Features 29 Jan 2014

MX Hub: 4

An all-access view of Australian motocross and supercross, presented by Alpinestars.

It’s an interesting time when it comes to sponsorship in motocross right now, with everybody constantly working hard to secure backing for the season ahead. These days, finding funding not only to race, but the present yourself as good as possible on race weekends is vital.

Two key teams with major sponsors at the forefront of negotiations for 2014 have been Honda with Carlton Dry and Kawasaki with Monster Energy. Of course it was this week confirmed that Carlton Dry is out and oil company Penrite is in, while Monster Energy was absent from Kawasaki’s rider announcement earlier today.

Honda has landed a really strong supporter in Penrite for the new year, as team owner Yarrive Konsky seems to do time and time again, and the brand is a welcome addition to sponsoring the sport at the highest level in this country.

Following a long period of alcoholic beverage sponsorship – first Woodstock, then Cougar Bourbon and most recently Carlton Dry – Honda’s collaboration with Penrite will extend far past the on-track action locally.

As for Monster Energy and Kawasaki, that deal’s a puzzling one. Speculation has been rife that the energy drink giant won’t be at Kawasaki in 2014 after a three-year partnership, however spokesmen at Kawasaki insist that the brand will be there.

We can only guess why an announcement was made without any mention of Monster supporting the team whatsoever in the naming rights position, but fingers crossed that as we are told, Monster will be back as a title sponsor of some description this season.

Source: Penrite Honda Racing Team.

Source: Penrite Honda Racing Team.

As for CDR Yamaha, it’s been no secret Craig Dack’s team has been battling to lock in a major backer for years now following Rockstar’s departure in 2012, but no news on the front has been provided just yet.

Suzuki has the backing of the ever-proactive Link International in Queensland, via the Motul and Pirelli brands that are now synonymous with Suzuki in Australia when it comes to dirt bikes. After the success they had in 2013 together, you would expect that collaboration will continue.

Motorex wasn’t mentioned in KTM’s latest press release following the Woodville GP in New Zealand, but the branding was still visible on the bikes of Kirk Gibbs and Ford Dale. Perhaps it’s a case of late confirmation on the deal, but we will soon see.

Speaking of Woodville, Dale was reportedly an absolute weapon in his first outing with KTM, while Gibbs was also solid as he returns from injury. Cody Cooper’s transition to Honda looks like it’s been a smooth one, plus Billy Mackenzie will work his way back into race trim following a lengthy layoff.

That’s all for this week’s ponderings, over to you Makker…

Late last week Williams Event Management announced a rule change to the MXD class for 2014, where as soon as one of these rookie riders turns 19, they must automatically and instantly ‘level up’ to MX2 or MX1. In short, they must leave the MXD class, regardless of where they are in the points standings, when they turn 19.

It’s a move that’s drawn both praise and criticism from riders and families. On the positive side, it’ll stop the talented but semi-complacent trophy hunters from pillaging the class until they’re forced to go up.

This will also see more winners and better racing in MXD, but more importantly, it’ll bolster the starting gates of the senior classes, where rider numbers have been lagging over the past couple of years.

Image: Simon Makker.

Image: Simon Makker.

On the flipside, it could possibly have the reverse effect, where teenagers who struggle in the top 5-10 positions are forced out of the sport. After all, what’s the point in spending tens of thousands of dollars to get your arse handed to you week-in and week-out?

If a rider does decide to stay in MXD as long as possible and get some more racing experience until they hit 19, their motivation levels will go down the toilet as soon as their birthday comes around. Chances are, they won’t even bother turning up for any more MX Nationals rounds this year. Instead they’ll either quit the sport or will focus on preparing for their senior debut next year.

But let’s get one thing clear – this isn’t something that Kevin Williams would’ve flipped a coin over. He’s a smart bloke and a shrewd businessman. He would’ve done the numbers, talked to people, used industry types as sounding boards and weighed up the pros and cons before deciding to go down this path.

Personally I think it’s a great move, potentially it could have a short-term impact on the sport, but I think in long-term, it’ll improve the racing and depth in all classes. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that kids were forced to jump up to seniors when they were 16, and that certainly didn’t hurt them.

Enough of the molly-coddling – motocross is a tough sport, and if the kids don’t like looking a stiff challenge in the eye, then perhaps it isn’t the right profession for them.

That’s all from me this week. As always, remember to check out all of MotoOnline.com.au’s social networking channels and be sure to Like us on Facebook or Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for even more behind the scenes insights. Just search MotoOnline.