Back in January of 2010, the FIM introduced an age restriction rule on the MX2 class of the FIM Motocross World Championship. Until this year however, the rule hasn’t really had much of an effect on the ‘heavy hitters’ of the class. The rule states that once a rider has reached the age of twenty-three, they need to leave the MX2 class. Not only is the rule having an effect on the riders forced to move up, but also the riders left behind in MX2.
Up until this point, a ‘big name’ hasn’t really been affected by the rule. However, at the end of this year not one, but three of the title contenders will be forced out of the class and into the unknown. Tommy Searle, Jeremy Van Horebeek and Joel Roelants, the riders that sit second, third and fourth in the MX2 points standings at the time of writing will all have to shift their efforts to another class – or another series.
Losing these three will be a huge blow to the MX2 class, as without them the series will lose a lot of its ‘star power’. Also, as proven thus far this year – the three are the only ones capable of challenging Herlings. Without them, we may be looking at an undefeated season from the Dutchman in 2013. Just to reiterate how much better Jeffrey is than the competition he will face in 2013, he is currently 160 points ahead of Tixier – the next rider in line that will be competing in the class next year – and that’s after just nine rounds!
The concept behind the rule is that the FIM want to make the MX2 class, a ‘feeder’ class for MX1 – therefore making the MX1 class the elite series. However, in doing so they are taking some prestige and depth from the MX2 class. A factor that could see the MX2 class become worthless. The rule could also influence some riders to leave the series and head off to pastures new in order to stick on the 250 a little longer. Something the FIM and Youthstream certainly don’t want to see happen. Already, riders are leaving the World Championship to chase their dream in America – why give them more of a reason to do so?
A prime example of how the rule derails some riders’ careers is Davide Guarneri. Forced out of the class prior to the 2010 season, the Italian left MX2 – a class he was a contender in – to join MX1. However, he seems to have just been lost in the depth of the class, and is no longer even considered to be a factor or even talked about. He has gone from being on some very good equipment in the MX2 class to now sitting on a satellite KTM team trying to punch against the factory teams. All because perhaps you could say he wasn’t ready for the switch. Who knows what other MX2 contenders careers will follow a similar path, because as the MX1 class constantly welcomes ‘the next best thing’ – spots on competitive machinery and teams are sparse. So where does a solid, good rider hovering around, say sixth to twelfth in the World MX2 championship go to earn a living as MX1 berth become more sparse?
Budgets for teams aren’t quite as strong as they once were; there aren’t enough funds available for most teams so that they can simply add another rider to their roster. Some riders will potentially have to take a step backwards and try to prove themselves on lesser equipment. Whilst some may be lucky enough to step into a role on a Factory (or Factory supported) team, the chance of it happening is small. Even if it does, they will then be knocking an established rider in the class out of the team, which will leave them looking for a ride. I fear there are not enough rides on teams in MX1 for the veterans of the class, and those riders pushed up from MX2.
On the other hand, the rule does allow some rookies the chance to make a name for themselves in the MX2 class. For Instance, with the three contenders moving to MX1, it will open up three spots on some very good teams in the MX2 class. Maybe guys like Dylan Ferrandis or Jose Butron can take advantage of them, and take their career to the next step. It also opens the door for them to grab some good results – but still when the time comes they’re going to have to be bumped up. It seems as though the rule almost relies on the fact that there is some fast, young talent coming through the ranks. All the while there are these rookies filling the void in the MX2 class, everything looks to be all right. However, if one year there is not – we could be looking at an extremely lackluster MX2 season.
There is perhaps hope for those riders who can’t find homes in the MX1 class, or perhaps would prefer to stay on their 250 just one more year. Whilst MX2 is now interpreted as a stepping-stone to MX1, the EMX250 series is a stepping-stone to MX2. So, really, you would expect the EMX250 championship to follow a similar age restriction rule. Except, it doesn’t. Riders up to the age of fifty can compete in the series, meaning some riders are taking advantage of the class and stepping down to the UEM series.
Mike Kras the Dutchman who often found himself outside the top ten in MX2 last season reached the age limit, and is now twenty-four. Except rather than move up to the MX1 class – or even move to a different continent he now races the EMX250 series, on the same weekend as the MX1 and MX2 riders, and the same tracks! The move to EMX250 rather than MX1 also see’s Kras poised to be a title contender. So the switch almost worked out better for his career and gets himself, and his sponsors more exposure.
My personal opinion is that the rule shouldn’t be in place. The riders should be allowed to determine the path their career will take, without being forced out of their comfort zone. Although it may have a positive affect on one rider at one point, it could negatively affect the same rider a few years down the line. Whether or not the rule actually benefits the sport as a whole or not remains to be seen. Obviously there are some drawbacks; in the end all the focus from those who aren’t ‘hardcore fans’ may be just on the MX1 class. We’ll just have to wait and see how the rule plays out in the coming months – and hope that the established MX2 contenders find spots on some top-level teams in MX1 next year.
Pictures courtesy of Youthstream