It’s understandable why some can be sceptical when facing change; especially when you’re livelihood depends on the decision you are about to make. Deep within the paddock, change is frequent. It’s hard to keep up with the constant changes in riders, personnel and sponsors, most of the time. But it’s not just the teams that are faced with the daunting decision of whether to take a risk, and that’s what change is – a risk. Promoters face the ever-constant battle to keep everyone happy, when trying to move a series forward.
It would seem that in this sport, we’re scared of change. It is uncommon to see a change so large, and so effective that it changes the way we view the sport. But suddenly, what we have known as normality these past few years looks set to be revamped in an effort to improve the biggest series in the world. What are these changes? Well before we get to the big one, it has been announced that there will be a few rule changes in the FIM Motocross World Championship series; although subtle they will undoubtedly improve the series. To be honest I’m surprised they weren’t implemented sooner.
So, there was a list of new rules set out in an official manner released by the FIM; most notably the MX2 age restriction rule will no longer apply at the Motocross of Nations! That sound you hear is the millions of motocross fans around the world, breathing a sigh of relief. In all honesty, I don’t agree with the rule in the MX2 series, in fact I conducted an article on that very subject earlier in the year. But, one step at a time and no longer will the smaller countries be hindered at the MXoN because of the age rule. Undoubtedly, countries such as Australia, Belgium, New Zealand and France are very pleased with the rule change. Heck, this could help our team out, now that Searle can drop down to the 250f again, if he is needed too.
The event that is supposed to showcase “the best of the best” shouldn’t have had restrictions like this in the first place, in my mind a wrong has been righted. I’m also of the belief this will make the race a lot tighter, now that the teams can really send their best riders, surely the chances of the USA going on another prolonged win streak are less likely. Even America could send a stronger team now though. If they need to, there is always the opportunity to knock Villopoto, or Stewart down to the 250f. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see?
The fact that the dreaded green fencing is no longer mandatory seems like the smallest of changes. In reality, every single rider, team member and fan is undoubtedly thrilled with the decision. How many times has a race been ruined because of the fencing getting wrapped in someone’s back wheel? It’s too many times to count, that’s for sure. Of course, just because it is no longer mandatory doesn’t mean it will be extinct completely – some track owners will choose to use it. However, it will be seen less frequently, our prayers have been answered!
It is no secret that Youthstream and the FIM have struggled to fill the forty-man gate at the flyaway GP’s; in fact they have struggled to fill just half of it! However, it was confirmed just days ago that they would be trying to combat this problem, by making a major change to the format of the series. At the MXGP’s that take place overseas the MX1 and MX2 riders will be mixed together, but scored separately. This means that in Qatar, Thailand, Mexico and Brazil there will be just two points paying races on the Sunday.
But, what about when the series returns to Europe? From 2014, the MX1 and MX2 riders will contest the first moto separately, just like they have done since 2004. Then, the top finishers in each class will advance onto the second moto, where the two classes will again be mixed in a ‘superfinal’ type format. So, what riders make it through to moto two? The top ten in the MX1 and MX2 World Championship standings at that time will automatically advance into the race, as well as the top ten from the first MX1, and MX2 moto (once the top ten in the World Championship standings have been removed, if that makes sense). However, in 2013 the European GP’s will not change, I believe.
I’m undecided about whether or not this change will benefit the series; I guess we won’t really know until this time next year. My initial reaction was is the change really needed? The format that has been implemented in the past nine years has been pretty flawless; I don’t think anyone has felt the need to complain about the more traditional schedule. If it’s not broke, why fix it? I do not think a change is needed at the European GP’s, but maybe at the flyaway races it will be a positive thing.
Surely, a solution would have been to make it more beneficial for teams to travel over to places like Thailand? Whereas now, although the gate won’t be as empty will some lesser MX2 teams still travel over? When, instead of getting tenth in an individual MX2 race there rider could be twenty-fifth in the mixed races? The Standing Construct KTM team has been voicing their concern on twitter, and proclaiming this change will be the death of the MX2 class. I can understand why Youthstream would think of it as a great idea, because looking at it on paper, it is. Although most are thinking that this change will see Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings battling it out, will the MX2 guys really put themselves out to beat the MX1 riders, when there is no real reason to do so?
For the MX2 riders, it is just pride on the line. If Cairoli were leading Herlings I would imagine the factory KTM team would be urging Jeffrey to just take second, it would make no difference if he went after Cairoli in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps it would be better to not score them separately, in an effort to improve the racing? But, then again I can see why this would infuriate the teams also. I think it is certainly risky, the new format. Fans are either going to love it, or hate it I don’t think there is really an in between. The MX2 riders better be prepared to eat plenty of roost, especially on the tracks that heavily favour the 450’s, and there is plenty of those circuits on the schedule.
So, Youthstream and the FIM are claiming the mixed races will make the sport easier to comprehend for ‘the casual fan’? Really? How would an average sports fan be able to make sense of sixth place in the mixed race getting the same amount of points as the winner? If anything it will make things a lot tougher to understand for most people. Like I said, there are a lot of things that riders, teams and fans are going to hate about this new format; some already are infuriated. It’s either going to work really well, or it just won’t work; it will be interesting to watch.
One thing that is undoubtedly a positive is the new “108% rule” where riders not within a certain time of the fastest qualifier won’t be aloud to line up for the points paying moto’s. So, at least now we won’t have to watch the leaders lap the same local Mexican every two laps! In my opinion, this rule should have been implemented a long time ago, as it will undoubtedly make things safer out on track for the faster riders.
So, the changes proposed by the man behind the FIM Motocross World Championship (Giuseppe Luongo) are undoubtedly risky. Change can cost a person a lot, especially when it doesn’t pan out like it was meant to. I just hope it does benefit the sport, like Youthstream are proposing it will; the last thing we want is for the series to suffer.
Words by Lewis Phillips