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Putnam racers embrace hometown colors; Holstein spots on superbikes grab national attention

Newspaper Article in Lake Oconee News; April 17, 2009, Feature article of Events & Outdoor Section:


Lake Oconee has become the welcome retreat and home base for a professional motorcycle road race team, Liberty Waves Racing.  We compete in the AMA Superbike Series, explains rider and racer, Eric Pinson. Like the PGA is to golf, AMA is to motorcycle racing and serves as North America’s highest level of pro competition.  We race street bikes at tracks all across the country, from Daytona International Speedway in Florida to Laguna Seca Speedway in Monterey California. 

The series draws top riders from around the world, adds Kirsten Haas, the team managing director and owner.  At the season opener in early March at Daytona, there were riders from more than a dozen countries, nearly 100,000 spectators and the main event, the Daytona 200, was broadcast globally

Building Winning Streak
After the excitement of earning its first podium finish in its three year history at this season’s opening race in Daytona, Liberty Waves finished second at the Superbike Showdown at Road Atlanta on April 4.  The team is in full swing getting ready for the Superbike Classic at Barber Motorsports Park May 2 through 4 where it hopes to continue the winning pattern.  The Team races in the Moto GT1 class on bike #41.  Moto GT is an endurance race in which two riders trade off to complete as many laps possible within two hours.  Bikes are subjected to weight and horse power restrictions to ensure that riders compete on an equal playing field.  Competitiveness lies more with the skills and strategies of riders and crew vs. technical superiority of equipment.  We’re excited about our upcoming races, claims Pinson, at Daytona we pretty much led the first half of the race. After falling behind with a tire change issue, we caught up to third place.

 Better yet, adds crew chief Jamie Spinks, we did it on an American-made Buell, the first Buell to podium an AMA pro event at Daytona.  Buell is the sport bike division of Harley-Davidson.  The team races the 1125r model which was provided by Antelope Valley H-D Buell in Lancaster, California.

 Milking It With Cow Bikes
The support of Dairyland Cycle Insurance was also instrumental in the success of our season debut, comments Haas.  Their commitment to our program and belief in us has empowered us to be extraordinary.  Take, for example, the team’s branding.  Last summer, Dairyland challenged us to help make their phone ring, states Haas.  Maybe it was the inspiration of Putnam County’s backdrop of rolling green meadows with black and white dairy cows that set the idea.  We painted the race bikes to look like dairy cows.

 Today, each of the teams fleet of five race bikes resemble Holstein dairy cows.  Fans love it, claims Haas, The bikes draw women and children and generate a lot of attention.  Pinson comments, I have come to enjoy getting mooed and can, in clear conscious, say that all puns are intended.  Better yet, more people  are calling Dairyland to get insurance quotes. 

 AMA race weekends offer plenty of action, drama and recreation.  Typically drawing 40,000 spectators, road race courses are in scenic settings and allow viewers the freedom to roam around and catch race action at different vantage points.  The tracks are 2 plus miles of curves, swoops and straight-aways.  Riders accelerate to speeds of nearly 200 miles per hour, winding in and out of turns, up and over crests with only a leather suit to protect them if things do not go according to plan.  It is truly awe-inspiring, states Haas, once I saw my first race, I was hooked.

Team History
When this adventure started a little more than three years ago, reflects Haas, I did not know a thing about motorcycles or racing.  Eric told me he raced.  I was skeptical.  I resisted telling him that I was marketing person.  Eventually, he drew it out of me and exclaimed that racing was all about marketing.  Intrigued, Haas visited his race website and saw the opportunity to not only to help him from a marketing standpoint, but expand her skills in a different arena.  I gave him some feedback, which led to collaboration, then friendship which has evolved to a strong relationship today

I love racing explains Pinson.  I’ve raced since I was eleven -- first on dirt bikes, then mountain bikes and now street bikes.  A native of Conyers, Georgia, Pinson started competing on the professional level at age 16 in supercross.  After a bad crash and a broken leg, I turned to mountain biking for rehab and stuck with it for a while.  He rose to be a top 5 contender on National and UCI World Levels and was a NCAA champion in dual slalom.  Competitive mountain biking allowed me to get a scholarship and finish my college degree in business management

After college, Pinson moved to California and competed in Supermoto – a discipline that blends dirt and pavement riding.  His 2002 performance in Superbikers 2 SUPERMOTO earned him a spot On First USA TEAM to compete internationally in Mettet Belgium.  Afterwards, he pursued a new challenge–road racing. 

