The folks at the AMA and FIM have been challenged over the last few years of Monster Energy Supercross with some very high-profile on-track indiscretions—and the responsibility for making some tricky calls. (The 2003 addition of the FIM to the series added new layers of confusion for teams and riders when things get rough and/or rules are broken, too.) While it’s almost never easy to decide what’s accidental and what’s intentional—and what any ensuing penalty should be—most agree that there has to be a better way than this.
There are a few truths about this process, especially when it comes to rough riding. First, those penalized are never going to be happy, no matter what happens. Second, there’s more to “rough riding” than penalizing a rider who hits someone’s front wheel and causes a crash. That’s too simple. On the other hand, when there are cases like Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin doubling on a red cross flag at Seattle, it’s easy to open the rulebook, look at the penalty, and apply it. That night, Musquin kept his win but lost a valuable seven points. Most were satisfied with the penalty; it’s much better than the old rule where Ryan Dungey was once stripped of a win at Detroit for the same infraction.
“The rule was rewritten three years ago,” FIM race official John Gallagher explained in a recent interview with Steve Giberson of Vital MX. “We had the situation where we had the winner of a race, Dungey, jumping on a red cross flag, and he ended up losing the win. There were a lot of concerns and issues with that, not only for Ryan and his team, but the fans watching on TV and the fans in the stadium all expected Ryan to be the winner, but then after the race was done, the win was pulled from him.
“So there was an inequity of the winner losing the win compared to, say, 16th place losing 16th place for the same penalty. That’s a huge inequity.” Afterward, Feld Entertainment, as well as the AMA and FIM and the teams, decided to change the penalty to a scale of points rather than positions.
Fast-forward to Seattle. Gallagher was simply working from the rulebook when Musquin was docked seven points for his jump but kept the win. Lost in all the hoopla was what caused the flags to come out in the first place: a multi-rider crash that left veteran riders Chad Reed, Kyle Chisholm, and—most spectacularly of all—Justin Brayton down on the track. Musquin and his team could have argued that officials should have brought out a red flag and restarted the race, rather than keep the race going under red cross flags. That would have complicated matters even more.