George Smith and George Bryce, G-Squared Motorsports co-owners, have decided to let the contract of rider Chip Ellis expire prior to the 2008 season. The decision comes on the heels of a season in which Ellis finished No. 3 in the POWERade points standings, just a final round victory away from a career first championship at the NHRA Finals.
“Let me say this, and I want people to really hear this, the success of our S&S Buell program can largely be attributed to Chip Ellis,” Smith said. “I have a special fondness for him and I hope he stays on as a part of this team. He is the best rider I’ve ever seen at getting the most out of a bike. We’re hoping to keep him as a test rider but we’re also allowing him to explore his chances to ride for someone else.
“We had a team meeting and Chip said flat-out that he would make changes too. Had we won either of the final two races, we’d be champions right now. We challenged Chip to make this his year on Sundays. He’s always been great in testing and qualifying. George and I did all we could to help him but by Chip’s own admission, he struggled to maintain his focus at times.”
The decision seemed to be based largely on the fact that the team failed to win an event throughout the season and Ellis’ average reaction time was slightly off-pace at .069.
“This was the first year in the history of our company that we didn’t win a race,” Bryce said. “Changes had to be made. It’s like we played 16 games and went 0-16. There’s no one to blame and I don’t want Chip to take the hit by himself because it’s not like that. We made several moves within the team. Collectively, we didn’t get it done.”
Smith is unsure if he will field a team at all next season, however, along with Bryce, Smith has contacted several potential replacement riders. The duo has shown interest in acquiring the services of three-rime NHRA champion Angelle Sampey, who was released from her contract with the US Army team earlier this season.
“We’d love to have her on board again,” Bryce said.
“I can’t think of anyone in our class, or our sport for that matter, that’s more marketable than Angelle,” Smith said. “Still, we need funding to run this program. We can’t put forth the effort it takes to win a championship without corporate sponsorship. The days of doing it on your own are long gone.”
Smith and Bryce estimate the total cost of running a successful Pro Stock Motorcycle team to be $750,000.
“If we’re going to do this, I want to do it right,” Smith said. “Whether it’s with Angelle or anyone else, you have to do all the things it takes to make the sponsorship work, which goes way beyond your success on the racetrack.
“At the same time, we have 13 engine customers we need to service and they will always be at the top of the list because they’re the ones paying for our engines and bikes.”
Throughout his career Ellis earned multiple national championships in AMA/Prostar competition, most notably riding for Steve Rice aboard his turbo-charged ZX-11 Funny Bike. Ellis vows to be racing somewhere next season.