He started competing locally at Willow Springs Motorcycle Club Road Race Series as part of Bill Bartell’s Harley-Davidson Team.  Riding a
H-D Sportster, he finished 3rd overall highest points in Club’s Heavyweight Twin Expert Class Championship.  He moved on to AMA pro racing and competed in select events.  In 2004, he was the first in 25 years to qualify and complete an AMA Pro Main Supersport Event on a Triumph. 

I was impressed by Eric’s race history and as I got to know him, I couldn’t help but admire his passion for racing.  He knew what he wanted which inspired me, recalls Haas who was at a point of her career where she was complacent but hungry for something more meaningful and rewarding.  When Pinson’s arrangements to race the 2007 season fell apart, Haas stepped in.  I asked him what it would take for him to race.  He told me a motorcycle.  So I bought one.  Eight weeks later, we were at Daytona for the 200.

The Team’s name, Liberty Waves conveys the team’s journey.  While discussing a name for the race bike, Haas and Pinson were driving along I 20 and passing Liberty, Alabama.  I was struck by the unexpected sight of a Statue of Liberty towering above the tree line along the Alabama highway and I said Liberty. It stuck, explains Haas. The waves comes from my love of water and the urge to create progressive momentum.

 

Creating Waves
In the past three years, the team has made a mark on the series.  Spinks, Pinson’s long time friend who had helped him during his mountain bike racing career, came on board as the team’s crew chief in 2008.  Jamie’s commitment really helped improve our competitive standing, comments Haas.  The team rose from 30th in the season opener and posted several top 20 finishes.  Completing and earning points at all 11 rounds, the team achieved overall point standings just shy of the top 20 in the most competitive class of the Series.  Furthermore, the team grew in size.  More and more people wanted to be involved states Pinson, on average, we had a dozen yellow wave team shirts filling our race paddock at every event.  With spare hands, the team reached out and supported another independent rider, Eric Haugo, and has included him under the Liberty Waves umbrella.   

We’ve met a lot of people, made a lot of friends and forged some great relationships, adds Haas. In addition to gaining the partnerships of Antelope Valley H-D and Dairyland Cycle Insurance, we’ve struck a great collaborative bond with DeKalb Technical Institute’s Department of Motorcycle Service Technology for technical advice, tuning and crew members.  Spinks adds, We’re getting great support from industry suppliers and vendors like Buell, RaceTech, GPR Stabilizers, Royal Purple and more.  It is tremendous how people want to help us keep mooo-ving.  In addition, companies outside the motorcycle industry have stepped up to help such as MidSouth Steel, a steel fabricator / erection company and The In House, a vinyl wrap graphics designer and supplier.

 

All 4-1
Cow bikes aside, it is probably safe to say that Liberty Waves Racing is unlike any AMA pro race team.  Haas comments, We’re fun-loving, easy-going and fan-oriented.  We aren’t as intense as other teams in the race paddock.  Although operating with a smaller budget than most teams, Liberty Waves’ riders are competitive and perform.  Haas adds, I get told that our riders are too old because they are in their 30’s vs. their teens, we’re too fat, our bikes are too stock or weak, as an owner, I do not know enough, our crew is too green which irks me.  Then, I think of Seabiscuit, the race horse in the 1930s and like Seabiscuit, we just will not go away.  We will not quit.  I may not know much about motorcycles, but I know that racing is more about heart and soul than anything else.   

Pinson elaborates, We take racing and on-track performance very seriously, but, we understand a bigger picture – that racing is entertainment and it is supposed to be fun for fans.  Haas adds, I’d like to think that we champion the prevailing American spirit – that anything is possible when you believe in yourself, work hard, and keep believing.  What helps us stay centered, states Pinson, is our ability to have fun, enjoy each other and connect with fans.  By staying true to ourselves and persevering, we inspire others and enhance their race weekend experiences.

The team will be racing through October when its season will conclude with an 8-hour endurance finale at Daytona International Speedway for the Moto GT class.  As summarized by Pinson, We’re going for the championship.  It’s not going to be easy, but we’re in for the battle and we’re ready.

 For more information about the team and ways you can help support their championship quest, contact Kirsten Haas at 770-842-1091 or via email at kahaas@libertywaves.com.

 

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