Midwest Cafe Racing Association (MCRA) was one of the first motorcycle clubs to start using MotorsportReg, so what better club to feature for our first motorcycle Pole Position blog! I learned that some things are universal between all motorsport clubs (the accomplishment you feel sharing your passion with a newcomer) and some things have a much more significant impact for motorcycle clubs (weather!).
MCRA runs motorcycle track days and racing events in the Midwest area and caters to every level of rider. They offer inexpensive "Test the Track" sessions to help riders experience the track in a safe and controlled manner while also having fun. And their MCRA Challenge Series is keeping motorcycle racing alive and strong in St. Louis and the Midwest.
Josh Davis has been with the club for about four seasons. He's experienced everything MCRA has to offer. As a customer, he participated in track days, went through the race licensing program, and raced the GT-AM class. He's been on the board of directors for roughly two years (Treasurer) and this season was asked to help coach new riders. He shared with us his passion for his sport and his club.
MotorsportReg: Why do you keep doing what you're doing? What motivates you?
Josh: There's two main reasons I keep doing what I'm doing with the club. I really enjoy spreading the word about track days. Although I had been around drag racing most of my life, I had no idea that a track day was even a "thing" that was available for your average Joe. Even in my younger days, I was never really one for being crazy on the highway (aside from one rather large speeding ticket). The idea of back road riding seemed fun, but the risks far outweighed the rewards. The tickets, the health risks, and learning bad habits just weren't worth it. I pretty much stuck to rides that one could easily accomplish on a Harley - slow and straight.
I randomly found out about MCRA from a "friend" (Facebook acquaintance that I had never met previously) that I purchased a motorcycle from. Through his coaxing, I attended my first track day and I never looked back. The entire experience had me hooked - the track riding, the fact I was treated like family from the start, and the hot redhead that was working registration that day. Said redhead is now my wife (Amy). She is the president of the organization and has been involved with the club for roughly 10 years. I went from a ratty track bike and single rail, homemade open trailer, to a rather nice dedicated race bike and even nicer enclosed trailer in very short order.
This season I found a new form of motivation. I was asked to be a coach for our Novice riders. Words cannot describe the feeling I get when I see a new rider come off the track with that same smile I came off the track with my first time. I love following a rider after I show him/ her something and seeing it "click". When I first started with MCRA, one of the coaches (Dick Phillips) went out of his way to help me on the more than one occasion - it became my goal to do that for other riders when/ if I ever developed the skill to do so. I achieved that goal this year.
What lessons have you learned about running events?
You cannot please everyone. Ever. MCRA is run by a small group of passionate volunteers that are doing this because we love it. We do our best to run a great event in a safe, family friendly atmosphere. We try to steer the ship as best we can in the interest of all of our riders- newbies and veteran racers. We put a lot of time and effort into each season that most of our riders/ customers will probably never understand. There's much more work and planning that goes on outside what they see at the track.
What makes your organization unique?
We are a hybrid organization. There's several track day organizations and there's several racing organizations. We do both as well as bridge the gap between the two. We have the ability to take you from a complete track newbie to a seasoned racer that's ready to move on past club level racing. A fine example being Alex Wisdom. He first attended one of our events when he was a little younger than he should have been. He went out of the track on a small dirt bike with a small crew of coaches around him to "protect" him from faster riders out on the track. He eventually went overseas to ride for Honda in the European Junior Cup.
We also have an extensive amount of track side support. We have two different tire partners (Good Grip Racing - Pirelli, and Inner Circle Racing - Bridgestone), suspension tuning support (Eric Vallarta with Velocity Calibrations) and a parts/ gear partner (Powersports Stuff). They carry new and used parts and also rents things such as suits, stands, and warmers. Lastly, we contract with a professional Midwest based motorsports photographer (ABI Photo). We include a free download of all of your photos from the weekend for every paid rider.
What are some of the things your organization is really good at?
I feel our coaching staff is top notch (I'm still green though). We have several different styles of coaches - we're able to effectively work with a newbie, a fairly quick rider, or a seasoned track day rider that's ready to pick up the pace and go to the next level (racing). We also offer a decent amount of flexibility. Many other organizations have a "my way or the highway" attitude. We are the exact opposite (almost to a fault, in my mind). If you have an idea about how to streamline our process or bring a greater level of safety to the riders - great! Let us hear about it. If it makes sense for everyone, we'll make it happen.
How do your promote your events? How well does it work?
We attend local bike nights with business cards and occasionally set up a tent with a video that loops. We also advertise our events on Facebook. Lastly, we offer a special for first time track riders - 1/2 off your first Novice track day with us. We know that this is an expensive sport to get started in. Track time isn't cheap nor is the safety gear you have to purchase up front.
What are some of the challenges MCRA faces?
The biggest challenge we face is track rental fees. It seems track rental costs have really jumped up in the past few years. As a non-profit, we aim to simply break even. However, your average track day rider can only afford so much. That rider has a lot of fees to juggle outside of track time. As we all know, the faster you get, the larger your tire budget needs to be as well. Our track rental fees are set at the beginning of the season. If we can't get enough riders, we can't cover our expenses. You hope that your customers leave satisfied and want to come back to your next event.
Weather can be a challenge as well. Unlike NASCAR, we're rain or shine. The fast guys and racers have rain tires and will ride in anything. A lot of the newer guys or track day only guys are not quite so brave - a less than favorable weather report a week out from an event can really blow us out of the water. Although our Hallett weekend in August was the best weather weekend we've had this entire season, we lost several thousand dollars on that event. The weather report looked terrible until just a couple days before. Registration numbers jumped up right at the end, but nowhere near as high as we needed them to be. Bad weather weekends are tough - we can do our job as far as marketing and customer service is concerned, but the weather is the determining factor for a lot of guys. They can choose not to ride because of the rain, but we can't choose not to pay the track rental.
How has MotorsportReg impacted your events?
Registration has become much more streamlined. Your search feature/network has also allowed us to reach more riders than we would have been able to (cost effectively) reach previously.
Thanks for chatting with us Josh!
Midwest Cafe Racing Association is holding their season finale on October 15th and 16th at National Corvette Museum including both a track day and a race. ABI Photo is capturing all the excitement and MCRA is providing all track day photos as part of the egistration.
Register here to spend the weekend having fun on two wheels with this great organization!