Here’s some thoughts I put together about the re-launch of the World Supercross Championship that took place last weekend in Cardiff, Wales (if you’re from there) or Cardiff, England (if you’re from anywhere else in the world). Yeah, it’s a bit late but I went to see mom up in Canada after the race last week and hey, I was busy. Besides, with more time to reflect, maybe this column will be better? I doubt it, but hey, you never know!
First of all, the TV broadcast. We as an industry and as a whole need to figure this thing out. We had a World SX series in the mid to late 1990s. They were short, four or five race series that took place in the fall. Jeff Emig won a title, I think Robbie Reynard and Damon Huffman did also. Hardly anyone did all the races in them, they were usually just picking and choosing which ones to do (probably based on how much start money they could get). No one took the World SX championship seriously by the way. There was even a U.S. round in Pasadena in, like, 1999. Yeah, it happened. Look it up.
Then World Supercross came back in the early 2000s because the AMA tried to break away from the supercross promoters (different owners than today, but some of the same people are still there). The supercross promoters then put together a brilliant end around to beat the AMA, teaming up with the FIM to call the USA series a “World SX Championship” starting in 2003. Because of this, the existing promoters would still have a rule book and clout by aligning with the FIM, and supercross would be fine without the AMA. So, the AMA realized if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and they came back to the bargaining table. Thus, American supercross started crowning both AMA and FIM Champions in the same series, and that agreement went all the way to the end of 2021. So, when you look at the history of “FIM World Supercross” it can include both that small series in the 1990s and the regular AMA (and also FIM) series from ’03 to ’21.
The Global SX group, the promoters of this “new” WSX series didn’t have anything to do with the “old” WSX series from 2003-2021 and for that matter, the old, “old” WSX in the ‘90s was just a bunch of one-off races they threw together to make a title. The whole thing is weird which is why I’m here to say that, to me, the Global SX guys and the FIM should wipe out that old history and just say “this” is the new WSX series. They now have a multi-year deal with FIM to run SX races all over the world and this is a new era. To start muddying the waters with these old and confusing stats about world titles and wins, etc. is weird.
Also, don’t know if you noticed, but since Feld Motor Sports ditched the FIM, that hasn’t stopped them from calling the USA SX series a “world championship” over and over. In fact, this actually caused the FIM to issue a press release at some point reiterating that THEY have the exclusive use of the term “world championship.” The words “world championship” was dropped approximately 85 times at the SuperMotocross press conference the other day in Los Angeles, but then a few days after that, I’m in the UK watching this race and hearing “world championship” over and over. Also, let’s not forget the guys over at Glen Helen use “world championship” when it comes to its World Vet and Two-Stroke World Championship races. All in all, the moniker is tired, and no one really cares. The winner of the USA Supercross series is the best supercross racer in the whole world and we all know this. All the work and thought put into throwing out the term “world championship” is laughable.
But I’m here for it.
As Lewis Phillips from MX Vice put it when we did our WSX Review pod the winner of the first round of the “world championship” was a wild card and he’s departing the series with one round to go. As in, Eli Tomac. As a wild card and not a member of one of the WSX “franchise” teams, Eli can only race one round of the series, so he won’t be in Australia this weekend.
There’s a lot of other political BS that comes with this new WSX series and it’ll be interesting to see how it goes moving forward from here. Me, myself, heck I don’t really care one way or the other about that stuff. I cover races and this is more races and more money paid to riders and teams so that’s cool.
The new SMX series over here? Yeah, that’s cool also!
Let’s cover the ups and downs of the opener of the WSX yeah?
The guys at the Global SX series are flush with money and they’re participating in a revenue sharing process with the teams that have been selected to be in the series. In return for a rumored 400K (plus 50K per race for travel), the teams have to provide four riders (two in each class) and the purse is about double of what the 2022 AMA 450SX one was (the purse is in AMA races will go up in 2023). The WSX purse goes right to the teams, and they cut deals with the riders for what they get. In talking to different riders, the deals that were made were all over the place. Some riders got a flat amount (no purse) that ranged from 7K per race to 40K per race. Some riders got just purse money (again, double an AMA race), some got show up money and half the purse. Ken Roczen (who was paid by the series, word is it was around 150-200 per race) and Eli Tomac (same deal) have their own deals but the stuff above was for the rank-and-file guys of the series. In short, there’s money everywhere! Yay for the teams and riders. It’s raining money on them!
Whatever it was, the Cardiff SX saw a lot of injuries happen. The track got dry, it got slippery and there were a few close calls. In fact, the four biggest crashes of the night all happened in the same area but wasn’t really the track’s fault. Dean Wilson and Luke Clout both went down on this table on/table off thing and that looked like a lack of traction but big injures to Chad Reed and Josh Grant looked to be bike issues (Grant: chain, Reed: electrical) and both MDK riders (Grant and Reed) will be out for this weekend in Aussie also. Bummer for those guys. Wilson will line up while I’m unsure about Clout. But for the first race, it sucked to see some serious crashes.
