Concept for Saturday’s format at MXGP rounds, riders against the current qualifying race.
The qualifying heats that are run at each stop of the 2022 FIM Motocross World Championship has caused quite the stir in the last month. First of all, there was the drama at the Grand Prix of France and then a title contender was ruled out due to a qualifying crash. This is nothing new though, truthfully, because the riders have never hidden their disdain for the twenty-minute heat that holds no reward, aside from gate position. It seems as though Infront Moto Racing will give out points in the qualifying heats in the future, to give the race a reason to exist, but what if there is another solution?
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Ray Archer
I, Lewis Phillips, feel that this could be a potential format for the premier-class riders that would make the riders happier to be at the races, as well as the sponsors who pay the bills. The fan experience could benefit from this as well!
Simply, put it in the contract for OAT teams that their riders must be present at the venue from 11:00 on Saturday. Expose riders and sponsors to fans through this time, make the Grand Prix more of an event and create unique memories for the younger generation in particular. The memories that I have from going to races as a spectator have very little to do with the actual racing. Instead, my core memories revolve around getting to meet a rider or seeing something special in the paddock. It’s easy to forget that those little things have such a big impact.
Having autograph sessions in this time would be quite boring though. Let’s encourage the industry to think about things differently – this is the time when smaller teams can make a difference and gain the attention of sponsors. If it is not possible to win on the track then win off of it, right? This time would not have to be reserved solely for paddock activity though; run opening ceremonies like Monster Energy Supercross, with the national anthem of the host nation, and then do a hot lap with the top five in points, plus the top home rider.
There is no professional motocross series that has as much time as the FIM Motocross World Championship does, so why not make use of that to offer something extra? The opportunities would be endless and, truth be told, I think a lot of the riders would welcome the opportunity to boost their respective profiles, because that is something that everyone is struggling with in Grands Prix. There are few guys who are superstars in the paddock. It is not just on-track activity that earns a rider such a tag – that comes from movements that are made in the public eye.
A competent television production would help the riders achieve this. The beauty of introducing this format is that it would give Infront’s crew a chance to gain different content, show a different perspective and give the television show some flare. Doing this would allow time to discuss the hot topics with the key characters and build some excitement in the moments prior to the moto. Everyone has had enough of team reports, right? Every single rider has a very unique story and perspective. Exposing that is the only way to thrive in such an accessible world.
13:00-13:45: Free Practice
Begin the on-track action with a free practice session early in the afternoon; fans would have flooded in at this point and forty-five minutes is more than enough time for someone to get acquainted with a track and make the necessary changes to their set-up. There is not a lot to say about this, right? It is what it is, it is a necessity and kicks the weekend off. It is quite entertaining to watch a rider pick the circuit apart at first. It takes them just two laps though. Heck, the riders would say that forty-five minutes is too long for FP.
15:30-15:45: Qualifying One
Look, some of the guys want Superpole. It would be tough to convey what is going on to the fans though – a single lap from each top rider is not enough to keep the spectators entertained either. Building something similar to Formula 1 could work though! Start qualifying with a fifteen-minute timed session, which includes everyone, and then the top ten riders from that session advance to qualifying two. Eliminating riders would raise the stakes compared to a normal practice and create some rather interesting stories. Why so? It is so obvious, no?
Riders like Jordi Tixier and Henry Jacobi have performed exceptionally well at points, yet they have received little appreciation and that must be demoralising. This format would give everyone a reason to watch those on the bubble much closer than they typically would. If Tixier makes it into Q2 for the first time then that would be a story, right? It would give those of us at MX Vice a good reason to put the spotlight on ‘911’ and the same goes for the television crew. Likewise, a factory star getting eliminated in Q1 would give everyone a lot to chat about before race day.
16:00-16:05: Qualifying Two
Five minutes seems like the perfect length for the final qualifying session. Based on typical lap times, riders would get three attempts to log a quick lap and be unable to rest on their laurels. There is no doubt that a rider would be on edge, therefore making it a spectacle for fans, but the risk would be minimised with only nine other riders on track and no race start. To make this even better for race fans, qualifying results would be a little unpredictable each week. It would be harder for the dominant guy to reach the top, just because one mistake would be the difference between first and fifth.
The current problem is that the qualifying heat is a bit of a spoiler for Sunday. There are a lot of fans who travel to a Grand Prix on Saturday to watch the qualifying race and then sit in front of their television during Sunday’s action. Changing Saturday’s format would keep the riders happy and tempt fans to watch both days of on-track action. It would make Saturday its own spectacle! There would be a concern from race fans that there is going to be less racing. How about this though?
The MX2 Class
Maintaining its position as the premier division, MXGP should have differences to the MX2 class instead of being a carbon copy. Bearing that in mind, the aforementioned format shouldn’t be introduced for the MX2 riders. Instead MX2 could be merged with the EMX250 division, ensuring that there would be forty guys on the start at each race and cementing its spot as the development class. There could be two qualifying heats for that class, both taking place on Saturday, which would cement the line-up for Sunday’s MX2 motos. Put simply, this would solve a lot of problems and fix any potential complaints with that MXGP structure.