Interview with 2007 MXoN Track Designer Greg Atkins

FRANCIACORTA, 30 September 2007 - A week after the great success of the 2007 Red Bull FIM Motocross of Nations the spectacular images of the action that took place at Budds Creek are still clear in the memory of every fan around the world. A lot of the merit for such a magic weekend has to go to Youthstream track designer Greg Atkins who built a perfect motocross garden.

The low-profile and hard working Kiwi track builder, for the return after 20 years of the Motocross of Nations on the US soil, delivered another excellent job. Just as well as he did at the 2006 Motocross of Nations, where he proved his unique touch by making sure the Matterley Basin dirt would be in perfect condition despite the never ending heavy rain of the days prior to the race, in Maryland this year Greg bettered his high standards by fine tuning the Budds Creek racing course.

Greg Atkins (on Dr. Wolfgang Srb’s left) imagining a new Motocross circuit for the venue of Franciacorta

Greg doesn't like the spotlight but since he has been instrumental into guaranteeing the 2007 Red Bull FIM Motocross of Nations would be held on an ideal stage for the most important motocross race of the season we asked him to share with us his secrets and how things went during the past weekend in USA. 

-Most of the pictures taken at Budds Creek a week ago from the fans and the media would be perfect to be used in a motocross presentation brochure, to show how inviting a mx circuit can be when perfectly shaped by an artist like you.

"Thanks a lot.  I just did my work, the work I do at every GP, we use accurate and precise attention on every circuit we work on. Here we had to fix some issues that obviously generated some complaints back in June at the National round. I think we got it dialled in pretty well".

-Let's go back to the first time you checked the circuit and the ideas you brought up to make it even more exciting and of course to fix whatever was not in accordance to the FIM rules.

"I made two inspections, one in November 2006 and the other during the AMA National in June. Then I arrived at Budds Creek 14 days before the MXoN to follow all the work being done to the track. In general what I did was: shortened the track, mixed wood chips into the soil, added new soil, completely changed the start, added the mechanic's pit lane, put up the green netting around the circuit, set up the waiting zone and the technical control area, put new larger tunnels for the medical staff and so on. It took quite a bit of work because we had to make sure that the high standards required by the FIM would be respected."

-It sounds like a lot of hard work.

"People sometimes don't realize how high the FIM standards are and how much work it takes if you don't start from scratch and you have to operate on a pre-existing context. Yeah it was a lot of stuff to do but in the end we were all extremely glad with our results. Let me explain in detail what I had to do to get the track up to the standard we saw at Budds Creek for the Motocross of Nations.  I sent plans of what had to be done months before the event but was negatively surprised when I saw in what condition the track was when I went over for the National in June.  Again I sent e-mails with guide-lines to follow and I received positive e-mails back saying that the work was getting done.  Like I said I got at Budds Creek for the Motocross of Nations 14 days before and found that only about 20% of the work I had asked to be done was actually done. That required from us an emergency reaction to make sure we would be on time. As soon as I arrived we started working the dirt and added the new soil and wood-chips (in total we brought in about 20-30 truck loads of wood-chips and new soil).  The organizer gave me about 20 people to help with the circuit but everyone started working around in circles and we were getting nowhere, so on Sunday evening before the MXoN I showed the organizer the FIM Rules and requested for myself full control of the circuit from 8am Monday morning.  On Monday I took three workers to help me on the track and I moved the 20 people to water the track. Some other people asked to help but I already had my helpers so they just took care of putting up the green netting following the FIM Regulations."

-Was the pressure rising with the big expectations for the upcoming weekend?

"Well, I admit at that point I was concerned we wouldn't make all I had planned, but with my small motivated working crew we got things moving and we had everything finished on Wednesday around noon time.  We kept the basic layout of the circuit as it was for the AMA National and worked a lot on the details. We started at the start and worked our way around the track; we changed the camber of the first corner, we built a stair-case jump over the first tunnel and we tightened the next corner and added some waves to reduce the speed coming into the 'gator pit'.  We had to improve the angle of the finish line jump and make it a bit longer and build in the timing lines.

After the finish line jump we built some waves and added a hole before the tunnel.  Next we had the old finish line that we changed into a step-up jump and we bent and stretched the next three corners adding one off-camber corner.

We corrected the alignment for the run up to the triple down-hill and we had to lengthen the table-top at the bottom to prevent riders from landing hard on the flat.  We then added a step-up-table-top over the tunnel and in the next section waves were put in to roughen it up a bit for the riders.

Throughout the circuit we carved grooves to pre-form three or four lines in the corners.  Then, there used to be a jump where riders jumped too far and landed on the flat so we changed it into a triple step-up, the riders used it really well. Next was the 'horse-shoe' section where we added off-camber 'floaters', then exiting the 'horse-shoe' section we added a new step-down before the two straights leading up to the 'big gulp'.  We had to adjust the table top where the Hyundai bridge was and added a new double jump to reduce the speed - at the AMA National this area was just too scary fast - coming up to 'Henry Hill'. Then after the 'Henry Hill' we bent and stretched the corners and put in two lines, we added extra bumps."

-Not a bad job really in such a short time and with a four-guy crew.

"Like I said we were really motivated because the Budds Creek arena is very beautiful and I knew I could make it look a lot better.  With all these adjustments the riders took off between 8 and 10 seconds compared to the AMA National.  Once we were finished we continued to work the soil and water the circuit.  We also had to adjust the sprinkler system, remove electricity poles, install new fences. I was really happy when on Friday morning I saw Jonathan Beasley admiring his circuit from his look-out and when I asked him about the amateur race that was supposed to be going at that moment, he told me he didn't want anybody on this circuit and he wanted the whole world to see how beautiful it was."

-It was a smart idea for sure to keep it untouched till the MXoN riders would start their engines.

"Everyone who knows me knows that all I am asking for is to do my work and to stay away from the stage. But I have to confess that I was really offended by what I have read on the Internet and in particular on the RacerX website because they make it look like somebody else did all this work. I don't want to take any glory and I don't need or want to be in the spot-light but I think it's unfair for others to take the credit for work they didn't do and I think it's enough to say the truth. Our four-man dream crew worked more than 14 hours a day to achieve our goal of making this the best Budds Creek circuit ever. If I may, let me take advantage of this opportunity to show my complete gratitude to the guys who helped me out over those tough days and in making my job easier on such a tight time schedule.

They followed my guide-lines and supported me in every aspect. I especially want to thank Jonathan for the trust he gave me by putting his circuit in my hands, and for sure FIM and AMA for their total support."

"Greg Atkins did an outstanding job in designing and preparing the track for the Motocross of Nations in Budds Creek", said FIM/CMS President Dr. Wolfgang Srb. "Greg does all the tracks for the FIM MX1/2 Motocross World Championship in the most professional way, but Budds Creek was without any doubt his masterpiece. He deserves all the credit for this job.  It's very important having a neutral designer working for Youthstream as there are many countries involved in the Motocross of Nations and we cannot allow a local track designer to build a track in favour of their country, the track must follow the FIM Standards and must be fair and equal for all participating."

"I am also very pleased about the excellent cooperation between FIM and AMA; this was exactly how the World Governing Body and the National Federation should work together. Big thanks to AMA President Rob Dingman and his great staff!", finished Dr. Srb.