Should the GP’s ‘fly away’?

In the last few weeks, the 2012 FIM Motocross World Championship has already completed the ‘fly away’ races for this year. Obviously, by now everyone knows the races were met with mixed reviews from riders, fans and the industry in general. The GP of Mexico especially was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism, due to a handful of different reasons. The Brazilian GP was a by all accounts was just unlucky with the rain making it more of a washout, which meant it didn’t end up as good as it perhaps could have been.

So, should the GP’s continue travelling to these fly away races? When you have some tracks in Europe that are guaranteed to bring in a large crowd (or at least larger) and also have a track, and facility that is proven and liked by many. Thinking ‘outside the box’ and travelling to somewhere, which really is unproven like Mexico, was a bit of a gamble. This time, that gamble definitely didn’t pay off but you can argue it’s the beginning of a work in progress.

Anytime you go to a new venue, or country it’s going to be a gamble and despite it maybe not going to plan this year, early talks from Youthstream indicates the series could be making more trips across the Atlantic ocean as soon as 2013. By doing this though, it is not only a risk for the promoters, as there’s no guarantee a country will welcome the series with open arms, and turn up in thousands to watch some of the world’s best riders. It’s also risky for the teams. Travelling halfway across the world to a ‘dustbowl’ in the case of Mexico, and then there being a possibility of your riders not even racing is not a good scenario for a team or their sponsors.

There are also some good things that can come from these ‘fly away’ races however. Beto Carrero was a prime example of this. With a track, and facility that had been in the works for months, when dry it looked phenomenal and was met with only positive reviews. The location was key in determining the success of the event, locating the circuit on the outskirts of a theme park undoubtedly attracted the attention of people who perhaps didn’t really know a lot about the sport. The outside interest that the Brazilian GP could have generated surely makes it worthwhile that the series visits locations like this.

The Brazilian fans really got into, even though the riders were almost in Enduro mode just to get round the track.

But then somewhere like Mexico, where the crowd turnout was dismal, the track wasn’t the greatest, and the location encountered all kinds of troubles you have to think needs some work. I know a lot of people may be hoping the Mexican GP disappears and is put down as just ‘a bad idea’, but with a five-year contract, you can expect to see it on the schedule for a while.

Thinking about it from the perspective of Youthstream, you can fully understand why they try out these new locations. For years, they have come under criticism for not being ‘a true world championship’ because all their tracks are based in (or at least close to) Europe. But when they do try and please the naysayers, they have poor attendance.

A prime example of this is the now defunct American GP at Glen Helen – many fans argued that the GP’s couldn’t be considered a world championship until they visited the USA, a country that is a huge part of Motocross and accounts for thousand of off road bike sales worldwide. When they did, it didn’t turn out as they wished, they had the track, they had the riders, and the crowd just weren’t interested. Those people arguing that the GP’s need to visit America didn’t care enough to support the event and now Youthstream are forced to think (as mentioned previously) outside the box.

Next year a new circuit and country will be welcomed to the schedule, Thailand. Although your immediate reaction may be negative, there’s hope. The original press release came out for this GP way back at the beginning of 2011, which indicates this has been something they have been working on for a large period of time. Also, the promoters of the GP have visited various GP’s in the last year, as recently as Brazil. This again gives me the impression that a lot of thought and planning has gone into the Thailand GP of 2013!

It looks like the GP teams will have to get used to 'boxing up' a lot more in 2013

The idea of an Australian GP has been tossed around in the last few years, and even made its way onto the provisional 2011 schedule, but never materialised. The prospect of returning to Australia, despite costing more, is something most are more excited about. Mainly because the country already has a very strong motocross base, with very good riders racing in all corners of the globe, this is also something Brazil had, and something that Mexico and Thailand maybe lack. Just from catching a glimpse at the Australian Nationals, it is evident that there are many top quality tracks in the country. Otherwise, why would riders like Brad Anderson, and Billy Mackenzie choose to race there? It’s almost as if it acts as reassurance.

Mechanics can also expect a lot more last minute bike building!

The way I look at it is, Motocross is a niche sport, so when Youthstream attempt to gain more exposure by visiting these countries it can only be a good thing. For Instance, national newspapers in Mexico were covering the event. Although somehow it ended up working against Youthstream, as it was reported to the entire nation that the GP was cancelled after the rider protests during Saturday qualification. Still, it’s a huge step in the right direction. When the British GP rolls around you don’t see any positive coverage in national press. In my opinion, that’s what is holding us back from attracting fans that aren’t into motocross, most of these ‘fly away’ races can do this.

It’s not just the track, or the facility, or even the country that affects the quality of the ‘fly away’ races. Backmarkers are something every race will feature, but when you travel to Mexico for instance, and have riders thirty seconds off the pace per lap! It’s quite a bad representation of Motocross in general, but on the other hand, the top local riders deserve the chance to showcase their speed. Sometimes this is where hidden talents are recognised, but it can also turn out terribly and even end up injuring some of the Grand Prix elite like Michael Lieb in Mexico.

