Although the first round of the FIM Motocross World Championship is one hundred and twenty-two days away, booking sites are already being perused as most look to make plans and point to MXGP rounds that they hope to visit. Deciding to ditch an event that you have attended each season for the unknown can be seen as a risk, but the hope is that this guide will help you to make an educated decision. Seeing as the season is a long one, which stretches across twenty rounds, here is part one of our lengthy feature, which covers rounds one through six.
MXGP of Patagonia-Argentina
What more can possibly be said about the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina, held in the spectacular region of Neuquen? Creating a flyaway event that a nostalgic fan will accept is a tricky task, which has been quite clear in recent years, but this one really does tick all of the boxes. A great track that creates good racing, solid weather (although it is colder than one would expect), a large crowd and enjoyable setting.
Now, as far as MXGP rounds go, this is the trickiest for a European fan to get to. Multiple flights are needed and, even once you land in Buenos Aires, a connecting flight to the south that is rather pricey in itself is required. Boy, is it worth it though! If you are an American fan, who is looking to soak up the MXGP experience, it is worth looking into this one, as it is obviously easier to get to from an airport like LAX. A final point to consider is the number of hotels in the area is fairly limited, but there are certainly enough to cater to an event of this size.
MXGP of Europe
Valkenswaard is universally recognised as one of the highlights on the FIM Motocross World Championship calendar. There is an abundance of history at the sandy venue, which has been on the calendar for quite some time now, hence why fans head there in droves. It is easy to hop across the border from Belgium or Germany and line the fences, but then it really is not that much of a stretch to get there from the United Kingdom. A ferry from Dover is a reasonable price and then it is just a three-hour drive to The Netherlands. Simple, right? It is certainly worth looking into, especially so that you can slip in some sand riding on Thursday and Friday.
If you travel in a group and need accommodation that is quick and easy, there is a Centre Parcs across the road from the track that has everything. It really is not that expensive to hire a cottage for the weekend, especially if you split the total amongst a group, and then getting to the track is extremely easy. If you are looking for a little more luxury, check into the Van der Valk in Eindhoven as that is where most teams opt to stay. There is plenty to do in Eindhoven, as well as some incredible restaurants, so make sure that you head there at some point. Just make sure that you head to a steakhouse called Rodeo, as you will not be disappointed.
MXGP of La Comunitat Valenciana
Just think of this event as the Grand Prix of Spain – it is bound to cause some confusion. There is always a certain level of intrigue whenever a new circuit lands on the FIM Motocross World Championship calendar, but it is already known what RedSand has to offer. A majority of teams and riders head to the Spanish facility, which has run as a practice track in the past, to master their craft and fine tune their settings ahead of the new season. Obviously the facility will undergo some changes ahead of their MXGP round, but most will already have an idea of what set-up works for the sandy circuit.
That is actually a point that may catch some by surprise, as the Spanish Grand Prix is typically held on a slick surface. Bellpuig, La Baneza and Talavera de la Reina were all old-school and hard-pack, so RedSand certainly challenges stereotypes. An hour of driving would lead you to Valencia, so that would be an ideal airport to fly into, but Madrid is just four hours away. There are a few options there, depending on how much time you would like to spend in Spain. Finally, take note of the fact that this is now the third round and a week later than originally planned. There is no particular reason for that.
MXGP of Trentino
Although Pietramurata is relatively new to the calendar, it already seems to carry a certain level of prestige. The mountainous landscape and compact venue creates one of the greatest atmospheres on the calendar. Although most will be fairly familiar with the riders on their new steeds by this point, seeing as it will be the third European event of the season, it will be the first duel on a hard-pack surface, which carries a certain level of intrigue and causes results to fluctuate somewhat. Viewing on the hillside is superb also, so there are really no drawbacks.
Convincing other members of the family to travel to a motocross event can often be a hurdle, but that is why Pietramurata needs to be on your hit list. Lake Garda is just a short drive away and, hey, grabbing a hotel in that area would not be too inconvenient. It is the perfect setting for a break. The Italian event is easy to get to as well, as there are a handful of airports (Verona is the hot pick) that are within driving distance, which means there is a little more wriggle room when it comes to finding the best price.
MXGP of Portugal
Agueda made its return to the FIM Motocross World Championship this year and most were ecstatic when it was first announced. After all, it always seemed like an incredible circuit in a pleasant setting. It is not quite as picturesque as one would think, admittedly, as everything is much more compact than it appears on television and the elevation is not as big a factor. The layout of the circuit almost gives the impression that you are in a stadium and the number of people in attendance is relatively low, especially when stacked up against somewhere like Valkenswaard, so it is quite an intimate setting. It really is the perfect layout for a spectator.
There are plenty of spectacular hotels nearby, either closer to the nearest airport (Porto, which is an hour away) or on the other side of the circuit and alongside the beaches that make it more of a holiday. One thing that can be banked on with this event is that the weather should be pretty good. Obviously it is no guarantee, as there has been a mudder at a similar time in the past, but more often than not it works out. It is just cool to experience this race, it really is. I feel privileged to say that I have been to the Portuguese MXGP.
MXGP of Russia
Just mentioning the Russian Grand Prix can cause the body language of some to change, as the nation carries negative connotations. Youthstream appear to have found a great home in Orlyonok, however, so this event should continue to gather some pace. Although the location is not too far away, this one is rather difficult to reach for obvious reasons. The scenery is just stunning and the circuit is actually rather spectacular. It has the elevation that most long for also.
Now, this event will be rather unique. Why? Well, believe it or not, it is going to take place on a Tuesday, with qualifying on the Monday. That will be the 1st May, which is supposedly celebrated throughout Russia. The hope is that, seeing as this event will take place on a bank holiday, many Russian spectators will travel to the hard-pack venue. There will actually be special celebrations at the event too. How odd will it feel to have a race at midday on a Tuesday? Presumably the MX Vice live updates will be of vital importance for most of you, whilst you battle through a day at work.
MXGP of Latvia
A sneaky good race. There are certain MXGP rounds that just deserve more recognition than they typically receive and, hey, this is one of them. The problem with this sport is that tracks are typically in the middle of nowhere and although Kegums is one of those, Riga is only a forty-five-minute drive away. All of the teams and riders stay there, as there is a great selection of both hotels and restaurants (make sure that you hit up an Italian restaurant named Charlie’s), so what more could you want? Riga is really a lot like Prague, but cheaper, and perfect for a lad’s weekend, so it is surprising more fans do not mix that with MXGP.
The crowd numbers are slightly lower at Kegums, as they do not draw a lot of fans from neighbouring countries, but there were still 29,000 spectators in attendance this year. The sandy circuit tends to prompt great racing and some surprising results, for whatever reason. Even this year, when Jeffrey Herlings and Thomas Kjer Olsen dominated their respective classes, there was plenty to talk about, as they had not won before that and a lot happened behind them. This one rarely disappoints.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer