Currently, the 450SX class in the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series might be the deepest field that we have ever seen. With multiple past champions, and race winners in the lineup, ‘the hype’ is well justified. So, why is it that the racing has not been as spectacular as it has been in the past?
The tracks (constructed by Dirt Wurx USA) have been criticised quite frequently this year; in fact the riders, the media and the fans have been pointing the fingers in their direction most weeks. But, are they really the problem? We [the fans] do not really know what they have to work with. Undoubtedly, the tracks are not just down to the guys at Dirt Wurx. FELD and the AMA have some input, and there are certain rules and regulations that they have to adhere to.
Most believe that the tracks have been toned down a bit this year, because of the amount of injuries that we saw in 2012. This is believable; it is no secret that last year the injuries were very bad. Obviously this was not beneficial for anyone, it hurt the racing and the attendance at each round; it is better for all involved if the top riders are on the starting line every week. However, does toning the tracks down solve the problem, or add to it?
If the tracks are toned down, everyone ends up doing the same thing in the rhythm sections; so how are the riders supposed to make up time on their rivals? This would result in the race turning into follow the leader until someone makes a mistake, or a rider pushing harder than the track allows. Of course, this would also result in crashes and possibly injuries. As a simple track design forces the riders to think outside of the box, and jump things that are not meant to be jumped. So, what can they do solve this conundrum? On the track, I want to see some slower obstacles; ones that the riders cannot just launch off of, and into a rhythm section. It would force the riders to be more methodical with their line selection, I believe.
They [Dirt Wurx] are clearly trying to fix the issue; the designs do have certain characteristics that try to promote passing, and good racing. The small, steep double that was on the inside of the corner before the finish line in Atlanta last week springs to mind as an example of this. However, it did not pan out how it was supposed to; it was a much slower line that everyone avoided throughout the night. This is another problem, you cannot really figure out how the track will turn out until the best supercross riders in the world are racing on it; however it is too late to make any major changes by that time.
Another obstacle that the Dirt Wurx crew face each week is the dirt; more often that not the soil turns out be very slick, which hurts the racing, and puts the tracks in the firing line again. Of course, on the west coast this type of soil is expected; however part of the reason for the slick dirt is that it is used for the Monster Jam events in the days before an event at some of the rounds. When the track is slick, some of the riders do tend to ride conservatively so that they do not push the front end out; this tends to hurt the racing also.
The track on Saturday night for the ninth round of the series, St Louis seemed to provide us with some better racing. Although the layout seemed basic, there was a factor, which really helped the racing. The biggest difference in St Louis was the dirt, I believe. Undoubtedly, the soil was in the best condition that it has been all year. It provided the guys with plenty of grip, which was evident by the way that Ryan Villopoto was turning with the back wheel, and cutting down in all of the corners. Put simply, the riders could push more, which resulted in better racing.
I do sometimes wonder what would happen if they got someone else in to design the tracks. The tracks back in 2009 (when the riders designed a handful of the tracks) were particularly impressive. When someone mentions the tracks I immediately think of the St Louis track of 2009, designed by Travis Pastrana. The circuit that year had some innovative sections that have not been utilised since. But at this stage, maybe it is time to try something new?
Of course this weekend, the riders will face a different type of circuit. The Daytona track is a completely different beast, although it doesn’t resemble an outdoor motocross track like it used to; it still presents the riders with a unique challenge that they do not face at the rest of the rounds. Interestingly, the track will have a similar layout to last years Daytona track. It will be interesting to see if anything is done to the tracks following Daytona, judging by the racing in St Louis we might be heading in the right direction.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Simon Cudby