2012 perhaps weren’t the best representation of the ‘fly-away’ rounds, and although you could easily pick many faults out of both rounds, the benefit outweighs the negatives in my opinion. The opportunity to showcase Motocross to a wider audience is crucial, and by visiting countries like Brazil – and in the future Thailand – it classes the series as a true, world championship.

Lewis Phillips

Pictures courtesy of Youthstream

MX Vice Editor || 25

4 Comments

  1. Monda

    No is the only answer and especially in this economic climate. How can it be a part of a championship when only the top 15 can afford to go to these pointless places ? Why are they forcing them to go there when there are great tracks and promoters who are gutted they can’t have the chance to stage a GP because they don’t have half a million euros spare. It should not cost this much to hold a GP but that is how much Youthstream have made cost, 350,000 sanction fee plus the promoter foots all bills. They are killing GP motocross with their greed.

  2. Monda

    Youthstream have turned their back on the very passionate Spanish who love their motocross and Spain is a growing market even with the huge economic problems. La Baneza have put in a huge effort to stage a GP but the huge losses have bitten them hard and so they had to turn down the 2012 GP because they couldn’t raise the cash. Their despair is clear in this report. It’s in Spanish so google translater is your friend or just scan it and pick up the 350k plus all costs. that will give you an idea of the measure of the problem that shouldn’t be a problem.

    http://www.mx1onboard.com/es/index.php/mundialmx/mx1mundial/530-la-baneza-renuncia-a-organizar-el-mundial-de-motocros.html

  3. niteshift

    Lewis good article and I agree with some of yours and Mondas’ points. I disagree with Monda as I feel that we have to take the world championship on the road otherwise why call it the world championship.

    There are clear benefits to doing this as it takes mx to countries not normally involved with the sport and emerging economies such as Brazil where the ‘new’ money is lord, knows the sport needs an injection of cash. The Brazilian GP had the potential of being amazing, can you imagine having the UK GP at Alton Towers…no neither can I but how amazing if we could.

    Mexico….well Mexico was a farce how could Tortelli be involved in something so bad let’s not try and paint it into something else it took our sport back years in my opinion. Can you imagine if that had been broadcast on Sky Sports, thank god it was only on MX-Life TV where it has about 40 subscribers!

    The issue of backmarkers was a sore point for me (I was shouting at the TV screen to get them off!) and I’m sure also for some of the top riders. Some of these guys would struggle at AMCA level let alone in GP’s. This isn’t about giving people a chance to shine these guys were dangerous and but for the grace of god there were no serious incidents. If riders like Searle are flat out in 5th gear to a blind jump he knows that 99% of GP riders will clear it and won’t block the racing line…there were Mexican riders that occupied the racing line yet couldn’t clear the tabletops! That is just dangerous. So fine if they want to enter, but let them bloody qualify to ride with the best riders in the world.

    F1 and Moto GP have all seen the benefit of going to Qatar and Australia etc and for me this works especially Qatar at night. So if done right I think we should fly away.

    However the biggest issue is the structure of the world championship. As Monda said the cost to do these rounds meant that some riders that couldn’t afford to go missed out on valuable points. I know it’s easy to throw stones at Youthstream but they have hardly taken MX to a new level have they.

    Let’s make it clear the World champs is our blue ribbon event yet teams/riders have to pay to ride (this is why we have crap riders riding…because they paid to).

    There is no prize money on offer and as Monda pointed out it costs about £400,000 to promote a GP. So Youthstream take no financial risk yet make bucket loads. I hope that teams were recompensed for their travel costs etc for the fly away events but I suspect not.

    They also have MX-Life TV which is a monopoly and I think I could do better from my garage, the filming and coverage/editing of Mexico was like some dodgy porno from the 70’s that has been watched over and over again by some 14 yr old lad. I felt sorry for Malin as I think his commentary is spot on yet he is let down by the shite editing.

    It’s not all doom and gloom because the racing this season has been spot on and much more exciting than the AMA-SX (jury is out so far on the outdoors).

    For me the sport is crying out for a break away championship where the riders put their life on the line for good money, we can afford to bring yanks over by dare I say paying them to come! Proper sponsorship, proper tracks with 20 of the top riders in the world who can all win on their day and Sky or A.N. Other filming it and the masses get to see what is the most exciting sport on the planet. Will it happen? I don’t think so as Youthstream clearly have pics of FIM officials in compromising positions! Do I hope it will happen….hell yeah!

  4. Monda

    “I disagree with Monda as I feel that we have to take the world championship on the road otherwise why call it the world championship.”

    Definately but what happened to the South African GP, Canadian GP ? They have racers who can stay within 2 laps. The US GP is lost forever now. The best promoter in the world has been burnt beyond recovery.It’s like having a world ice hockey championship without the Russians. We have to have the US GP and YS have made it impossible as they will never invest back in. The only hope now is they will start to struggle to get the 350k sanctions fees and so give it up.

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