MotoOnline.com.au tracks down various industry leaders to get their take on the future of Australian Supercross.
The Monster Energy Super X, Australasian Supercross Championship, wraps up season three this weekend in Brisbane since the sport was taken over by Global Action Sports.
While the on-track action is as entertaining as ever and our teams continue to produce world class riders and equipment, the sport may not have expanded as quickly as many expected since Super X commenced in 2008.
MotoOnline.com.au contacted a variety of industry leaders to get their thoughts on the sport’s current state, as well as what can be improved in the years to come.
Perry Morrison (Suzuki Australia general manager, motorcycles):
“I definitely think that it’s working and I like the approach that Global Action Sports is taking. Even though the last couple of crowds have been tough with the GFC and crowds would be down on their expectations, we’re exposing our brand and our products at major venues on professionally built tracks in front of bigger crowds than we have ever raced in front of before. It’s come a long way in a hurry.
“It’s been a huge investment, so we need to keep the promoters motivated and involved, also needing to make sure that they’re getting a return on their investment. There are a lot of positives. In terms of whether it’s working or not, yes it is. Is it in line with our marketing strategy? Yes, because what we always try to do is provide international opportunities for our riders. Equally because in America our factory team has a good history of signing Australian riders like Chad Reed, Matt Moss and now Brett Metcalfe, it gives us the opportunity to bring those guys home to race here in Australia in front of our crowds.
“It puts our best riders against top quality riders from the United States who come out to compete, so it raises the standard of the competition in Australia. The promoters are supportive of RACESAFE, so it raises the standard of safety and medical support. The fact that we have AMA style circuits encourages the Americans to come out – all of those factors are really great for the sport.
“GAS works closely with the industry, they listen to us and take our points on board. You could argue that they have gone away from the tradition final formats with the range of concepts, which don’t always work. However, you cannot criticise them for trying different things and the live TV is unbelievable. The formats that they have generally tried make great spectating, but in some cases we would like to see a 15 or 20-lap final and I think the top U.S. riders coming out would probably prefer that as well.
“So look, generally I believe it’s been fantastic for the sport and fantastic for us. I have no doubt that it’s helping Suzuki sell more Motocross bikes and that’s absolutely crucial, plus our riders are now recognised on a global stage because in three years the series has risen to become one of the best Supercross series on the planet.
“All in all, I reckon it’s great.”
Craig Dack (CDR Rockstar Energy Yamaha team owner):
“I think that Supercross is always a work in progress, meaning that from year to year in my experiences, things change so much. In Motocross they are permanent circuits that we know are the same every year, so it all sort of rolls over.
“But in Supercross there are venue changes because some stadiums are redoing turf in between football and soccor seasons. Your advertising programs need to change, the economy changes, and also ticket prices are crucial. There are a whole lot of reasons to why Supercross is such a beast. So to plan a future and make it permanent is very difficult – you have to be willing to learn to change and manipulate things according to what’s going on at that particular time. It’s not an easy task.
“But I know that in the last three years the Super X guys have followed a direction, and I think that they clearly understand now that it isn’t quite working 100 percent right now so they are looking at ways to change it for next year. Their whole motive is to stay and get better, they just need to keep working at ways to do that. Because we go to these venues that aren’t motorcycle venues – they’re football stadiums, rock venues and tennis centres – so they come with a whole array of difficulties.
“What the future holds is always very difficult to predict and plan out. In saying that, I have a lot of confidence in Mal Pater from Super X and I’m sure that he will find a way for it to continue in a positive direction.”
Troy Carroll (Kawasaki Racing Team manager):
“The way that Super X has gone over the past three years has been good. It’s definitely generated a lot of interest from the U.S. as well, but I still think that there should be a couple of 20-lap main events throughout the season as well. I think it shows a stronger, fitter, rider with more skills than what it does in the short and sharp events.
