The new version of the FIM World Supercross Championship, now produced by a group called SX Global and known in shorthand as WSX, wrapped up over the weekend in Melbourne, Australia. Ken Roczen emerged as the 2022 WSX (450 class) Champion and Shane McElrath won the SX2 (250 class) title. You can read reports on the Roczen and McElrath victories to understand how they won those titles.
The FIM World Supercross Championship isn’t new, though, this is just a new version. Davey Coombs penned a history on FIM World Supercross history in last Friday’s Racerhead. In case you missed it, here’s the full rundown. Here’s DC:
Being a student all things SX and MX, I thought it would be fun to try to work through all of the different FIM World Supercross Champions over the years, going back to the beginning.
Of course supercross is an American invention. California promoter Mike Goodwin came up with the idea of building a motocross in a football stadium and racing under the lights. It had been done before in Eastern Europe, though not at night, and certainly not in the modern era of dirt bikes. Goodwin called his race the Superbowl of Motocross and it was held on July 8, 1972, in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Two years later, the AMA sanction the first “AMA Super Series of Stadium Motocross,” a three-race series that included the Daytona SX, the Houston Astrodome, and the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The first big modern supercross in Europe that was the Amsterdam SX of 1981, held on the eve of the legendary ’81 FIM Trophee des Nations in Belgium, where Team USA won for the first time. The winner of the Amsterdam race was the late Mike Bell, the 1980 AMA Supercross Champion. The event, co-promoted by a man named Bob DeJong, with help from none other than Gerrit Wolsink, at the time the most famous and successful Dutch motocrosser, did well enough that other SX races started popping up around Europe.
The first Paris-Bercy Supercross was held in March of 1984, midweek and right in the middle of two AMA Supercross events, Daytona and Talladega. The first King of Bercy? ’83 AMA Supercross Champion David Bailey.
By 1985 the FIM thought it was time to sanction a supercross series and give it “World Championship” status. They decided to hold races in Sweden and Spain, and then decided to also add the Los Angeles Coliseum, which meant working with Mike Goodwin, in a late November off-season race. They called the series the Rodil Cup and while the European races went okay, the one at the Coliseum was something of a debacle after Goodwin decided to try an inverted start in which heat race winners would line up in the second row for the main. Ricky Johnson won the first heat outright, and then was furious when he saw Jeff Ward, Ron Lechien and Johnny O’Mara all tank their own heat races in order to let someone else win to make sure they started on the front row of the main event.
The whole starting gate drama (and RJ’s podium rant about it) seems to be the only thing that most remember from the Rodil Cup (well, that and the fact that RJ wore a pair of Life’s A Beach swim trunks over his Fox riding pants). But it was the end of a three-round series, and the champion was none other than Jim “Hollywood” Holley. I asked him if he remembered anything else from the Rodil Cup tour, Holley laughs, “I remember in Spain it was raining real hard, and I was the only guy who went out for the parade lap!”
The FIM seemed to shelve the idea of a world series after that, though races like the Paris SX, Geneva in Switzerland and Genoa in Spain did have annual one-off weekend races that attracted many top Americans, and more and more Europeans.
In ’91 and 1992 there was something called the Masters of Motocross Series which included some pretty big names like Jean-Michel Bayle, and some stadium races, but mostly "Fast Cross" type races like the big one in Italy that Saporitti used to run.
But then there was also an FIM World Supercross Series back in 1992, with races in Europe and Japan, and the champion was Jeff Stanton, who also happened to be the ’92 AMA Supercross and 250 Pro Motocross Champion.
The 1993 World Supercross Champion was Guy Cooper, and it was during this series where both he and a young Jeremy McGrath, the newly-crowned AMA champion, began showing off a new trick called the nac-nac.
In both 1994 and '95 McGrath won the FIM World Supercross Championship, both years included races in Tokyo and Barcelona. This time they also looped in the Paris-Bercy Supercross, which by now was well-established as the biggest and most prestigious international supercross event in the world.
In 1996 Jeff Emig was crowned World Supercross Champion after a seven-round autumn series and told Cycle News, "I guess it doesn't mean much to the folks back home but it's important to me. I entered the series wanted to win, and I've ridden seven hard races to do so."
Emig would go on to win his one and only AMA Supercross crown in 1997, but not the ‘97 World Supercross Championship. Instead, it was won by Honda's Ezra Lusk. It had six rounds and included both Osaka and Tokyo, Japan, and Switzerland (Geneva).
In 1998 the FIM World Supercross series was organized in the fall by Action Group, Giuseppe Luongo's old company before it became Youthstream and now InFront. The races were in Germany, Brazil, Italy and France. "MX Geoff" Meyer said in the Cycle News coverage that 50,000 people attended the opener at Le Stade in Paris. The '98 SX World Champion would be Robbie Reynard.
In 1999 it was a three-round series, won by Yamaha’s David Vuillemin. The rounds were held in Leipzig, Germany, Pasadena's Rose Bowl, and one in Paris. Afterwards, Vuillemin said, "I might have won the series but McGrath is the real world champion. He's won in America and that gives him the role as the best supercross rider in the world."
