News 17 Feb 2012

The Point: Australian Supercross in 2012

Reed, Marmont, Williams and Konsky speak about the past and future of Aussie SX.

When Global Action Sports announced this week that it would be closing the doors on its Super X project for good, all of a sudden the Australian Supercross Championship was left without a home.

While Motorcycling Australia works to source a new promoter, spoke to some of Australia’s most experienced insiders about the sport’s future on our soil.

Supercross has a rich history in our country through various channels, including the now legendary Supercross Masters series, and we’ve seen riders from the Aussie circuit go on to prove they are some of the best in the world.

Now, find out what’s worked in the past and also what it’s going to take to get things back on track, from the experts themselves.

And while you’re at it, have your say below and also share your thoughts on what Australia needs – the people who count could be reading.

As Australia's greatest ever export with experience worldwide, Chad Reed knows the sport of supercross as good as anybody. Image: Simon Cudby.

Chad Reed – TwoTwo Motorsports owner and rider/Australia’s ‘GOAT’
I think [supercross in Australia] is really important, it’s a massive part of my generation and the former generation. We raced supercross at 12 years of age and I felt like that was kind of ground breaking and that we were ahead of our time.

I kind of got a little bit of hate because in some interviews I mentioned that when I was a part of the whole Super X program, that I didn’t necessarily support the 12-year-olds [racing] at a supercross.

And mainly my reasoning was that I felt that supercross was at a point, at the end of 2008, that it needed to take a step. It needed to take a big step in the right direction and I felt like it needed to put more effort into building American style supercross tracks, but when you have 12 years olds riding, it kind of limits you. There’s only so much you can do on a race track, to still make it safe for them. I kind of wanted to go that direction and I felt like that was the way we wanted to go.

I think back to the days of Jeff Leisk, Craig Dack, Anthony Gobert, Joel Elliot and Craig Anderson in my era, so many fun experiences and fun moments we had. I just think that maybe supercross grew at a pace that wasn’t sustainable, I think that’s why it’s just kind of toppled over.

I think back to the early 2000s when myself, Michael Byrne and Andrew McFarlane were doing real well on an international level, people started looking at Australia. Dan Reardon got a contract over $100,000 on a Factory Connection Lites team, Jay Marmont had a factory KTM ride and Ando had a factory Yamaha Lites ride.

There were so many guys that got rides on great teams with good money, at a time when a year or two before that, Australians were never even thought of you know? It was always the French who were developing supercross skills outside of the U.S. and then Australia became the target.

I almost think that Australia as a whole didn’t really take advantage of it and, because it was going that direction and people were looking that way, it was almost like we couldn’t sustain the development of it. We had great riders down there with great talent, but it seemed like the sport in Australia was going through a little bit of a transition period as well, which unfortunately happened at the same time.

The motocross started going to 15-minute motos, that really hurts our riders so much. In the fact that if they do go and race at an international level anywhere else in the world, they have to compete at a level that they’re never used to. Not only are they not used to racing at that level, but now they’re not used to riding the 30 minutes. They were doing the four 15-minute motos the last couple of years and I just personally think that is going in the wrong direction.

And in Super X they did the same thing, breaking up the races and having 3-, 4-, 5-, 7-lap races and I just think that the learning curve just kind of went away. The transition going from Australia to the U.S. was too great, we had a lot of guys come over and fail. It hurt Australia as a whole.

I succeeded, Byrner was doing pretty well and Andrew was doing pretty well. Sure we all had our ups and downs over the years and not everybody succeeded in getting the results that I was getting, but as a country I felt like it all happened too fast and they couldn’t take it on. Now I feel like it’s just starting to sort itself out and that’s unfortunate with what has happened with supercross in Australia – for now anyway.

Hopefully somebody with not only business savvy, but also a passion for the sport that can live and learn from all mistakes can come in – no company is ever perfect. I don’t look at Mike Porra and think that he necessarily failed. I just think that he failed to adapt to motocross and supercross in Australia and worldwide. I think that at first his goals were good, but I felt like they may have been a little unrealistic for our country.

I was always a firm believer that live TV wasn’t a good thing, there’s a reason why AMA Supercross is seen as one of the most famous series in the world. In 2011 and 2012 it’s the first year that we’ve actually had weekends of consecutive live races, it’s actually taken decades to get to that point.

