The “pilot season” of the FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX) is now complete. There were just two rounds of racing, but that’s enough racing to get some opinions on how it all went. We asked Justin Brayton, Shane McElrath, and Cole Seely for their views on racing in Wales and Australia.
Racer X: So, two rounds, like you said for World Supercross. Some good, some bad what’d you like about it JB? What would you change? What’s your pros and cons for the global supercross guys?
Justin Brayton: Umm the pros are, they’re really eager and the communication lines are totally open. The ten teams are super involved, and they keep saying they’re partners of theirs so I think that’s really cool. They are really, really eager to take supercross around the world which I is awesome. The cons are probably just, like some of the racing, just to fine tune. I get really bummed out when people compare it to Feld (Monster Energy AMA Supercross). Like Feld is amazing, in my opinion it's the best series in the world right now, and obviously the best riders and they have been doing it for years and years, and those guys are awesome too. But they’re like comparing it to that. It's like ok if you’ve got a 30-year business or a startup business which one is going to be better? It’s pretty obvious right? But Adam [Bailey] and the [SX Global] crew, they’re awesome, they work super hard, they are a young group of people who are very eager, and that’s awesome.
Cardiff was a learning experience, I think for everybody, but mainly with the racing. The three races in a row, they’re really gnarly. I just think that the time in between for the fans and the riders and the teams could have been just a little bit more. Which it was this past weekend, we got a little more time. And the main reason for that, I think, is just to set the stage for the fans, and then we can kind of do the calculations. Like take for instance the last race, if you could have hyped that up like “Ken is four back of Vince, and I’m one back of Vince and if this happens…” You know, explain the sub plots, right?
The tracks needed some work for sure, the tracks were very, very easy both of them, super basic tracks. And the dirt wasn’t that great, the dirt this weekend was a little bit better. So yeah, I think if it's on the world stage lets have world class tracks. Look Jason Baker does an amazing job, the finishes of it were great, just everything was little bit easy you know? The layouts I guess is what I am saying could use a little bit of work.
Yeah, the layout for Cardiff was, and I said these things in my column, track was easy, simple. And the live announcers at Cardiff were so confused and they didn’t know what was going on and so I am glad you are kind of echoing my stuff. Let the crowd know what’s going on, let them know that Oldenburg needs to beat McElrath to win the overall or whatever.
Even the riders, we’re confused. The teams are trying to do calculations but we don’t really know either how far back the next guy is. If you are in the top three or four, which thankfully I was the first couple, the calculations are somewhat black and white with “okay this guy beat you, and that guy didn’t and so on and so forth.” But if you are like sixth to tenth, it could be all over the map.
We were talking about this earlier, what do you think caused all the flat tires?
Well it happened at both places right? I think Cardiff was the debris with some nails and stuff in there. This weekend, Kenny and I were talking after the race and when you did the big triple there was a 90 degree turn and we would bounce, there was like a two footer into a five footer, and there was a big sharp rock sticking right there. He thinks he hit that because when he went into the whoops that lap he started to feel a little something. So maybe that was it. It was pretty rocky, there were some rocks this weekend. So I don’t know?
We were speculating on the ramp, the corner or the edge of the take-off of the ramp.
Like the bottom of it? Yeah that could be, because in Cardiff there was a huge hole before it. It wasn’t that bad this weekend but that could be? I don’t think the ramp itself but maybe the corner of it maybe was exposed coming up the lip.
What do you think was the cause for, we saw some chaos, we saw some crashes with Deano [Wilson] and even with [Josh] Grant and Chad [Reed] with bike problems in Cardiff. We saw a lot of crashes. It is just guys on unfamiliar bikes, is it sketchy dirt? What was the reason for some of the carnage?
I think there’s a few things. When you have these short races there’s so many different levels, from the first place guy to say the fifteenth place guy there’s a pretty big gap right? Even in the 250 class. So when you get guys racing that are at different levels, and the guy that’s at the lesser level only has to race you for six or eight laps he sees some hope and it's like they’re just going for it. Absolutely going for it. And then you throw in the dirt which was very very slick and unforgiving, and this past weekend was very similar to Dallas. So, you know how Dallas can look really good but then it gets edgy or hardpacked underneath? But I think mainly it's the shorter races and the intensity of it, you get guys coming in super fresh and “Man I can do anything for six laps” you know?
Racer X: How was the experience of winning this title? It was only a two-race pilot season, but it has to feel good to have something positive happen.
Shane McElrath: Yeah, and I was speaking about this with Chad Reed when we were in Australia. It’s such good experience. Everytime I line up on the gate, it’s the real deal, mentally and physically it’s the same, so it’s growing me as a racer. It was great for me, because mentally I’ve been in this kind of situation before, but if you go back to 2020 battling [Chase] Sexton, it was similar. So I could say, “I know I did things this was in 2020, and it didn’t turn out so well. This time it was like, same situation, let’s do it different. Mentally it was the same exact thing. Once we got there, jt was like, “I’ve been here before, and I felt these exact same things.” For me it was huge. It came down to the last moto. I was one point out of the overall, and I wanted to win. I had a little bit of a points gap, and I didn’t want to play it safe because I’ve done that in past. I was like, “Let’s go race.”
Well to add to the pressure. I want your take on this format. It’s so short and they’re throwing things at you. If you make one mistake you’re not going to be able to make up a lot of ground.
