Although it has been discussed and debated for years, and seems to pop up every season, I actually took an informal, but in depth, look at the AMA area qualifiers to see if C class sandbagging is as common and widespread as made out to be. What prompted this was an observation at the Malvern area qualifier for the Loretta Lynn’s National Championship where an A-class rider signed up to race and qualify in the 450C class. The rider was quickly recognized by a fellow racer and after speaking with the track referee, was disqualified for the day. Looking at results after the same area qualifier I did a quick Google search of a rider that finished in first place in two C classes. This rider was from Canada and I easily had found out he raced in 250B and 450B classes in Canada a total of thirty times last year (winning two thirds of those races). The AMA looked into it and deemed that he was ineligible to race C class. Their statement was that once you race a higher class race in the same style of competition, regardless of location, that is where you stay. Moving on, I referenced the AMA’s 2016 B class Advancement list that is issued at the end of every season to alert what riders are being moved from C to B class because of either participation in the national or because their Rider Performance Value (RPV) was high enough to bump them to the next level of competition. What I found was that there were a total number of nineteen riders who had qualified in one or more C classes at one or more area qualifiers who should have been racing B class. Their names were either on the AMA’s advancement list, last revised in December, or they had raced in at least one B class race last year. Some of these riders raced in only one area qualifier, while others raced in up to four qualifiers trying to secure a qualifying position to advance to regionals. A few still did not qualify in some of their classes, while others swept whatever classes they raced. The AMA also has a “Rider Search” function as part of their website. It is here that you can look up racers who have competed in AMA events and is also where the AMA pulls the information to assign the riders’ RPV number. It was here that I found that seventeen of the nineteen advanced riders who were racing C classes, had appealed their B class advancement and had it approved by the AMA. According to the AMA, the appeal process consists of paying a $50 fee, filling out a form, and having a review by a three member panel. One of the things they take into consideration is how many years the rider has been racing in C classes, and of the appeals granted, most riders have been racing C for three to five years. Once the AMA makes their ruling on an appeal it is final, and may not be appealed again. Of interesting note is the following taken from the AMA completion rulebook regarding rider classification appeal: e. Riders who wish to contest placement, are only those who are considered completely noncompetitive in the class they are leaving and won’t dominate the class in which they are returning. h. The AMA Appeal Board reserves the authority to re-evaluate and overturn an advancement/ classification appeal decision based upon new information and / or documented race results within six months of the Appeal Board’s decision. On the surface it seems the advancement system is in place to serve riders who enjoy racing and occasionally finishing in a top spot, but who may not be of the talent required to make it to the national. However, that does not seem to be the case and in complete opposition to section “e” regarding noncompetive riders when some of these approved appeal riders have swept their four areas qualifier classes with finishes of first place in each. In reality, all seventeen riders who had their advancements repealed by the AMA qualified in the area qualifiers to advance to regionals. It makes you wonder what documentation they included in their appeals process that made the AMA believe that they were “noncompetitive” in their class. The AMA touts that they have a system in place to ensure that competition is fair in their sanctioned races and the road to Loretta’s. You might even remember an article they published at the beginning of this year titled “A is A, B is B and C is C” reiterating the monitoring of rider classification. The only part that seemed to be left out of that article is that if you didn’t like your classification, $50 could buy the one you want. The AMA’s 2016 Advancement list had a total of 99 riders who were advanced to B class because the RPV number exceeded the allowable limit to stay in C class. Of this total, 25 riders appealed and were approved to continue racing C class. Old-timers will tell you it was a bit of an honor to receive word from the AMA that you were being bumped up a class because of your riding abilities. Many argue that C classes should not be offered at the national. I can see the argument for that, but at the same time you want to build the sport and a sure way to do that is including the C classes at the national. Bottom line, and everyone should be willing to admit it, it all comes down to money. Whether you are MX Sports requiring the “Qualifying Fee” at races, E-Score bumping up the price of transponders at regionals, the RV site raffle at the national, or the dad driving his kid to four area qualifiers across the country just trying to get into one spot. In summary, it seems to be that everything that has been repeated each season regarding “sandbagging” appears to have merit, and looks to be actually be promoted by AMA.