And now the reason we're not there in numbers...
This paucity of American riders is not a mystery to me. The Americans brought a revolution to the world road racing scene beginning with the end of the 60's. Here's why:
In the 1960's road racing here in the U.S. was an anomoly practiced mostly by a motly group of pub crawling anglophiles. They wore poridge pot helmets, black leathers, and stadium goggles. When they raced at small club events, their Goldstars, and Manxes, were all polished up. They had skinny Dunlop triangular tires and well polished alloy rims. They qued up neatly in the turns displaying little real speed.
Next scene: American dirt track races, beginning with amature scrambles events were everywhere: novice, junior, & expert events with 50,100,125,250, 350, 500 & open classes run at almost every event!
In AMA districts 36/37 where I grew up there was Halls Ranch, Fremont, Hayward, Salinus, San Jose, etc. You could race Friday, Saturday & Sunday. All those tracks are gone!
In the 1960's in order to win the AMA #1 plate, you had to compete at short track, TT, 1/2 mile, mile, and road races. American dirttracks were cut no quarter bullrings. Riding was fast ,intense. You could literally get rubber streaks up the back of your calf and left thigh, and along your rear l/h number plate as people behind tried to push you off the groove!
Scene 3: Regional road races in Californina: Orange County, Vacaville, Cotati, Sears Point, Laguna Seca. In order to learn how to road race the AMA dirt track boys showed up at these events - Colorful jerseys, high bars, linemans boots, square shouldered Dunlop K81's. The result: They kicked the a**es of the ..oh so proper.... real road racers. And in the process they learned how to really road race!
Remember the trans-atlantic series with England? There were not just a few of these guys! Steve Baker, Cal Rayborn, Don Castro, Dave Aldana, Mert Lawill, **** Mann, Kenny Roberts, Mark Breslford, Gene Romero, Don Emde, Jim Rice, these are just a few!
Not all of them became international stars, but they set the stage for the american road racing revolution that followed! The crucible of american dirt track gave them the ability to do things that no european had ever seen anybody do on a motorcyle before!
Barry Sheene came over to watch Ascot, just to see where in h*** these guys came from!
From the trans- atlantic series until now american riders stayed nearly supreme at this pinacle of motorcyle speed. The farm system that gave us those guys is long gone!
Racing is now specialized and you only get to be #1 in your particular venue. This is a shame, and unless we somehow return to racing basics, we will never again produce champions in the quantity we once did!
The nearest hope that I see is supermotard, but that is not in nearly the same numbers as our old weekend dirt tracks!