, the official track inspector for the FIM. “We can see that all of the work we requested to be done was completed properly. There are some provisional protective devices (e.g. air fence and hay bales) to be installed before the race. The track is in condition to be homologated for MotoGP”.
Suzuki MotoGP rider Kenny Roberts, Jr., the 2000 World Champion, visited the circuit two weeks ago as a riders’ safety representative and was very positive about the changes made to the circuit. “Laguna Seca has done 100 percent within their capability to make the track as safe as possible for the MotoGP”, said Modesto native Roberts, Jr., the son of three-time world champion Kenny Roberts. “They have made significant changes in all areas that they were able to make changes in”. “In my opinion they have done the best job on the curbs in comparison to any other racetrack and this will significantly reduce the riders risk and workload”.
“I believe from a riders’ safety representative standpoint, that barring any freak accidents, Laguna will be a very safe MotoGP circuit”. Work began on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course back in January with the relocation of the Turn 9 bridge and excavation of the hillside on the outside of the turn.
Following the rainy season, an intense 45-day period of construction began on May 2. The $2 million improvement project is being funded by Yamaha Motor Company and includes improvements in every turn around the circuit. The building of new gravel beds and the enlarging of existing beds was a major part of the project. More than 15,000 tons of gravel was brought in over a two-week period.
Harley-Davidson Sues Aftermarket Engine Manufacturers
Harley-Davidson recently filed a lawsuit against aftermarket engine builders S&S Cycles, and Delkron, claiming the companies violated patent rights on certain engine components, as well as company trademarks. Filled in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin (Case No. 05-C-0298) on March 17, 2005, the lawsuit alleges that the companies copied parts related to the Harley-Davidson Twin Cam 88 engine (right), as well as violating Harley-Davidson trademarked names. Including Evolution, FXR, Softail, Twin Cam 88 and Sportster, as well as some common-law trademarks such as Evo, Shovel and others.
The lawsuit appears to represent a change in Harley’s relationship with the huge, V-twin aftermarket industry. After years of building thousands of engines that shared interchangeable parts with Harley production engines, the aftermarket companies now find themselves at odds with the Motor Company.
S&S is known as a major supplier of engines and components to the aftermarket and custom world. Big Dog Motorcycles, which is projected to sell over 4,000 units this year, is just one of the top-name manufacturers utilizing S&S products. Paul James, communications manager at Harley-Davidson, said, “We had repeatedly notified them (S&S, Delkron) about infringements on Harley-Davidson patented parts and intellectual properties.”
He said the components Harley was most concerned about were the transmission to engine interface and the lubrication system on the Twin Cam engine—parts that The Motor Company had spent numerous research and development hours on. Previous engines developed by Harley-Davidson always had a certain amount of interchangeability with past designs. The Evo (right) for instance, actually shared many common parts with older models.
When introduced in 1999, the Twin Cam was hailed as a truly new engine, even though Harley designers made sure it looked very much like its predecessors. So many new and innovative parts were created, a company spokesman at the introduction said he could hold in one hand the number of parts that were interchangeable with parts from previous big twins. With that level of development and testing, James said, the company had no choice but to enforce the patents they own and have the exclusive rights to.
Through press releases, S&S has responded to the suit saying Harley-Davidson’s complaints are unfounded and the company plans to continue production. “S&S has reviewed the issues raised in Harley-Davidson’s complaint and believes they are without legal basis,” stated one release dated March 24. “S&S respects the intellectual property rights of others and the S&S products at issue in this lawsuit were the result of S&S’s own engineering designs. S&S does not have any connection to Delkron in this action and does not believe that Harley-Davidson had any basis to name them and Delkron in the same lawsuit.”
On a more personal note, S&S President Brett Smith said in the same release, “It is a great disappointment that Harley-Davidson is taking legal action against us. My grandfather, George Smith, helped found the V-Twin performance aftermarket industry in the mid-1950s and assisted Harley-Davidson with their Bonneville record run in 1970. We have always felt that a mutually beneficial relationship existed between S&S and Harley-Davidson; our 145-Tribute project in 2003 is evidence of that—100 years for Harley-Davidson and 45 years for S&S and the performance aftermarket.
“We do not understand why, after all this time, Harley-Davidson is raising these claims. Whatever the reason, this lawsuit will not affect our continued commitment to be the premier provider of Proven Performance components to the V-Twin aftermarket.” S&S issued another release on April 1. “We want to assure our customers of our continued commitment,” said Michael Scaletta, S&S Cycle’s current product engineering manager and third-generation family member. “We will continue supplying our Proven Performance products, including Twin Cam style engines and components, to our customer base. This lawsuit will not change how we approach product development or sales of our high performance engines, components, and assemblies.”
Steve Swarthout, owner of Delkron, Inc., which manufactures cases and other aftermarket engine components, declined to discuss the suit at this time. “Our attorneys are working on it,” he said.