“The shorter races have assisted in the way of sponsorship because of the high intencity of the events now. For the average punter to go and watch a 20-lap main event isn’t that exciting, but with these short events it keeps the interest a lot higher. For us it’s exciting and helps generate more interest, but I would still like to see a couple of 20-lap mains throughout the year.
“I’m not sure that travelling to New Zealand is what we need to be doing at the moment – it’s an expensive exercise for us to do and the events didn’t really attract large spectator numbers either.
“However, I do believe Super X is stronger than what it’s ever been before, the live television is great, and I’m confident that the sport has a bright future ahead.”
Greg Chambers (KTM Australia marketing coordinator):
“I don’t think there is too much wrong at all with what GAS is doing with Supercross racing in Australia right now. From a marketing point of view we now have live television coverage which reaches more Australians than ever before, some may argue that this keeps crowd attendance down but I think the positives outweigh the negative on that one.
“For me the number one thing that can be done to improve crowd figures and interest in our sport is to create rivalries and personalities with our teams and riders. It’s something that I’ve thought for a long time but for me it was confirmed the other day when I heard Vincent Tesoriero (founder and promoter of Mr. Motocross) speak at a function about the rivalries they created between riders back in the 80’s, their crowd figures were on par with Super X today!
“We’ve got some great rivalries happening right now with Marmont Vs. Hansen and Moss Vs. Larsen but I’m not sure we’re doing all we can to exploit that. I don’t know how the riders would feel about it as I haven’t spoken to any of them regarding this but I’m sure they’d be on board if it benefited the sport and increased their overall profile and market value.
“Anyway, bring on Brisvegas because it’s going t be a showdown!”
Jay Marmont (CDR Rockstar Energy Yamaha team rider):
“To me I see that it’s hurt Super X by Chad Reed not being there and it’s obviously showed in the amount of people that are rocking up to the races. This year we have been a little bit unlucky with weather and stuff, but as a racer I feel that now Chad’s gone people seem to be getting behind me more at the races.
“I think that Australian people like to get behind Aussies. I see Josh Hansen coming out here as a really good thing for America, but as for bringing a lot of American out here, the Australian riders aren’t getting enough recognition for doing what we are doing. I think they should be pumping up the Aussies versus one or two Americans, more so than bringing more of them over on factory rides than Aussies.
“I think New Zealand was unlucky this year with the weather although Auckland was good, so I can only see it being a positive. I think it’s a place where people get behind the sport and a lot of good riders have came out of NZ, so it’s a very Motocross and Supercross orientated country. It’s something that we should still support.
“As for the formats, I don’t mind the one-on-one races and the heat races, but I would like to see it go back to a more traditional one race main event next year. They used the excuse that they didn’t want Chad Reed to demolish the rest of the field, so now that he’s not here then why can’t we go back to the grass roots of more traditional 20-lappers? Throw a few of those formats in during the year.
“I’m not knocking the Super X guys at all, they do an awesome job so I hope we can keep going with them and don’t lose them. For me as a racer, I want to do everything in my power to try and keep the series alive, making it bigger and better than what it already is.”
Craig Anderson (Craig Anderson Racing Honda team owner/rider):
“It’s silly going to New Zealand and I think that we need to look after Australia’s backyard first. Just like any other sport that’s gone overseas, it’s been years before they do it successfully. I think we need to build the sport up here and get more sponsorship in the sport here before we go overseas.
“The formats are all good apart from the Survival one. I honestly think that we should have the Americans here, but I think unless they are doing the whole series they shouldn’t get any points. They are welcome to come and get prize money, but just not getting points.
“Having the majority of races on the east coast being based in Newcastle isn’t so bad. For us it’s not too bad, but I don’t really know about running seven races in eight weeks. It would be quite tough for the average privateer who goes to work each weekend, but I don’t work so for me it doesn’t really matter.
“What needs to be fixed is the prize money for the riders, the formats are okay take it or leave it, and they need to lose NZ before we build larger over here. Apart from that it’s going good, for sure.”