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How Our Air Fence* Crusade Started, And What Happens Next

This is the story of how hundreds of competitors, mechanics, businessmen, companies, fans and loved ones involved in motorcycle road racing came together for a worthy cause--to reduce the risk of serious injury faced by our racers.

Some donated $5000, some donated $20. They donated in their own names, they donated as "anonymous," they donated in memory of riders who have died because they hit bare walls or fences or barriers or embankments with nothing positioned in front to absorb energy. They sent checks, called in credit card numbers, handed us cash at races.

The response demonstrated that rider safety is a major issue to everybody involved in motorcycle road racing.

Our quest to fund Air Fence--think of it as a giant pre-inflated air bag positioned in front of hard objects around a racetrack--began with an editorial on this website, posted April 17. For three years we had been talking about the need for more Air Fence, lots of Air Fence, to AMA Pro Racing officials and trustees, to no apparent effect.

So we took off on our own, starting the quest for Air Fence with the editorial. The donations poured in, and a few days later the AMA issued a press release claiming it had a secret plan to deploy Air Fence all along, and that it would take four months to obtain 30 sections of Air Fence.

A month after we started, 15 new sections of Alpina Air Fence/Air Module were deployed at Road Atlanta for the May 17-20 AMA National. Another 20 new Airfence Safety Systems Air Fence/Air Module sections will show up for the June 7-10 AMA National at Road America.

The deal making it possible to obtain and deploy Air Fence sections in four weeks--not four months--was set up by roadracingworld.com's John Ulrich, a deal that was mapped out in detail, down to which Lufthansa flights the shipment would arrive on and when.

The problem came in arranging to get the stuff deployed at AMA races. Some tracks, notably Road America, Loudon, Willow Springs--along with the race promoters at Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca--said they'd be happy to deploy any Air Fence we showed up with. Other tracks said that they could not deploy any Air Fence that didn't arrive at the track as part of the AMA package, for liability reasons.

So we had to make a deal to cooperate with the AMA, something that seemed impossible at first (due to a lack of response by the AMA to our inquiries) but became more possible as our fund shot up past $80,000 then $90,000 then $100,000. In the meantime, spurred on by a fantastic response to our fund-raising efforts, AMA Pro Racing Trustees came up with Air Fence funding from Honda, Suzuki and Harley-Davidson, for use over a three-year period to buy, maintain, set up and transport Air Fence to AMA Nationals.

After a deal was finally reached with AMA Pro Racing--including deployment of the first sections at Road Atlanta, roadracingworld.com turned over $104,000 to AMA Pro Racing Director of Competition Merrill Vanderslice.

Efforts to convince the AMA to also deploy the Air Fence for the 2001 and the 2002 WERA Grand National Finals at Road Atlanta and for the next three Formula USA/CCS races at Daytona--with our fund deferring direct expenses associated with that deployment--came to naught; AMA Pro Racing does not share well.

And so the fund has continued, seeking to buy Air Fence for use at WERA, CCS and Formula USA events, and at events sanctioned by other organizations after that. Our mission to promote the use of soft barrier expanded to include dirt track racing, with a separate accounting of funds collected for dirt track soft barrier.

By the end of 2001, with contributions over $150,000 and growing, the need to create an organization to manage the air fence fund was great. So the Roadracing World Action Fund was created as a non-profit organization under section 501( c )3, expanding its scope to a wider range of motorcycle racing safety issues, but with the emphasis remaining on soft barriers, demonstrating its use and effectiveness of preventing racing injuries.

Under the non-profit status, all air fence purchased by the Roadracing World Action Fund must remain the property of the fund. Air fence can then be used for demonstration at various race tracks to educate the public on its effectiveness in preventing crash injuries.

*Trademark of Airfence Safety Systems