Features 17 May 2018

Q&A: Wonthaggi’s MXN double-header

Burning questions ahead of Victoria's third and fourth rounds.

When the 2018 Pirelli MX Nationals visits the third stop of the championship at Wonthaggi in Victoria this weekend, it will have a bit of a different feel to it. Why? Well, the dark sandy, loam circuit will play host to the first double-header event that the series has staged in almost a decade. With this season-first about to go down, we’ve answered some of the burning questions people have about what it entails, and the implications it could have for the riders, teams and spectators.

Image: Marc Jones (Foremost Media).

Q: What’s does a double-header even mean?

A: This weekend’s round of the MX Nationals throws up the first of two double-header rounds scheduled for 2018. A double-header involves running two rounds at the same venue over consecutive days. Now two-day events aren’t a new thing for the MX Nationals by any stretch – the annual finale at Coolum is always held with practice, qualifying and support class races on Saturday, then the finals on Sunday – but what is new is the fact that this will be see two separate rounds contested over consecutive days.

Q: What are the perceived benefits of the format?

A: You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who would argue that it costs teams and riders a lot to attend all 10 rounds of the Australian motocross championship. Fuel, flights, mileage, accommodation, food, parts and wages all make each round a costly affair. The primary idea behind the introduction of double-headers is to make it more cost-effective for the teams and riders to go racing. They can effectively double down on their dollars, which can only be a good thing as far as the bean-counters are concerned. For Victorian race fans, there’s also the added bonus of now having two days of racing to choose from. Here’s a hot tip though: if you attend both days of racing, you’ll save $10 on each two-day pass you buy.

Image: Marc Jones (Foremost Media).

Q: What are the implications for riders and teams?

A: These back-to-back rounds have the potential to be the most pivotal rounds in the championship. Fitness will play a big role, particularly this weekend at Wonthaggi, which has a reputation as becoming super-rough at the end of a big day of racing. Sure, the racers will be able to hang tough through one day, but then having to back it up with next-to-no recovery time is going to separate the men from the boys. On top of that, there’s also the need to find that balance between riding aggressively, but not on the ragged edge on Saturday. The lack of recovery time will be hard enough without throwing a banged-up body into the mix. Spare a thought for the mechanics this weekend too, who will have their work cut out for them turning around all repairs and maintenance overnight. Spare an even bigger thought for the privateers, dads and mates who’ll also be pulling some hefty hours on Saturday night trying to get their steeds race-ready for Sunday.

Q: What feature classes will be on track this weekend?

A: As well as the usual heavyweights in the MX1, MX2 and MXD classes, Wonthaggi will see 25 riders in the 125cc Junior Cup hit the black sand for two big days of racing. Wonthaggi also sees full gates for both the hotly contested MXD class and the MX2 field. In MX1, we’ll also see current Australian 4-Day Enduro (A4DE) Champion and Australian Off-Road Championship (AORC) leader Daniel Milner (KTM Enduro Racing Team) trade out his headlights for number plates for his first MX National appearance of the year. On both days practice and qualifying will start at 8:00am, with racing to wrap up around 4:00pm.

Q: Are any other double-headers planned this year?

A: Yes, there’s one more back-to-back meeting in the second half of the championship, when Ranch MX at Raymond Terrace plays host to rounds seven and eight on 14-15 July. It will be another fascinating affair, with Raymond Terrace notorious for its ruts, gnarly square-edged bumps and the ever-present bedrock lying just beneath the track’s soil. The circuit has made and broken many championship dreams in the past and, as it’s lurking at the pointy end of the series, it could be an immensely pivotal round.