Racing is a lot like life. In life you can count on death & taxes. BUT, in racing you can count on changes and insurance fees.
Those that haven’t raced don’t realize how superstitious racers are and unforeseen changes can rattle even the best of racers. Top riders have their lucky gear, refuse to change product on their sled if they have always ran a certain brand, etc. Just a few years ago a big change in snocross was dropping down the cc engine size from 800 to 600 Open mod sleds. Riders were worried they wouldn’t be able to clear jumps like they could with the 800 mods, and they also worried how good the “show” would be for spectators. Now, a handful of years later, the competition is just as good as it was back in the mid-2000s when the change happened.
Still, racing has taken its share of lumps over the past few years. We’ve seen entries drop, number of series operating decrease and the number of clubs putting on races dwindle. This is a direct reflection of the changes in the cost of racing. For most, racing is a hobby or, more accurately, a passion or obsession, but the cost of racing has been increasing over the past five to ten years. In December 2008 the talk in the pits was how can we afford to travel to races if gas goes above $2 per gallon? Back then the average cost of 87 octane gas was $1.61 per gallon, yes $1.61!
For a race circuit, nearly all the fees racers pay to compete directly help offset the costs for a race series. One of the largest expenses for a circuit is event insurance.
In my own personal experience as the Race Director for a Midwest cross country race series, insurance rates paid by the series from 2012 to 2014 increased an average of more than 20% each season. So, it did not come as a surprise this summer when International Snowmobile Racing (ISR) was notified of another 11% increase for the 2015 season. This simply became unacceptable for ISR and its members. For the 2015 season some series would be paying double what the 2011 rates were. That would be the difference between a series being able to stay in the black or shut down.
Todd Achterberg took over the reins of ISR prior to the start of the 2014 season as the President of ISR (the sanctioning body for most of the major snowmobile racing in the U.S.) and when he was notified of yet another insurance increase he made it his mission to find an alternative to the rapidly rising costs.
Recently a notification letter was sent out to all ISR Affiliate series stating:
“International Snowmobile Racing (ISR) announced a new partnership with the United States Auto Club (USAC), one of the leading motorsports sanctioning bodies in the US to provide ISR member tracks and racers with new enhanced industry leading insurance protection starting this fall.
USAC is currently the official sanctioning body of many of today’s largest racing series, including Global Rallycross, Rally America, TORC Off Road Championship. Robby Gordon Stadium Trucks, Ultra 4 Racing and USAC’s own suite of circle track series in Sprint and Midget racing.
The new direction for the snowmobiling sport offers not only enhanced benefits and protection for the racers; it also offers significant cost savings for race organizers, who have been challenged in recent years with the rising costs of required insurance to host a race event. In the past few years, these increasing costs have threatened the livelihood of several ISR Affiliate events.”
One of the requirements with this new insurance is that racers and crews will need to go to the USAC website and sign up for a membership. This membership is required to compete at ALL ISR sanctioned events, membership is good for one year and the membership carries over to any ISR series. All crew members working in the hot pits area are required to have this membership. The annual membership costs $150 for competitors and $100 for crew members. For families or teams there is also a family membership for $300, family membership includes 1 driver and up to three crew members.
The letter also outlined how this new insurance will directly benefit racers:
“The new partnership with USAC will now mean greater participant insurance protection for ISR members, with $50,000 Participant Accident insurance along with a $25,000 Accidental Death & Dismemberment policy. This is compared to the $3,000 and $5000 limits in years past. The new insurance protection will be in place for all ISR members who hold a valid competition license required for all riders and crew engaging in competition and hot pit activities. (Note you will only need one license for the snowmobile season, November 1, 2014 – October 30 1, 2015)”
ISR Competitors and Crew members can get signed up for their 2014-2015 license at http://usacracing.org
ISR has asked for each circuit to work with their racers to help make this newest change as seamless as possible for competitors and crew members. It’s strongly suggested that racers contact their primary circuit with any questions.
Change is inevitable and often met with friction, but looking back, some change has proven to work out best for the sport. We will just have to wait and see if these changes have the positive affect that everyone is hoping it will for the snowmobile race industry to prosper and grow. -Todd Myers, AmSnow Race Contributor