Jim Viverito is helping to promote the AMA amateur drag race.
Side by side, engines revving to a high-pitched scream, motorcycle racers astride horsepower monsters await the green light that will launch them and their machines hurtling through the gears at wide open throttle toward the finish line a quarter mile away.
The thrill of speeding down a drag strip is what amateur motorcycle drag racers live for.
And former AMA Board Member Jim Viverito is ready to help racers live their dreams. Through the Chicago Norton Owners Club, he is promoting an amateur motorcycle drag race, sanctioned by the AMA, at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wis., on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Part of the reason for this new event, Viverito says, is an unfortunate rise in illegal road racing that is being reported in several Chicago-are media outlets.
“Racers need a safe place to test the capabilities of their machines, and there’s no better place to do that than a drag strip,” Viverito says.
Here is what he says about the event.
American Motorcyclist: What inspired you to host a drag race?
Jim Viverito: Drag racing is something that I have talked to AMA staff about quite a bit. Motorcycle drag racing, as it stands today, takes a back seat to the car racing with automotive drag racing organizations. When motorcycle drag racing was sanctioned by the AMA about six years ago, the group that was doing the promoting went out of business, due in part to the economic downturn. No promoters stepped up to take over. Since then, motorcycle drag racing has become somewhat regional. The thing that concerned us the most was that street racing was starting to grow and become a public safety issue. It’s extremely dangerous, and we wanted to establish a safer place with consistent rules. We needed a promoter, so I went to a club that I belong to–the Chicago Norton Owners Club–and asked them to get an AMA sanction.
Competitors race down the dragway at Sturgis. Photo: Motor Race Images
AM: What should people know about drag racing?
JV: A lot of people who have never done drag racing think it is rather simple. But there’s much more skill than meets the eye. It’s absolutely the best place to learn how to get the holeshot. Drag racers call it “cutting the light.” It’s also the simplest and safest place to get your feet wet in racing if you want to be a road racer, without having to make a very big investment. You don’t even have to have full leathers in some of the classes.
AM: Can you race street bikes or do they have to be specially modified race machines?
JV: We have classes for just about everything that runs on gas. For this event, we’re avoiding alcohol and racing fuel for classes but we may get into that at a later date. It will be Superbike–street legal sport bikes–track bikes and road race bikes.
AM: How old do racers have to be to compete?
JV: In the exhibition dirt bike classes, you can be 14, with parental permission. At age 16, in the quarter-mile classes, you can compete if you have a motorcycle endorsement and parental permission.
AM: What is an index class?
JV: Those are based on a specific elapsed time. We are running a Super Comp/Krazee 8s class with an 8.88 second index. If you go faster than that, it’s what you call a break out and you automatically lose. We will also be running a Street Fighter 9.50 index class.
AM: What do you want street racers to know about drag racing?
JV: The problem with street racing is that it’s not consistent. You run the risk of hurting innocent bystanders, there’s no medic onsite, you risk serious legal implications and more. On the drag strip there’s a sanction and rules, you compete for a little money and a trophy, and then you truly have the bragging rights.
AM: So what should people do to learn more information?
JV: I would encourage anyone who even has a passing interest in racing to try drag racing and then, if they choose, to progress onto other disciplines. For more information, visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com/Racing/Drag-Racing or www.greatlakesdragaway.com.