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VIR responds to canceling pro event

VIRginia International Raceway officials have pulled the plug on the Suzuki White Lightning Nationals AMA pro superbike motorcycle-racing event scheduled for the weekend of Aug. 12-14.

The national AMA event has annually been one of the largest racing events in the region and has been telecast nationally both live and on a tape-delay basis.

AMA Pro Racing officials said early Tuesday it was VIR’s decision, not that of AMA Pro Racing, to cancel the event. VIR Track Operations Manager Kerrigan Smith and track officials differed, however, saying in a prepared statement released late Tuesday that the decision to cancel the event was not one-sided.

“As with any disagreement, there are two sides to every story,” the VIR statement said.

“We want to make it clear that the decision was not one-sided, as David Atlas’ (AMA Pro Racing COO) remarks have implied, and that VIR made numerous proposals to AMA Pro Racing to keep this event on schedule.”

According to the VIR statement, the controversy surrounded the contract for the event.

“VIR has worked hard to bring the event to fruition for months,” the VIR statement said.
“Despite requests by VIR beginning in December, 2010, AMA Pro Racing did not deliver its proposed contract for the 2011 event to VIR until early June 2011. Resulting discussions made it apparent that insufficient time remained to negotiate the new terms in the proposed contract and, if agreement were reached, to plan, promote and conduct the event in a professional manner.

“In an effort to preserve the date, VIR went to extraordinary lengths to reach an alternative agreement with AMA Pro Racing, which AMA Pro Racing chose to reject,” the statement continued.

“Given these circumstances, we had no choice but to take the date off the calendar and notify the public promptly.”

AMA Pro Racing Director of Communications John Szymanski said Tuesday morning VIR officials notified AMA officials late Monday of their decision to cancel the event.

“VIR is the one that cancelled it,” Szymanski said Tuesday.

“They notified us late Monday their decision not to host or promote one of our races.”

Szymanski said AMA Pro Racing officials attempted to work out a situation with VIR officials to keep the event on the AMA schedule.

“A significant effort was made to try to get something worked out that would be amenable to both sides, and it just wasn’t able to get done.”

The decision to cancel the event comes just 33 days prior to the date that the event was scheduled. VIR’s cancellation of the event trims AMA Pro Racing’s schedule by two rounds.

“We are very disappointed,” Szymanski said.

“It’s unfortunate. VIR is a great place to race motorcycles. It’s a historic venue, and it has a great racing tradition going back to the early years of Trans-Am and SCCA racing.

VIR has held an AMA Pro Racing event each year for approximately a decade. Halifax County Tourism Director Linda Shepperd said the cancellation of the event will have a negative economic impact on the county.

“Anytime you lose an event of that size, it is very disconcerting,” Shepperd said.

“It’s a significant event for us with all of the motel bookings and the many things that go along with that. We sell out our hotels and motels for that weekend, and we will obviously lose that revenue. It certainly doesn’t help when you lose an event of that size.”

Shepperd noted that the lodging numbers for Halifax County have steadily increased in recent years, and VIR has influenced that trend.

“It’s a significant number of people,” she said.

“They (VIR) are a player in that.”