TEN THINGS ABOUT MANUFACTURER CONTINGENCY PROGRAMS
(1) Back when. There was a time when Pro racers made a living off manufacturer contingency programs. This was a time when riders cared more about the manufacturer contingency programs than the brand of bike. Depending on who paid the most money that year, there were riders who would jump to a different-colored ship. There was a time when Suzuki paid the most money at the most races. In more recent history, back in 2006–2007, riders sold their blue, red, orange and yellow steeds for green—all for money. Kawasaki paid two, three or even four times more in contingency than the competition. The local and Pro races became a sea of green. Then, in 2008, the economy busted the contingency gold mine.
(2) 2008. The financial crisis of 2008 hit the American economy hard. Since many American indulgences are made overseas, these non-American companies got hit hard as well. They relied on America’s revenue. With the USA being the largest market for motorcycles, if bikes weren’t selling, companies needed to cut expenses. Little Johnny’s local race contingency was pulled right out from underneath him. Contingency wasn’t a big deal after the recession. Some manufacturers cut their contingency programs off completely, while others significantly reduced payouts and the number of races covered.
(3) 2018. Since the financial crisis in 2008, the motorcycle industry has started to heal, although there are still scars. Since contingency went out the window, so did a lot of racers. Many racers became professional practice riders. Over the last decade, riders have forgotten all about contingencies. The truth is, the “Big Six” manufacturers all have contingency programs for hundreds of different races for both on- and off-road events.
(4) Contrast. All the Big Six manufacturers’ contingency programs are very similar in the sense that they cover the majority of the same races, but the payout, how many classes can be raced on one VIN number, what bike year qualifies, minimum riders per class and payments differ.
(5) Cash money. For many years, the contingency payouts could only be used in dealerships—Yama-Bucks could only be used in Yamaha dealerships and so on. This worked well, as riders could essentially win races and spend their contingency money to fix up their bikes. Some even saved their winnings to buy new bikes. If our memory serves us right, it was the Honda Red Riders contingency program that first used a debit card. Whatever contingency money you earned, it would be put on a debit card and you could use those winnings anywhere that debit card was accepted. You just couldn’t hit the ATM to get cash unless you were collecting contingency as a Pro. In 2018, and for the last few years, Yamaha and Kawasaki have offered similar versions of the Red Rider debit card program. KTM, Husky and Suzuki contingency for Amateur racers is still only welcome at their dealerships.
(6) Classes. If you own a Husky, Yamaha or Honda, to earn contingency for two classes at the same race you would have to own two bikes. For Kawasaki and Suzuki, you can own one bike and qualify for contingency for two classes. KTM allows one bike for multiple classes. That is a big benefit.
(7) Model year. For four of the six big manufacturers, you must have a 2018 model or newer to qualify for contingency in the 2019 race season. Only Suzuki and KTM allow 2017 models to qualify. For Suzuki minicycle riders, all model years of the RM85 and RM85L (big wheel) will qualify.
(8) Numbers count. To earn contingency with a manufacturer, there needs to be a minimum number of racers in your class. Both Honda and Yamaha require that there be at least five riders. KTM, Kawasaki and Husky require a minimum of six riders. Suzuki requires there be a minimum of seven riders to qualify riders for all paying positions. For classes with three to six riders, only the top two positions will be paid by Suzuki.
(9) Billboard. All manufacturers, save for Suzuki, require you to have the manufacturer’s logo on both sides of the bike. Yamaha also requires a bLU cRU logo on the front number plate. Honda states that your red Honda must remain red. Kawasaki demands 8-inch black or white logos on both sides of the bike, and the bodywork must resemble the production bike’s; however, it says nothing about the color of the bike. Suzuki is the most lenient. Suzuki just doesn’t want you putting a 2016 engine in a 2017 chassis. It is an honor program, but at many big Amateur races, a factory rep will walk down the line to make sure that a rider who signed up for Kawasaki contingency isn’t actually racing a Yamaha. Don’t laugh; it happens all the time.
(10) Let’s be honest. To get people racing again, manufacturers need to come up with better incentives. Their biggest payouts are to the Pro riders, even though Pro racers aren’t the manufacturers’ hardcore customers. The real customers, in the Vet, minicycle and Novice classes, should be the real aim of contingency programs. These riders buy bikes, go through parts and need any help they can get to keep going. The double-edged sword for the manufacturers is that they are giving money away to make money. The books don’t always balance.
The 2019 factory contingency program have yet to be released—but when they are they will included the events, classes, number of riders required, years of eligible bikes, actual dollar amounts and requirements to be eligible.