Finally, in 2000, Factory Connection Honda rider Mike LaRocco won the last of these stand-alone FIM World Supercross Championships, because a big change was coming—the AMA and their U.S. Supercross partner Clear Channel, which is now Feld Entertainment.
In 2001, Clear Channel reached out to the FIM about the idea of sanctioning their events, as a way to combat the AMA announcing that they had a new SX promotion partner in Jam Sports. But then the AMA and Clear Channel made up, to some extent, leading to a giant lawsuit by Jam Sports. So Clear Channel decided to keep the FIM sanction anyway, and just be co-sanctioned by the AMA as well. But the FIM wanted at least some of the races to be overseas, which most of the U.S.-based teams were adamantly against, as December is prime training and testing time for the January start of supercross.
No matter. One year later, in December 2002, the first rounds of the FIM World Supercross Championship were held in Geneva, Switzerland, and then in Arnhem, Holland. Then in January, the 2003 AMA Supercross Championship started, with the added phrasing “And FIM World Championship GP.” Here was the catch: In order to be considered in the FIM standings, you had to ride the overseas FIM events. And as far as the AMA Supercross series went, Daytona points only counted in the AMA championship, not for the FIM part… Like I said, very confusing. Anyway, in ’02 Team Yamaha’s Chad Reed, David Vuillemin and Tim Ferry went, as did KTM’s Jeremy McGrath. But Honda’s Ricky Carmichael did not. So the ’03 season ended with Ricky Carmichael as the AMA Supercross Champion, and Chad Reed as the FIM World Supercross Champion.
It gets more complicated in 2004. That’s because after Carmichael committed to racing overseas in December, he went out and tore up his knee at Thanksgiving, and pulled the plug on going. That had a chain reaction and led to others, including Reed, not going to Europe either. Reed would go on to win the ’04 AMA Supercross crown over Kevin Windham. The ’04 FIM Supercross World Champion? Yamaha support rider Heath Voss, who finished seventh in AMA Supercross at the same time.
After sitting out ’04 SX with a knee injury, Carmichael returned to dominate AMA Pro Motocross that summer, then switched from Honda to Suzuki. When he had a bad debut at the U.S. Open of Supercross in Las Vegas, RC told Suzuki he wanted to do the two “world” rounds, which Clear Channel decided to move from Europe to Canada to make it easier on everyone. Carmichael won both races on his Suzuki RM250, delighting the Canadian fans and giving the FIM-idea a reprieve of sorts. And when he went out and won the AMA Supercross Championship in 2005, he was also the FIM World Supercross Champion because he had done those two FIM-mandatory Canadian rounds.
Fast forward to December 2005 and another really strange situation. This time Kawasaki’s James Stewart and Yamaha’s Chad Reed joined Suzuki’s Carmichael in committing to go to the Canadian rounds. Stewart was now aboard a KX450F and he took it to Carmichael in both Toronto and Vancouver, which gave him a 6-point lead (50-44) after two FIM rounds. They started from scratch at Anaheim 1 as far as the more important AMA series went, and soon Carmichael was more in control, but barely.
But then at the end of the season, after a thrilling three-way battle joined by Chad Reed, Carmichael ended up beating both James and Chad by just two points in the AMA Supercross Championship, 338-336.
Wait, there’s more. Going back to Daytona in March, two months earlier, Carmichael won and Reed was second, while Stewart crashed and ended up seventh. It really hurt James in the AMA standings, but not in the FIM standings—remember, Daytona didn’t count for FIM points. So when the FIM math was all down, adding in the Canadian rounds and taking out Daytona, James Stewart won the ’06 FIM World Supercross Championship by 12 points! This led to the infamously confusing Cycle News cover where they are both holding #1 plates in Las Vegas.
Things were a little more normal in 2007 and 2008. Carmichael had stepped away from full-time racing, and Stewart won both AMA/FIM titles in ’07 and Chad Reed won both in ’08. By now the powers-that-be realized that SX as it existed was not so easy to export as an entire series, and they settled on just one race in Canada, Toronto. But even that became hit or miss after a while. The AMA, the FIM and what was now Feld Entertainment decided to just combine the series, include Daytona in both, just award both the AMA Supercross Championship and the FIM World Supercross Championship as the same series, start to finish.
As a result, every Monster Energy Supercross Champion from 2009 to 2021 would be both AMA Champion and FIM World Champion. In order, it was Stewart (’09), Ryan Dungey (’10), Ryan Villopoto (’11-14), Dungey (’15-’17), Jason Anderson (’18), Cooper Webb (’19), Eli Tomac (’20) and Webb again (’21). After that Feld decided not to renew the sanction with the FIM, and a few months later, the FIM put their “World Championship” sanction out for bid, and now we have SX Global’s pilot season of the FIM World Supercross Championship. It’s their first time to crown a world supercross champion, but not the FIM’s.
If I missed something here, or mis-typed, by all means let me know.
That leads us to this weekend, where Ken Roczen and Shane McElrath became the FIM World Supercross Champions for 2022 by leading the points in what was called a pilot season for this new version of the championship, dubbed WSX.