The reason is, as much as we love it and live it, it’s tough to accept sometimes that motocross and supercross is not as big as you’d hope – it’s just not sustainable. In the U.S. we have something like 300 million people, you look at Australia’s population of around 22 million people, you’ve got to be realistic in your goals and set them according to that.

So that would be the only thing I would criticize Super X for, is that I felt that I had some good input from my position as a racer and a business person, and I didn’t feel my voice was ever heard. To see them up and leave is sad, but I can’t say it wasn’t predictable.

Jay Marmont won last year's Monster Energy Super X series. Image: Sport The Library.

Jay Marmont – Defending Australian Supercross Champion and four-time MX Nationals Champion
It’s a shame that the series has finished like it has, because the infrastructure was there and the Super X promoters have done a great job setting up the signage, the proper gates and even the flames that shoot out at the finish when you take the chequered flag.

They really tried to step it up in Australia, but obviously a few things definitely hurt us. From my perspective, one was losing Chad [Reed] because he is a massive draw card, but in saying that we can’t always expect him to come here and lift our series when he has a job to do in America. Also the weather played a huge role, which caused for a couple of bad rounds.

It’s definitely a shame that it ended, but I think that there is room for someone to take over it, because supercross is still a grass roots thing in Australia. A lot of people have accepted it and have learnt to see the difference between supercross and motocross. It’s also important to realise that Australia isn’t America, so we can’t expect it to be AMA SX every weekend.

I think we need to look at maybe different times at the year and different places so we don’t get caught out with weather. They need to do rural areas. I think take the racing more to the fans, where the people are, like music shows and Bathurst – things like that. Try and chase the people a little bit more and make it more about that.

The sport does have a strong history and we have seen a lot of really good riders come from Australia, so I think it has potential, it’s just a matter of finding the right formula to make it work, year in, year out. Whatever happens, we’ll be there to support it and race the best we can.

Kevin Williams was involved in race direction of Super X from the outset. Image: Sport The Library.

Kevin Williams – Owner of Williams Event Management owner, promoters of the MX Nationals
I think Australian Supercross, even though it’s going to be a hard pill to swallow, needs to drop back to the level that it was at when Full Throttle Sports last ran the series. I think the speedway venues and showground style venues are what are affordable for today’s spectators.

It’s lovely to have the big stadiums and big seats, but it needs to be at the level that is affordable for the family to go out and attend and those venues seem to be able to do that.

Speedway venues can generally fit all the trucks and transporters in and with the growth that we’ve seen from motocross, it’s going to be very hard to find an inner-city venue that can park everybody.

So I think that it needs to be a three to five round series and it may leave the opportunity in 2013 or 2014 to have a one-off Australian Open at one of those big venues.

Yarrive Konsky is the man responsible for bringing Ben Townley to Australia. Image: Alex Gobert.

Yarrive Konsky – Carlton Dry Honda team owner/Owner of International Entertainment Group
It’s simple – it needs to be accessible. Mike Porra made a conscious and commercial decision to position Super X where he did. His vision was admirable, but unrealistic and arrogant. His formats were unconventional, sometimes confusing and his timing I personally think was wrong for our sport. That said we will have to race late in 2012 to conclude this year’s season. Porra had good intentions and as a team owner I was reliant on him making it work.

Overall we need good crowds, greater tracks and an entertaining event, which is achievable. Many promoters have proven their worth, achieved respectable results, however there has been this fairytale notion that a country with less than a tenth of America’s population can emulate the numbers/stadiums/live TV they achieve.

Long term I think if the right strategy and timelines are put in place, viable improvements can be achieved. A holistic approach would need to be made with a collective meeting of the minds (industry and teams). I believe MA did what they thought was best, an amazing proposal was put forth by Global Action Sports that could have changed the face of supercross had they achieved their goals and objectives, plus listened to the industry and teams more, as well as Chad, who tried to advise where he felt was necessary.

MA was acting on what the industry and riders wanted and I have no doubts that GAS took our sport to new consumers, the only problem is, it took away the accessibility for some of the existing ones. Super X may be dead, but SUPERCROSS has so much. We need to remember the teams, riders and industry make up supercross.