*Das Boxer Ist Gut Racer
*Trade War Targets Motorcyclists
*Ducati Goes Public
*Virginia Guarantees Access for Bikes
*GP to Allow Four Strokes?
by Victor Wanchena
SUPER X FILES
Excelsior-Henderson has suffered a couple of set backs in the past month. As reported in the Star-Tribune, their new marketing guru Steve Wilhite has parted ways with E-H., Wilhite is best known as the mind behind the inventive “Drivers Wanted” ad campaign of Volkswagen. He is highly regarded by those in advertising and his hiring by E-H to be their VP of sales and marketing was said to be a major coup. But it seems his family was unwilling to move from California and therefore he was unable to take the job. The other bump on the road to market for E-H has been the announcement that their losses for ’99 will be greater than expected and that they are in need of more operating capital. The root of the problem seems to lay in production delays due to difficulties with vendors of certain parts. These delays have curtailed profits coming from the sale of new bikes. No specifics have been given, but CFO Tom Rootness described the problems as a “small glitch” and is confident that E-H do very well in the coming year. Market analysts independent of E-H are also confident that E-H will pull through. Having come this far it is hard to not see them rebounding quickly.
DAS BOXER IST GUT RACER
Not since the R90S of the seventies has a BMW had a strong showing on US race tracks, but that may change following the impressive finish of a new R1100S in a race at Daytona. The bike that was campaigned by a privateer team know as “Das Boxer Team”, finished fourth in a Pro Thunder race. The success was lauded by Ed Robinson of BMW North America, who said “like the R90S before it, the R1100S shows that a motorcycle can be competitive in racing, while offering comfort and reliability for the street.” The bike used for the race is actually an Endurance racer setup for running 24 hour races which makes its strong finish more impressive. The bike was further handicapped by Daytona’s long straights where it continually bumped against its rev limiter at 156 mph. Team captain Berthold Hauser stated “The R1100S has proven an exceptional platform on which to build a road-racer, providing exceptional performance, while never retiring from practice or a race with a technical problem.” Now, for those of you who would contend that the Japanese have been doing this for years, let the Germans have their day in the sun.
TRADE WAR TARGETS MOTORCYCLISTS
There is a trade war brewing between the US and Europe and it appears that somehow motorcyclists are going to be drawn into the fight. The dispute stems from the European Union’s threat to ban the importation of US beef treated with growth hormones. These hormones are used by ranchers to increase the size and speed of growth in their cattle but is still controversial because of possible health risks for consumers. In response to their threat the US has announced that it will impose huge tariffs on some European products. Now 70 of the 75 products are food related but the last item on the list is motorcycles of 500cc or less in size. The proposed tariff would go into effect in June of this year and effectively double importation costs creating steep rises in the prices at your local dealer. Since the tariff would only hit bikes under 500cc, it would not affect makers of large road bikes&emdash;instead focusing on European off-road makers like KTM or Husqvarna and scooter builders like Italjet. The AMA is talking to trade officials about removing the bikes from the list of affected products.
DUCATI GOES PUBLIC
You now have the opportunity to own part of Ducati without ponying up the cash for A whole bike. In late March Ducati went public on the New York stock exchange. Members of Ducati’s board were on hand for the opening of the day’s trading and rang the starting bell. Over 90 million shares where offered, being traded under the symbol “DMH” and have been holding in the range of $30 a share. “We are a brand in our infancy,” said Federico Minoli, CEO of Ducati, in an interview with Reuters. “I think there is enough space to erode the Japanese market share, and we will grow in accessories.
VIRGINIA GUARANTEES ACCESS FOR BIKES
The state of Virginia has now asserted itself as being very biker friendly with the passage of new legislation in their state house. The law which was signed by Virginia governor James Gilmore bans the creation of any law which would prohibit the use of motorcycles on any road built or maintained by state or federal funds. Patterned after a federal regulation the law now extends protection to state roads. The law has the full support of the AMA, Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists, and ABATE of Virginia. The law is being lauded as a landmark since Virginia is the first state to pass such regulation, though there is a similar bill making it’s way through the Illinois Senate. “This marks the first time any state has taken the step of protecting motorcyclists in this way,” said Sean Maher of the AMA. “It is a landmark step in recognizing the rights of legally licensed motorcyclists to operate their machines on public roads.” No word whether any similar bill may be introduced into the Minnesota legislature.
GP TO ALLOW FOUR STROKES?
In a recent meeting between the FIM, manufactures, and promoters of Grand Prix and World Superbike, there was discussion of the introduction of four stroke motors into 500cc Grand Prix racing. The president of the FIM, Francesco Zerbi, said “Progress cannot be stopped, but it may be guided. We are here to discuss all the issues in relation with the proposed new rules for the 500cc Grand Prix class.” This addition of large displacement four-stroke bikes into the all two-stroke field of GP racing could cause a blurring of the lines between GP, normally reserved for purpose built machinery, and Superbike racing which is based on production machines. As for the possible combination of the two series into one, Zerbi said, “I see no benefit to any party currently involved in the separate championships if there were to be an amalgamation. The result of their adding up would be less than the result coming from their current separate status.” The opinions with many seems to be opposition to the rule change since each series serves it purpose well in current form. The final decision about the proposed rule will not be made for some months.