The British GP is the highlight of the year for most, as the racing and atmosphere is always top notch! In the past, there has been some disdain amongst fans over the prices to attend the ‘MXGP Festival’. But, do you really know what SD Events have to consider when planning this event? Well, here is a little look into what Steve Dixon and his crew have to think about in the lead up to Matterley Basin each year.
MX Vice: Obviously this is the second MXGP Festival, have any serious changes been made using the knowledge gained from last year’s event? It looks like some changes have been made to the track to accommodate the new SkyBox?
SD Events: The SkyBox is less to do with our event, and more to do with Youthstream’s ever-evolving infrastructure to take the sport forward. The track now carries on after the finish line jump and cuts across the start. The pit lane has also moved up to compensate for this. This means that the people in the SkyBox have a spectacular view across the valley and can see most of the track, which would have been blocked by pit lane last year. We have tried to do this with the minimum amount of consequences for the rest of the track.
In non-track related terms, we improve in small ways every year. We have moved the whole top trade and fairground area down further towards the track to increase the atmosphere at the event. We’ve also altered the ticketing system, so we have wristbands this year – a direct effect of public feedback from last year’s event. The marshals will be much more organised this year, and we’ve also altered our fencing plan. There are plans to sell programmes and t-shirts from a merchandise stand, as well, again a direct result of the feedback received after last year. Each year is a valuable learning experience for us, and we are happy to evolve to accommodate the changing times.
MX Vice: Away from the racing, what can fans expect from the camping, entertainment etc?
SD Events: Once again, we will have our camping split up into Family, General and Party sections. We know the British fans love to have a good time, but we also know this is a family event – we try to compensate for each kind of person. The security has been stepped up this year, in order to ensure everyone feels safe and secure whilst on site. We are always looking for ways to improve whilst still looking to give fans the freedom they want within the event. The amenities are much the same, and the camping wristband will give fans access to that evening’s entertainment from 7pm onwards, including bars, fairground and a Monster stage with a live DJ and dancing until late at night.
MX Vice: Although most are quick to criticise the ticket prices, there is a lot of expense that comes with the event for you guys; people tend to forget that you have to ensure that there is security, the right number of toilets, as well as much finer details.
SD Events: Until you have been part of, or organised, an event you’ll never properly understand the variety of things that need to be thought of. There’s the big ones like police, the security company, the rent of the land, a water supply, diesel, labour, the internet, all the way down to more ‘taken for granted’ things like barrier tape (over 20km), hole punchers and actual wristband costs. Every last thing that fans see whilst at the event has had to be carefully thought about and organised by our very small team. Even the marshal flags have been individually handmade this year! There are hidden costs everywhere, and there’s a lot there that people don’t think about when they look at the ticket prices.
Part of the reason that our starting costs are so high is that we literally start from the bottom every year, the only thing that remains on the site each year is the track itself, everything is temporary and the land must be returned to farmland once the event is over. We cannot invest in structures and permanent solution to problems like fencing, because of this. It’s something that must be hired and tackled each year. Most events don’t have to worry about that, as there is usually at least a little bit of infrastructure there to build off of. There’s also the fact that Youthstream takes half of the income, which people seem to forget! Any money the event makes goes straight into paying suppliers for the next year, and improving the event.
The fact that we are in a field is also a logistical problem for us in terms of things like Internet access, something that is not readily available in that environment – so we have to pay a lot to have access to it. The Internet access is extremely important for everything like the living timing, the MX-Life.tv broadcasting, the ticket scanning machines and the press to upload results, photos, videos etc. Our costs for this are much higher than tracks like, for example, Lommel, where everything is basically already there due to the placement. However, that is the price we pay for having our event in such an amazing location.
MX Vice: With ten classes racing over a four-day period, what things do you have to consider that promoters of the other GPs might not have to?
SD Events: The four day event is a big thing. It pretty much doubles (if not more) the whole event. Everything that is hired (from fencing to vehicles) has to be hired for even longer. I think the number of riders is overshadowed, also. There are over 500 riders (400 more than a normal GP) that all need somewhere to have as a base for the weekend – they all need to wash their bikes and use electricity, which increases the costs of everything on our side. We also need a secondary paddock to hold everyone, which equates to more space taken up within the event. We have to contend with the nearby residents of the track who have to deal with road closures for an extended period of time, and all our licenses have to be valid for longer, and require more planning. The Event Management plan takes longer to put together, because the event is suddenly on a much larger scale. Overall, it just takes a lot more planning to try and make everything run seamlessly! All the medical staff, security staff, and event staff have to be there for twice as long, meaning they need paying double – costs for things like hotel rooms are also double.
We have to gather twice as many marshals, give away many more passes as payment, and the stress of running the event is doubled for everyone involved.
However it’s not all about the cons, the ten classes gives the event so much variety and there’s so much talent on display, there’s a huge amount of talent confined in those two paddocks! We have more time to get comfortable within the event and iron out any issues by Friday so things are running smoothly, where other GP’s don’t have that sort of timeframe to deal with problems.
MX Vice: Is the British GP at Matterley Basin sustainable? Are you already planning for future editions of the GP?
SD Events: We are always looking forward each year, and you can see this by the infrastructure we put in each year. The first year we had a massive hard standing paddock put in, this year we have had Fibre Optic Internet bought in from over 2km away to the event. You cannot run something like this without planning for the future, and you have to be prepared to not make a million pounds straight away. Most events don’t last more than a couple of years, and if they do then they’re usually set for a while after that. We are always looking ahead and deciding on strategies for future events, identifying problem areas and looking at ways that we can permanently improve on them. The event is improved each year, and we can invest in permanent fixtures, buying tables, VIP TV’s and fencing, instead of having to hire it in, which in the short term is costly. But, in the long term it is beneficial and less expensive. So, yes, we are definitely looking towards the future with the MXGP Festival!
Interview by Lewis Phillips