The debate about overseas circuits crowding the FIM Motocross World Championship schedule is going to rage on forever and, truth be told, Sunday’s round in Indonesia would have only fuelled that fire. Why so? The Grand Prix of Indonesia was a perfect example of just how good an overseas event can be, but also how bad it can be. Confused? Yeah, me too.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer
Let’s start with context, shall we? The races in Argentina and Indonesia have always been difficult to get to for everyone. Neuquén has always hosted the Grand Prix of Argentina and that consists of three flights for most (two to get Buenos Aires and then an internal flight down to Bariloche, where the track sits). Indonesia has followed a similar pattern in the past, no matter the track, as it took two international flights to get to Jakarta and then an internal flight to Semarang or wherever the circuit was built. This was different though. Oh, it was so different.
The island of Sumbawa isn’t exactly thought of as a tourist hotspot and thus there are limited flights to the island. There is so little need for those on the island to accommodate flights that the runway is only suitable for small planes. In short, it was impossible for everyone to get a commercial flight onto the island and that meant that a charter flight had to be organised. The remote location of Sumbawa meant that hopping over from Jakarta, which would have been most convenient, was simply not an option, so everyone had to board an internal flight to Lombok and then another one to Sumbawa.
The organisation of said flights was definitely shaky at best. Everyone made it though, so who cares. Right? It was a prime example of how stepping into the unknown can cause unnecessary stress for everyone. Take my word for it: No one was in a good mood after those internal flights. The tone quickly changed when the riders saw the track on Friday, much like how Neuquén has won everyone over. It was a nice reminder that these overseas races can produce good tracks. It’s strange that such a reminder is even needed, seeing as Argentina is so good. Semarang and Palembang were not exactly garbage though.
There we have a great example of the fact that overseas rounds can be good. I mean, no one actually loved the track once they raced on it. Let’s sweep that under the carpet – it was still a fairly good track. This poses a question that is very interesting though. Are overseas races acceptable as long as the circuit is good? Can the lack of entries, massive costs and travel nightmares be ignored as long as that box is ticked? The riders will say yes, because so many of them said that’s the only thing that they truly care about. That was before food poisoning swept through the paddock, truth be told, but that was still the common consensus.
Indonesia is not somewhere that I would ever choose to travel to. I enjoy the finer things in life, instead of the bare minimum, but I can recognise the fact that it is necessary to go somewhere in Asia. Manufacturers selling more bikes there than anywhere else is no myth and there are potential revenue streams for squads on the continent. MTX, the title sponsor of Steve Dixon’s team, is based in Malaysia, so racing there is a big deal for him. KYT helmets come from Asia and they paid Romain Febvre very well for a few years. The point is that this trip could be seen as a worthy investment for some.
The overwhelming crux of the issue is that not everyone is able to make such an investment and, truth be told, the problem goes deeper than that. The MX2 class was atrocious. Point blank. Who was really missing though? Conrad Mewse, Roan van de Moosdijk, Hakon Fredriksen and Liam Everts would have been there, had they not got injured. The best rider who was missing purely because of a lack of support was Jan Pancar. Everyone can scream and shout about the lack of the entries, but no one actually missed Pancar. This sport is so brutal to the guys on the bubble. They get no respect or interest, for whatever reason.
Essentially everyone wanted Pancar there to fill a gate – there was no other purpose for him to serve. There is no way that anyone would have been stoked that ‘253’ managed to make it to the start line. Do you want to know what would have got people excited though? There being a ton of wildcards from Australia in both classes (not looking at you, Lewis Stewart). Could something be done, like waiving the start fee for the race, to entice riders like Kyle Webster and Todd Waters across for the event? Yes, I know that the Grand Prix of Australia would be so much better. I know!
You know, a race in Australia would solve a lot of these issues. There would be wildcards, the squads could save money by loaning parts, there would be no need to take stuff like toolboxes and there would definitely be a cool track. Someone like Jan Pancar could probably loan a bike and take his suspension in a suitcase. I have a sneaky suspicion that some of the teams on the fence would magically find money for an Australian race too. Yeah, call me crazy. Put it the week before Indonesia and that event would suddenly improve too. Easier said than done, I know, because an Aussie promoter needs to find the money to fund the event.
Anyway, back to the burning question. Does a good track eliminate every other complaint? Perhaps. I would say that it does at a place like Semarang. There were no other concerns at that race, as the accommodation was amazing and the flights were simple. Easy! Funnelling everyone onto a rather chaotic charter flight and into dirty hotels did Sunday’s Grand Prix no favours, but the circuit and facility did save it from being a huge disaster.