The International Motorcycle Safety Association arrived on the scene about a year ago. It was the brainchild of an insurance expert/motorcyclist living in the middle of motorcycle central who learned that Lake Elsinore Motocross Park had lost its insurance and was about to be shut down. So in the span of three days, a few friends constructed a brilliant idea, and began implementing a plan. Although the entire plan would take half a year to complete, phase one was finding track insurance to cover their liability. Phase two was adopt a safety policy where tracks were mandated to pay more attention to risk management. And finally, phase three was to create an excess medical policy to cover $10,000 worth of medical bills for any rider who got hurt at an IMSA track. The fee for all of this is a mere $20, and it's rapidly becoming one of the most-popular programs in the United States. In the span of one year, they have 50,000 members, and are growing every day. The program is designed to co-exist with the AMA and all race sanctioning bodies. Working with hand-picked tracks across America, IMSA can provide everything from practice insurance to race day insurance, and that will protect our riding areas.We recently hooked up with Paul Harte at the IMSA office in San Marcos, California. We met him and the staff of nine people, and saw firsthand how the program works. We also wanted to ask him a few questions about the past, present and future of motorcycle tracks and insurance matters.Dirt Rider: What's your background in insurance and motorcycling?Paul Harte: My dad's been an insurance broker for the last 30 plus years. I lived in a risk management type of household all my life. For example, when my brothers and I would go riding, instead of saying "go have fun" he would quote statistics on how many riders got hurt. So I guess I've been raised as a risk manager, and that's why I recognize different liabilities and hazards that most people don't see.DR: How difficult was it creating the entire insurance program?PH: The program was very difficult to create due to the fact that a lot of insurance companies were pulling out or dissolving motorsports programs. IMSA created a program to help manage loss ratios and stiff underwriting guidelines. This was by no means and easy task, and it would be extremely difficult for someone to copy our program.DR: What's the biggest misconception about IMSA?PH: Most riders signing up think they are purchasing health insurance and don't want to pay extra for something they may already have. This bothers them because they may already have medical insurance that they pay thousands of dollars for every year. But this program is three-fold and protects all riders all the time at all IMSA tracks. This is an excess medical policy, and that is different from normal health insurance. The IMSA program protects riders, tracks and institutes safety guidelines for motorsport activities. Therefore, we like to believe that we insure some of the safest tracks in America.DR: Why are most tracks shut down in the United States?PH: Most tracks are shut down due to the fact of poor management and lack of insurance. There are no industry guidelines for track owners to go buy, which results in rider injuries, lawsuits, etc.DR: How the does the $10,000 worth of excess medical insurance work?PH: We implemented a $10,000 full excess medical benefit to cover out of pocket expenses for riders. IMSA's research discovered that a lot of claims against tracks were fueled by medical bills under $10,000. So IMSA added this coverage for our members because the need was there, and we'll add future benefits as the need requires. Right now we're also working on other programs for IMSA members to insure riders wherever they are at, be it at home or at play.DR: What are the criteria to become an IMSA track?PH: All new tracks have to meet all of our underwriting guidelines set forth by our insurance company. These guidelines are created to minimize risk on the part of everyone involved.DR: What is the mission statement of IMSA?PH: Our goal is to make our sport more enjoyable by protecting riders, tracks, dealers, motorcycle manufacturers and everyone who contributes to the off-road experience. We want to preserve riding areas and make sure when a guy comes out to ride, that he feels safe in knowing that if he gets hurt , there's someone out there to pay the bills. In a lot of cases in the past, people get hurt, can't work, lose their job, and can't pay for medical bills. For 20 bucks, we can eliminate some of the headaches and the worry. With that in mind, part of our mission statement is to give riders more options, and you'll hear about that in the coming weeks. We've got a lot of great programs in the works and are finalizing them as we speak.DR: Do you see a relationship with the AMA in the future?PH: We would like to develop a relationship with them in 2004. Our goal is to make sure every rider is protected, and that doesn't matter whether or not they are associated with another membership group. The AMA has done a lot of great things for this sport, and I think we can add to their programs, or at least work in tandem with their current plans.DR: Do you run your own races?PH: No. We provide insurance for practice tracks, racetracks and individual riders, but don't have any plans to run races. We'll leave that up to people like the AMA.DR: You recently cancelled Lake Elsinore MX Park from your policy, and that surprised a lot of peoplebecause it's arguably the busiest track in the world, and it has to make you a lot of money. What went wrong?PH: Failure to comply with underwriting guidelines. It did cost us a lot of money, but we have to do that to protect our insurance underwriter. Basically, money has never been the motivating factor. We came into this program with the idea of saving tracks and protecting riders. We would love nothing more than to insure them again, but we'll only do that when they meet our guidelines.DR: How has the public perception changed in the past few months?PH: The members perception is becoming more positive with IMSA due to the fact that riders are seeing the value of the program and more tracks are being opened. All you have to do is talk to one of the many people who have actually used the excess medical policy and you'll see that IMSA makes a huge difference in their lives.DR: A lot of really big companies and even some motorcycle manufacturers are talking to you about helping them out. Does it feel strange being looked at as somewhat of a savior for our sport?PH: I don't feel like a savior. We are doing our part so my child and other children will have a place to ride in the near future.