Implementing two-strokes in a professional series is an easy way to garner attention, which is something that most promoters strive for. We are, of course, discussing this on the back of the announcement from the ACU, which confirmed that they will be adding a two-stroke series to their programme next year.
Feedback has, for the most part, been positive online and I am certain that the powers that be are extremely proud of that. Rarely does the Maxxis British Championship bask in positivity, as controversial incidents have left the ACU in the firing line in recent years. I am sure that certain short-term goals have already been achieved too, as they have undoubtedly received an influx of queries and kudos. Making decisions that are based on achieving success immediately, rather than assessing the bigger picture, may not be the smartest move though.
When the VMX class was added however many years ago, it seemed like it would work brilliantly on paper. The fans would come out in droves to see the stars of yesteryear, right? Why would they not? The stars, which are arguably the most important ingredient, did not show up though and consequently the whole concept flopped. I fear that we may be sat in the same position with this two-stroke class, unfortunately, because the bikes that nostalgic fans are obsessed with are just a part of the equation.
A cluster of relevant riders must be piloting those bikes in order to ensure that interest will be sustained, because otherwise there is not really any kind of spark. To take that point further, even if just a few points separate four guys who are relatively unknown I would argue whether there would be any interest at all. What if I told you that the top two in VMX were separated by just three points in 2012? Does anyone remember that?
Perhaps the two premier classes are there to generate that interest and this support class is in place to simply please those who line the fences? There is the potential for that to happen, of course, but again big names are just so important. If you want to put Tommy Searle, Jake Nicholls and Elliott Banks-Browne on two-strokes then you are onto an automatic winner. If you have lesser names battling for the win, then it is going to be harder to sell.
That has obviously been considered, because the ACU have boldly stated that MX1 and MX2 riders can race both classes. Any rider who has a realistic shot at a title, however, will not waste time with that and those guys are the ones who fans want to see in person. Brad Anderson is probably the most likely to jump on a two-stroke, seeing as he is committed to the EMX300 division, but will that be enough?
There are various other issues to consider with a two-stroke class, such as the fact that you are alienating certain manufacturers who simply cannot contend. Should this go well, a marketing aspect will come into play and KTM will want to see their 250 two-stroke on top each week. Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki will be unable to join that party, however, and that may not be healthy. It is just a support class, so perhaps that is not even a concern for anyone involved? It is worth considering though.
I do think that a two-stroke series has its place, yes, but I do not necessarily think that it is alongside the Maxxis British Championship. Would a class like this not slot into the Michelin MX Nationals perfectly? I feel like that would be the perfect solution and strengthen the relationship between the two, seeing as the ‘Expert Cup’ is already working effectively. Whenever two-strokes are mentioned, you’ll always hear that they are easier for the average joe to acquire and maintain. The MX Nationals is the perfect platform for those riders, their bustling ‘Clubman’ class serves as proof of that, which is why I feel like that could be the right home for this class.
That would also eliminate the biggest problem with all of this, which is the fact that the MXY2 riders have drawn the short straw and, rather than compete at all eight rounds, they will be present at just five of them. The ACU are adamant that this does not alter their commitment to that class, but followed that statement up by proclaiming that they have “specifically targeted four high-profile venues" for the two-stroke class.
Putting two-strokes at Hawkstone Park is, of course, an obvious choice, but is it not best to allow the up and coming riders a chance to race the historic and, quite frankly, better tracks? Rather than tackle Hawkstone, one of the toughest tracks that the nation has to offer, the riders are restricted to a practice track like Preston Docks. Should MXY2 not be the priority when it comes to making decisions such as this? The ACU have made a good move by putting MXY2 at rounds one and two, as they need to be under the spotlight at those events.
The greatest counterargument to all of this is that the MXY2 class at the British Youth Nationals is actually where the official champion is crowned. The class that runs alongside the Maxxis British Championship is not supposed to carry as much weight, for that reason. It is almost impossible to enforce that though, as those competing in the greatest series that Britain has to offer are seen by the most fans and sponsors.
A majority of fans can confidently state that Jamie Carpenter won the MXY2 class in the Maxxis British Championship, but could you really tell me who the BYN champion was? I highly doubt it. Heck, the riders in the BYN are not even seen by professional teams each week! Is that not the goal with this class? You need to be racing in front of the team managers, so that they can identify a flash of speed or potential.
One would presume that this move has been made as a result of the MXY2 series not generating enough of a return across eight rounds. I would argue that, rather than looking for an alternative support class, efforts should be put into promotion across social media to ensure that people do care and a return is there.
To bring this back around to my original statement about achieving short-term goals, to get the most out of series a long-term promotion plan must be implemented. It may not become something great overnight, but eventually it will work and help all involved. The promoters, sponsors, teams and riders would all reap the benefits, but instead we have another support class in place as a quick fix. What are the chances that we are all looking for another solution at this point next year?