I’ve been coming to off-season SX races for a long time whether it’s Paris, Geneva, Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany or wherever and the depth of the Cardiff race, especially in 250’s, was pretty good. Nice to see out there. How do I feel about 22 pre-selected riders for a race and no chance for privateers to get in? Ehhhh, I don’t know. I’m conflicted and see pluses and negatives to this. Get back to me later maybe.
We had no qualifying but we did have two heats per class to set gate pick and then we had a Superpole contest (yay!) and then the two classes did three mains each. We started racing at 5:30 and we were done by 8, I think. And we had FMX action in there (the louder you cheer, the higher they go!) and a rapper as well. All in all, the program seemed to lull and then the racing went by quick. I think the mains can be a bit longer and I understand I’m not the target audience for rapping and FMX but maybe just choose one?
UP: QUAD GODS!
Love to see stuff out on the track that only a few can do, and we had that in Wales. There was a quad out there before the finish that only Roczen and Josh Hill were able to do. Roczen used it quite a bit to gain some time on guys after a crash as well as a so-so start. Shout out to Angelo Pellegrini for being the first guy to attempt it! He came up horrifically short but nice work!
Look, I know this WSX has no control over the rider selections these teams make, and I know that, as amazingly as it sounds, teams had issues finding riders but when you have guys like 40-year-old Chad Reed on a team and Josh Grant coming back to race after being out for four or five years, it’s not a great look for the series. Now me, as a fan, I’m all in to watch these guys and it’s interesting but for the health of the series? Not so great.
UP: TOMAC AND MCELRATH
Blu Cru riders swept the two classes and Tomac did it rather precision-like by winning all three mains while Shane McElrath did it by going 4-3-5 across the three main events. If Roczen (who out qualified Tomac and won the Superpole) hadn’t tipped over in the first main, it might’ve been interesting to see how that turned out. Think about Shane’s season: four different bikes and teams this year (BBMX KTM450 then a Rockstar Husky 450, then a Club MX Yamaha 450 and now a Rick Ware Yamaha 250F) and he’s persevered through all of it.
The series introduced cardboard Tuff Blox which, besides also providing a hilarious IG photo when Roczen tried to sit down on one and toppled over, didn’t provide any safety to the riders. They were also knocked a strewn when anyone even breathed on them. The result was collapsed cardboard all over the track and some blatant track cutting as well. Unsecured Tuff Blox in SX= bad, but at least riders can get some safety from them. Unsecured cardboard Tuff Blox in WSX= useless for really anything.
Vince Friese rode really, really well to get third. He passed his teammate Justin Brayton in, I think, two of the mains and if there’s a format made for Friese, it’s WSX baby! Great starts, his whoop speed was good, and he crushed it. Look, if Roczen doesn’t have a strong Aussie round- could we see Vince Friese as a WORLD SX CHAMPION? We could! He was great.
DOWN: LIVE CONFUSION
The live announcers were really of no help at all in telling us what in the hell was going on out there. Obviously, they didn’t have a screen with the running points on them and who was doing what, who needed to do what and all that. It was a rough debut on the mic for those guys.
UP: OWNERS IN PC!
Afterwards we had the normal press conference and with Tomac not belonging to a “team” he was up there with the other two podium riders but with McElrath, they brought up his team owner Rick Ware to talk! Like F1 does. That’s cool, who wouldn’t want to hear from the owners or managers of the teams? I’ve asked Feld to set up a call mid-week with the OEM managers a few times, but it hasn’t happened yet. Also, the WSX guys are keeping track of owner points which is cool.
DOWN: RWR GRAPHICS
Rick Ware Racing had some “interesting” graphics on their riders’ bikes. Like Outback Steakhouse, there’s no rules in WSX when it comes to number color or anything like that, so Rick made his bikes all white, red numbers and, yeah, a very busy look. I don’t know, I’m no fashionista but it didn’t look great to me. I tried to get Joey Savatgy to bite but he just kept repeating over and over that he was just happy to get to race.
UP: THE APP
There’s this really cool app that the riders, teams and media get that has schedules on it, results on it, information about the series itself and it gets updated throughout the day. Super easy to use for everyone and neat.
DOWN: JOE DAWG
Speaking of Savatgy, he was really fast in the UK but at the end of the night he crashed his way out of the top five. Truthfully, he was probably the third fastest guy there and looked good, but the chaotic format caused him some issues. Bad starts, short races and an easy track doesn’t make for a fun time for a guy like Joey.
NEITHER UP NOR DOWN: METAL RAMP!
We had a metal take off ramp for the finish line, something the Global SX guys have used Down Under and also, Jeremy McGrath had them at his own race back in the day. (Speaking of that, when does he get a call to race this series, BTW?) I thought it looked cool, the riders said it got a G-out at the base of it and all in all, I don’t know how I feel about it. Ask me later. Honestly, that’s how I feel about a lot of things here. I’m still getting a feel for it. Ask me later!
MX Vice’s Lewis took me to Nando’s, a made-to-order chicken place and I have to say, pretty good! I have since found out that there are some in Canada also but whatever they’re doing to the chicken, keep it up. Good stuff, it was even worth it for Lewis to get us lost going there and also, I had to watch him eat French Fries with a knife and a fork.
Thanks for reading folks, it’s a new era for the sport and watching this WSX series evolve, and progress should be interesting for all of us. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this or anything else.