It would be hard to argue against the fact that AMA Supercross is the pinnacle of Motocross worldwide, with record breaking crowds, millions of viewers worldwide and the most exposure the sport has ever seen in mainstream press. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that over the years, promoters across the globe have tried in vain to replicate the formula, which makes Monster Energy AMA Supercross so successful. Although some series have seen success, can Supercross really survive outside of the USA?
There are many different elements that make Monster Energy Supercross so successful, for a start they have so many top-level riders willing to compete, and the depth throughout both the 450 and 250 class is astounding. With riders like James Stewart headlining events, even the average person who knows virtually nothing about the world of motocross, may go to check the event out because they caught Stewart’s TV show ‘Bubba’s World’. Excluding the rarest of cases, riders are required to race Supercross as per their contract with teams, whether it is a Factory team, or a privateer team working out of a box van. Whereas with a series like the British Supercross series, it works in the opposite way, most riders are not required to race the series which is just a shadow of the American series, if a rider lines up it is more than likely out of choice. Most tend to give it a miss, out of fear of getting hurt or losing time preparing for their number one goal, a British Motocross title in the fast approaching year. But then again who can really blame them?
The now defunct Australian SuperX series never had a problem reeling in top-level riders, and much like the American series, riders were required to compete, which certainly helped when it came to adding depth to the field. One thing that really made the SuperX series successful – at least when it was around – was the American riders that made wildcard appearances. Riders like Kevin Windham, Justin Brayton and Josh Hansen all made the trip across the ocean at one time or another to at least ride selected rounds. Big names like those really are valuable when it comes to ticket sales, and creating a successful series and its one thing the British series lacks currently.
The British Supercross series is only a shadow of what it used to be, whereas riders like Jeremy McGrath – the King of Supercross – used to make appearances for the UK fans, and even in years following riders like Jeff Alessi and Jason Thomas made scattered appearances at varying times. Now however, talent from the USA rarely makes an appearance at British Supercross rounds.
Perhaps the only Supercross event in the world that you can compare to the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series is that of the Paris Bercy race, which runs annually every October. To this day the race continues to attract top riders like Justin Barcia, Jake Weimer and in recent years Chad Reed and James Stewart. The event is obviously a success as it has ran for a considerable number of years (this year’s event will be the 30th anniversary) and it shows no signs of slowing down in coming years.
It’s the top riders that essentially determine whether the series will be a hit with the fans, or not. But the venues that the races are held within are key in attracting the riders, although America may have many stadiums capable of holding a full length Supercross race at their disposal, they’re hard to come by in other corners of the world. Whilst from the outside, places like the O2 Arena, or Palais Omnisport (Bercy) look just as spectacular as the places that hold the AMA Supercross’ on the inside it seems they can only hold a track half the size, which not only means a smaller layout, but also less passing opportunities and a not as challenging track.
In all fairness, the British Supercross series evidently tried to do what they could with the venues available to them, as Future West did have ‘Dirt Wurx’ (the company in charge of building all of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross tracks – barring Daytona) come over to create, and design the tracks for them. However that was then and this in now.
Recently, it was announced that ‘Events 22’ would be taking over the British Supercross series from Future West, this coupled with the switch from the ACU to MCF really shows that a lot is being done to build our Supercross series back up to where it once was. With the past experience of Events 22 at staging Supercross events, in the winter of 2012 we could be in for a treat when the rejuvenated British Supercross series kicks off. Now with MCF and Events 22 in charge, the series clearly is heading in a stable direction, and that can only be good news for Supercross in the UK (or should it be Areancross?)
Is it wrong for us to expect our smaller series to be as big as that of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series? Maybe. Supercross in the US is a major sport, which is live on TV at most of the rounds. Until, the rest of the UK opens their eyes to the fascinating world of Motocross, we may constantly be facing an uphill battle. For now, we’ve got a solid series, which allows our top riders to show off their indoor skills to the nation.
Picture courtesy of Ian Roxburgh