No more AHRMA at VMD? An acrimonious split between
AMA and AHRMA means no more AHRMA racing during
Vintage Motorcycle Days. Photo Joe Harrigan.
In yet another odd turn in what’s become a long and very complicated story, the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) will no longer participate in the American Motorcycle Association’s (AMA) annual Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio Race Track, after failing to satisfy an AMA demand to resolve its ongoing dispute with AHRMA founder Robert Iannucci and Team Obsolete.
The dispute goes back to 2001, when AHRMA, for reasons we’re not privy to, decided not to renew Iannucci’s membership. Iannuci sued AHRMA, and the whole thing’s been a mess ever since. The suit, or suits, dragged on for years, eventually forcing AHRMA into bankruptcy in 2007 after its insurance carrier went bankrupt. AHRMA, faced with over $400,000 in legal fees related to the ongoing dispute with Iannuci, had no choice but to shut down or reorganize, so it chose the latter. At the same time, AHRMA and Iannucci reached an agreement not to “pursue or assert” claims against each other. In a reasonable world, this suggested the feud might actually be over. Evidently not.
Further complicating matters, at least from the AMA’s point of view, was the AMA’s involvement in the ongoing litigation, which the AMA was drawn into because of its role as the sanctioning body for AHRMA racing. Although AHRMA and Iannucci had apparently settled their core legal differences, there were, clearly, issues still brewing in the background. In February this year, AMA officials met with Iannucci and buried the hatchet, reaching an official Settlement Agreement that, in part, stipulated that for AMA to further sanction AHRMA events, AHRMA had to resolve its differences with Iannucci by April 30, 2009.
Long story short, AHRMA and Iannuci failed to come to terms by AMA’s April 30 deadline, following which AHRMA was effectively excommunicated from AMA. So what’s it mean to you and me? Maybe a lot, maybe not much. With the exception of racing at VMD, AHRMA says it’s moving forward with its full 2009 racing schedule, that it has insurance to continue its racing operations, and that because of the separation AHRMA racers no longer have to maintain AMA membership, as the AMA no longer sanctions AHRMA racing.
In place of AHRMA racing at VMD, the AMA announced (actually, it announced it prior to the separation with AHRMA, during the period AHRMA was tasked with snuggling up to Iannucci) the inaugural AMA Racing Vintage Grand Championships, featuring vintage road racing and motocross. AMA president Rob Dingman says the AMA was tired of having its future threatened by the ongoing difficulties between AHRMA and Iannucci that, Dingman says, have nothing to do with the AMA. AHRMA officials say they thought they had a constructive meeting with Iannuci April 28, but were notified the following day by Iannucci that “there was not enough common ground between Team Obsolete and AHRMA to justify any future relationship.” That sealed the AMA/AHRMA divorce, and the next day AMA issued its final word, saying it would no longer sanction AHRMA events or do business with AHRMA.
We’re not sure where that leaves pending issues between AHRMA and Iannucci, but the whole deal’s certain to leave a sour taste in at least a few mouths. Our belief is that AHRMA will continue offering the same excellent racing series it has for years and will continue to attract vintage racers from across the U.S., AMA sanctioning or not. As to the AMA’s plans at VMD, well, that's kind of no-brainer; VMD and vintage racing having become almost synonymous terms. The AMA has also just announced it's teaming up with Canton, Ga.-based vintage motorcycle racing association WERA for VMD, with WERA taking responsibility for the administration of the road-racing portion of the AMA's vintage races at VMD. It will be interesting to see how – or if –they support the new vintage series beyond VMD and whether they try and turn it into a truly competitive series in direct competition with AHRMA. – Richard Backus