Shoud MX B Like F1??
Motocrossed #2, Should MX take a few tips from F1?
By Jimmy Lewis
(No matter what you may think, a guy who has practically lived his life on two wheels has collected a plethora of thoughts over the years about the sport. This is a guy who has made AMA Motocross Nationals, nearly won the Paris to Dakar Rally, has several ISDE Gold Medals, is a former desert champion, has won all sorts of one-off races, raced for Factory KTM and BMW, and was part of the mini four-stroke movement back in the ’90s. Some may love him others may loathe him, yet all should respect his talents and knowledge of two wheels.—SH)
The New Race Format
Call me American because I want what I want. And switching between two hard to find TV networks, scanning a web site as obscure as the one you are on right now, not to mention the Olympics postponing my second motos, well, I think we are in need of a change. I know the argument for tradition. I know there is a lot of money at stake. I know there are more than a few egos on the line here. But take it from a guy who lives, breathes and eats the dust created by dirt bikes, I’m pretty sure I speak for a lot of you. I want to see a change in motocross.
I know there are more than a few egos on the line here. But take it from a guy who lives, breathes and eats the dust created by dirt bikes, …
I have a short attention span. I like excitement. Motocross was cookie cutter made for my needs as a viewer, even at a seasoned age by marketeer standards. So give me racing in a format that makes me stay tuned. And don’t forget the golden rule of “if you can’t beat them, join them.” My friends of two wheels persuasion, have you watched a Formula One telecast lately? All six hours of them?
The largest and most viewed motorsport in the world can’t be all that wrong. Now I’ll concede that a fair share of Americans would rather watch cars going around in circles turning left, but as motocrossers don’t digress back to your flat track or TT roots, we have all evolved. F1 is a sport that has drivers as celebrities (motocross is hoping this catches on), technology beyond comprehension (Motocross lacks works bikes but I’ll deal with that in another column), and a race format that fills three television shows covering everything from the first practice to qualifying to, and finally the race. And the world watches.
Look, two motos is too confusing for most non-enthusiasts and even a little difficult for those that like more than a beer or two between the said motos. There was a time when there was three, did you forget about that? In reality Supercross is way more popular than Motocross and nobody is asking for two motos there? Or are they? And I’m as out of the loop as the guys sticking with two motos? OK, Point made.
Now that we all agree on a single moto, how do you fill the time? A few years ago the big push was to make the outdoor nationals a one day event. It happened and a slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am (thank you Larry Huffman or the person who said that) format was put in place to get everyone home in time for church on Sunday. And to make for a cleaner and easier TV format, especially on the production time at the event. With those few good years of practice for the TV teams yet even more confusion on the receiving end of the broadcast as time has passed, it is time for motocross to evolve into the format that the viewers can watch as well as the spectators can appreciate.
Stealing from Formula One and to make it a better event for the riders and spectators alike, here is my solution. MX Sports, feel free to steal the idea and claim it. Just give me a pit pass once in a while.
There will still be two classes, just a main or premiere class and a support class. Call the main one whatever you want, I’ll call it M1. M1 is the unlimited class with very few rules on the machinery re-introducing the full-on works bike. Rules will be made to keep the riders safe and the competition close with an eye for emerging technology. There will be team points and rider points to put a dual spin on the championship in case one of the races gets a little e boring like has happened a few times in the past. It will give manufacturers incentives to stay in the sport and back solid outside teams. Each of the selected teams gets the opportunity to run two bikes at each event, no more. Riders are their own commodity and the fastest will still prevail in popularity and in price. The other class, what is called the 250F class now will be a horsepower limited class set at a power level to make the engines live and the racing costs become affordable for a privateer. Set the power level at a little less than the best stock 250F puts out and watch that class get even more completive. Oh yea, and a weight limit too. The top riders in this class will still be a premium for the premiere class and a inspiration for young racers looking to make it to the big time.
The racing format is a pretty simple too. One moto. Like a main event for the day’s racing so it is pretty simple to see who won. Now that leaves a lot of free time, you may think. But in reality it frees up the schedule to have an actual practice session to dial in the bikes, something that is sorely lacking from the schedule today. Now riders get a whole two laps (if they are lucky) before they are on the clock and qualifying. Often times the best time a rider gets on the track is on his third lap because that is the best condition of the track during timing. So the first practice session is truly a practice/tuning session.
Knock-out qualifying is the replacement for the first motos. It rips directly from F1. Everyone is on the track for the first session and only the top 20 make the second session. The second session drops the slower ten leaving the fastest 10 to go at it one last time for final “pole position” qualifying and a corresponding gate pick. Award minimal points based on the qualifying session and maybe a few bonus points for the final positions. It will be a spectacle to watch the fastest guys laying it all down where you know what is going on as opposed to calling it a timed practice. Imagine now there is a place for the “one-lap flyer” rider who never got in shape for a full 30-plus two. This would make for a gangbuster preview preceding the actual TV race coverage and a fence-lining time at the event for the spectators to see what it looks like to be the fastest man on the track.
The race will still be the race and nothing is diminished from that. 40 men on the gate and the strongest, fastest, fittest man with solid machinery will still win. Motocross will never get away from being a real man’s sport. That being said I love seeing the ladies having a presence at the outdoor nationals as well, even in my new and improved format.
So don’t be afraid to mention this to my boy Davey over at MX Sports because I want to watch this on television every weekend too. Just like you.
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