With the first AMA National only a couple days away, there is an ongoing argument in the professional motocross community
revolving around whether the pits should be open at the AMA 250/450
Nationals or closed (they are currently limited to a three-hour window
from 9:00 a.m. to noon). You would think that this issue would be
resolved in favor of the fans, but on the professional level, there are
lots of factors that weigh into every equation—which means that there
are people who don’t want the Pro pits open to the public. Where you
stand on the issue depends on whether you stand inside the pits or
outside. You be the judge.
THE CURRENT AMA SYSTEM: If you want to go into the pits at an AMA race, you have to buy a $15 pit pass. This allows you access to the pits from 9:00 a.m. to noon. When the clock strikes noon, all the spectators are ushered out. When it was suggested by the Glen Helen National promoters a few years ago that the pits be open all day and the spectators be allowed to go in for free, the powers that be blanched. In the end, Glen Helen and Hangtown were allowed to make the pits free, but the three-hour window remained. As for the other tracks, they stand to make as much as $25,000 from selling pit passes; thus none of the other National tracks followed the lead of the two West Coast tracks.
THE THREE-HOUR WINDOW: The AMA limits the spectators’ time in the pits because they are afraid that if the pits are open during the racing program (as opposed to practice and timed qualifying), there are some among the spectators who might steal from the teams. Additionally, they worry that the spectators will clog the pit roads and cause trouble for the officials and security people. Yet, when it serves their purposes, like to sell subscriptions to the house magazine—they open the pits all day to subscribers..
SECURITY: To keep the pits closed for the majority of the day, the promoters not only have to fence it like Fort Knox, but hire guards to man the gates and roving guards to stroll the pit lanes looking for spectators without the proper credentials.
THE REAL REASON: The three major reasons why the pits are closed for the majority of the race day are as follows:
(1) Money. Even though it wouldn’t dent their income one iota to have the pits open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the promoters find something alluring about getting the most money for the least amount of effort.
(2) Tradition. The pits have always been closed—so they must stay closed.
(3) Control. The masses must be controlled and power must be wielded. It has always been a power trip for the haves (those in the pits) and have-nots (those outside the pits).
THE OPEN-PIT SYSTEM: Although Glen Helen is no longer an AMA National track, they fought the fight to get the spectators into the pits for free. Not only did Glen Helen not charge, they asked the AMA to open the pits for the whole day. At first, the AMA agreed, and then they came back a day later and said, “We don’t care if you let people in for free, but they can only come in from 9 to noon.” When Glen Helen became the United States Grand Prix promoter, they asked the FIM for the same open-pit policy. The FIM said, “Go ahead and open them up.” Thus, if you were one of the few who went to the USGP, you got stroll the pits all day long, look at the machines, talk to the team personnel and take in one of the most interesting parts of professional racing – the paddock activity (although t the USGP a two-day pit pass cost $30 and a one-day pass $15).
THE THREE-HOUR WINDOW: Without the three-hour window, the spectators can take a break from the racing (and go talk to the riders who are not currently on the track). They can avoid the long lines at the autograph tables—because there is no rush to sign autographs inside an arbitrary three-hour time limit. And, it turns out that the spectators don’t clog the pit roads or get in the way during the motos—because they came to watch the racing in the first place.
SECURITY: With an open pit, the need for security guards goes away (at least as far and guarding the pit gates). No yellow-shirted behemoths have to man the pit gates, because people can come and go as they please. As for fans stealing from the riders, it is the responsibility of the rider and team to protect their belongings—just as they do at local races.
THE REAL REASON: Open pits are good for the sport, good for the fans and increase the entertainment value of the event. Imagine going to an NHRA event if the pits weren’t open. It would only be four seconds of thrills.