The bikes fire up with a smooth bang, followed by the staccato beat of cylinders finding their rhythm. The rumble breaks through the hot summer air at Sonoma Raceway. There’s an undeniable feeling that something special is about to happen. But just a few short years ago American motorcycle road racing was on the brink of extinction.
The 1980s and 90s heyday of American motorcycle road racing was led by legendary riders like Wayne Rainey, Eddie Lawson and Kevin Schwantz, whose success proved the competition was strong enough to prepare riders to compete on an international level. But beginning in 2009, a series of hotly contested decisions made by the sport’s managing parties allegedly caused most of the international sponsors to back out. By the 2014 season, the series hosted a meager six rounds, down from the usual ten, and it seemed American motorcycle racing was on the wane.