Our friends over at the NOLA Motorsports Park keep getting busier and busier since they've officially opened in June and, this weekend, are capping off an exciting year with their first professional motorsports event: the AMA Pro Road Race Big Kahuna season finale.
Now, chances are that most New Orleanians are unaware of the AMA tour, which is essentially the U.S.'s version of Moto GP. The AMA Big Kahuna events are put on in conjunction with M1 Powersports, which has its hands in several land and sea motorsports (to wit: as I was entering NOLA Motorsports Park, I looked in my review mirror and saw a 120-foot long powerboat with three jet engines).
After being greeted at the gate by M1's CEO Cameron Gray, I was taken to the Geico Suzuki AMA Road Race team tent and introduced to David Swarts, the media coordinator for Geico Suzuki and an Associate Editor for Road Racing Magazine and AMA riders Chris Ulrich and Martin Cardenas. Immediately, it was evident that these guys - as well as the two dozen or so other teams setting up next to the track - are intensely passionate about their sports. After all, this is a sport that demands peak physical performance on machines that go nearly 200mph and they're mostly doing it in anonymity.
The nine-race championship is pretty tame in comparison to Moto GP's nearly-20 races held all over the world. As a result, AMA teams and riders are always looking to make converts of racing fans and the media in general. Part of that strategy, Swarts explained, was to give media members and VIPs a "hands-on" experience by giving them a ride with an AMA Rider. Yesterday, Ulrich would be my driver and, as if preempting any sort of anxiety I had, he explained that they had a 100% safety record.
"If you start dropping journalists off the back of your bike, you're not gonna get anywhere," he said.
I'll be happy to report that, as should be apparent, I didn't fall off the back of the bike. Luckily, my hands turned out to have a mind of their own and as we were going 152 mph down a straightaway, I couldn't even twitch my fingers if I tried.
It should also be noted that AMA's media strategy is pretty effective in making a fan out of someone who's never even watched a motorcycle road race. There really is nothing like the feeling of banking at 90mps, watching the pavement glide by just inches away from your body and then the kick in the gut you feel when the rider comes out of apex and hits the throttle.
Now, I could go on all day about how insane it was to be on that ridealong, or you could check out the video above and head out to the NOLA Motorsports Park to taken in this weekend's race.