Yeah. In Australia they gave us a couple more minutes before the SuperFinal, and that honestly felt like an eternity compared to Cardiff. Eli [Tomac] really said it best at Cardiff. Six laps, six laps and ten laps for us, it doesn’t seem like much, but when you put it all together, and there’s really no time in between, it winds up being 22 sprint laps. There’s no time to recover in between. That caught me and a lot of other people off guard. Normally in a longer AMA race, we can settle in a little bit.
What was the travel and all of that like?
It’s been a good learning experience. It’s super easy to look back over the course of our year here in America and see that we have supercross and we have outdoors, and it’s literally the same thing every week, every month, all year. Now, going overseas, there’s some planning that goes into it, but when you get over there, you’re pretty much just reacting to everything that’s going on. Like, the time change. It’s like, one night you sleep really good and the next night you don’t sleep. So then, you expected the day to go a lot better, but you didn’t get any sleep. So, it’s like, “Let’s get a coffee and keep going!” It was tough, because even the schedule on race day, it starts slow in the morning, but once they take off, they take off and you’re done at 9 p.m. That’s what I noticed with myself a lot. There wasn’t much planning, it was just react, react, react. And that’s when we’re at our best, when we’re just reacting naturally to what we know how to do.
Racer X: Just kind of give us your thoughts on the tracks and format in general. What you liked, didn’t like, what has potential, that kind of thing. And you have to say more than just the first turn for things you didn’t like
Cole Seely: [Laughs] General impression is, it’s a great series. The hospitality is amazing, from the way they treat the riders to the way they treat the teams. They really do all they can to make sure everyone is happy. As a rider who’s been at this a long time, that’s really special. It’s really cool to work with the guys behind the scenes, and to see the way they work with my manager, mechanic, and everyone. I think everybody was pretty happy with how things were handled. There are a lot of moving parts with these things, especially traveling the world. There’s a lot more going on than loading up a semi-truck, which is no small task in itself. Boxing everything up, shipping everything, making sure everyone is happy, making sure every part gets there, every bike gets there, there’s a lot going on! It was pretty cool to see.
I think they’re going to go through some growing pains, and that’s probably happening right now with riders not being super happy with the tracks. They were fun tracks to ride, but to race, they didn’t really allow for a lot of passing, and as we saw in Australia, the first few turns were a little tight. [Laughs] It’s a learning experience though, and just like racers, they learn from every race. I think the guys behind the scenes, they want to learn and make it better. They also look for input from the riders and teams, and having these first two out of the way and with us giving our honest feedback, I think it’s something they’ll apply next year. It’s cool. But it was a little tight, and it got the best of me, and a few other riders.
Why do you think they made the tracks and format they way they did? Was it to try something different, or to differentiate it from Monster Energy Supercross, or something else? What do you think?
I think it’s a cool format, it’s definitely different. I think they made it like that to keep it exciting. At a certain point in a normal supercross race it kind of becomes a little monotonous. There are some passes that happen late in the race, but the majority of passes happen in the first six laps or whatever. I think it’s cool and creative to cut the race after that point and line everybody back up again. I just think the track needs to suit that type of racing better. That style of track might be better for longer races, where it kind of tightens everybody up. When you want to see the fast guys actually make it through the pack, I think the track needs to accommodate that. Let us be able to set up more creative passes and square people up, let us go faster through the whoops or hit a rhythm section a little faster. The tracks didn’t accommodate that, but it’s a learning experience. They can take the criticism and be able to build better tracks that make for better racing.
Talk about the travel aspect of it. At least for the American riders, it’s definitely not something you’re used to. One week you’re in Europe, the next you’re in Australia. You’re spending hours and hours traveling, the food is wildly different, and you don’t have your normal resources. What’s a whole season of global travel going to be like?
I think it’s cool. It gives us a little more time to focus on actually being there, if that makes sense. In my experience racing overseas, I loved going to new countries and I loved meeting new fans, but I was really on a time crunch. My focus was to get there as late as possible, and get out of there as quickly as possible because we’ve got testing and training to do for the upcoming supercross season. But if your main focus is that actual race, it let’s you relax and enjoy it more. Going to Australia, we got there Tuesday and didn’t race until Saturday, so I had a little more time to adapt. We had a practice day beforehand so we could kick out the jetlag, loosen the nerves a little bit, and go for it. If racing it [the WSX] is the main focus, that makes it a lot more plausible than showing up on Thursday or Friday, race Saturday, and fly home on Sunday so I can get back to fulfilling my commitment to my team, which was preparing for, and racing, supercross and outdoors. But if your preparation is to get ready for the races overseas, it puts you in a better mental state for that long flight, which really isn’t that bad, and to kick off the jetlag and race. When we went to the UK, my wife and I stayed a few extra days because I wasn’t in a rush to get home.
I know what you mean, to a lesser degree, as a media member in terms of flying to whatever city just in the United States. My friends think it’s cool I get to go to some of the cities I do, but really it’s, get there Friday, work Saturday, leave early Sunday morning. It’s not like we have time to go sightseeing.
That’s the kind of thought process I used to have going to like, Paris. I’d get there as late as possible because I wanted to train and test all week, do my race on Saturday or Sunday, and get home the very next day. You really don’t get to see where you’re travelling. I’ve been to a lot of places in the world, but I really didn’t experience a lot when I was there because I was so focused on my job.
Yeah, you’ve seen a lot of hotel rooms
[Laughs] Yes, and I’ve eaten a lot of continental breakfasts.
Images courtesy of WSX Championship