In order to separate the Monster Energy Cup from a stereotypical supercross round, Feld Motorsports have introduced a handful of features that are unique to the sport. However, after seeing them in action for three successive years most are now petitioning for them to be introduced during the Monster Energy Supercross season.
It is hardly surprising; supercross really has not changed much at all in the last twenty years (aside from the semis, which were dismissed and then reintroduced). Despite the advanced technology and the fact that the riders just keep getting faster, the various promoters have shied away from making drastic changes. After all, if it is not broke, why fix it?
Some at Feld are keen to implement these changes, it seems, although teams and riders put a stop to it. However, most seem to enjoy the unique additions at the MEC. The Joker Lane is undoubtedly the most controversial concept, as it is different to anything that we have seen before. Supercross does not necessarily involve a lot of strategy; it really is simple as far as the gates drop and then the first one to the chequered flag wins – that is it. Some would argue that it works that way, as it is easy for the casual fans to watch and understand exactly what is going on.
Suddenly having strategy involved at the Monster Energy Cup has had an impact on the results and also opened the door for a lot more bench racing. If Trey Canard had taken the Joker Lane early on in the third main event this past weekend, perhaps he would have won the million? So, if you had that at a select few rounds (I don’t think anyone wants to see it each and every week) the fans would be engrossed in the action until the end, knowing that someone has not taken it and last minute position changes are imminent.
We have seen different riders runaway from the field so many times in supercross (although it may not happen as much in 2015, with Villopoto absent) and the Joker Lane would basically stop that, which is a benefit, right? It just depends on whether you are willing to forgo tradition.
Whenever the Joker Lane is used in the future, whether it is in supercross or at the MEC, it needs to be a little more of a disadvantage than it was on Saturday, I believe. In 2013 it was very difficult for riders to set themselves up for the straight and carry their speed in and out, which then in turn meant more riders got by and the action was more exciting. However, this year it only cost the riders three or four seconds at least, so I was not as eager to see it come into play.
One thing that may cause the promoters to avoid implementing these features during the supercross season is that they are a part of the appeal of the Monster Energy Cup. If you start to see the Joker Lane at six supercross rounds, what would separate the MEC from a stereotypical supercross? Admittedly there were other things going on this past weekend, such as the different shows in the paddock and the extended track.
Speaking of the track, that was not a good change this past weekend. In 2011 the track was a hybrid, one that was supposed to attract riders from Europe and the USA. Although they do not promote that idea too much nowadays, they have not got away from it completely, as there was only really one technical section on Saturday, which really did not make good racing. The rhythm section after the sand was difficult and only a couple of guys managed to nail the triple, triple, triple option on press day. It was made a little easier on Saturday and most guys were doing it every lap, so even that was not much of a factor as the night progressed.
There really wasn’t anything separating the guys aside from that, hence why the practice times were so close. So, because everyone was so close in speed and the track was so fast, the race basically came down to the start, which was not fair at all, as it massively favoured the inside. The track was not good at all, to summarise. I was a fan of the split start the last two years, but it just didn’t work on Saturday. Honestly, I am surprised that it was designed in this way, as you would think Ricky Carmichael would know better. Even though there were three main events, we saw the same guys get good starts and there really wasn’t anyone making much progress each time.
The three main events is certainly something that could be implemented at select supercross rounds; it is another feature that would ensure that we do see some kind of race for the lead at some point. The battle up front in the first two main events at the MEC wasn’t exhilarating, but the third and final one was much more exciting and the talking point of the evening. If it were just one main event, we would not have had that excitement.
Presumably one of the biggest problems with making a change like that is it would take up more time and therefore the sport requires a larger slot on TV to fit everything in live, which is hard to acquire. Although we would love to see the Amateur All-Stars make a regular appearance, there just may not be enough time for it, unless they were to replace the KJSC at some rounds. That is a feature that really adds something to the event and would also be a great inclusion.
We should embrace change – every other sport does. If something is implemented and it does not work out as expected, we can always revert back to the current format. If you add another element to each race it may even attract more interest from outsiders.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: James Lissimore