Features 20 Apr 2023

Input: ProMX track conditions

Selection of stakeholders share thoughts on preparation at opening 2023 rounds.

Across the opening three rounds of the 2023 Penrite ProMX Championship, track conditions including the preparation of them has been a controversial topic among many key stakeholders. In this Input feature, a selection of contenders and industry personnel share their thoughts on what has been experienced to date in this year’s series.

Image: Foremost Media.

Yarrive Konsky (Honda Racing): 
The weekend in Albury was out of the club’s control. Sure, the track preparation leading up to the event could have been tackled differently, however, the weather we experienced would have turned most tracks into a mud pit. Motorcycling Australia (MA) took on board our opinions during the weekend, most of which were directed at supporting the privateers. There is always a compromise that needs to be considered – the championship’s sponsors, TV, the club. Could they have ran it differently? Sure. Would it have made an enormous difference? Probably not. I feel races could have been shortened, but in hindsight I would have picked last week’s lotto numbers before they were drawn. There are several issues that need to be considered moving forward. It’s very difficult to find time to change or prepare the track during the event when there are so many classes of racing being run. This is the primary difference between here and overseas. We are running four or five classes on a day and it leaves no room for track maintenance. Some tracks don’t comply with national track guidelines and this needs to be addressed, which Australian Motocross Group (AMG) and MA are working closely together on. As for the mud at hand, I feel racing needed to be run, sure we could have cancelled some classes, and tried to fix some areas of the track, but like I said, hindsight is great if we had a time machine. The one thing that needs to be looked at is the track preparation taking place prior to the first gate drop. Appin was prepared so racing didn’t need to stop all day, in other words the schedule doesn’t allow for the track to be prepared or watered effectively between races as it’s full and they can’t stop during live TV. The Appin club was placed in a difficult predicament as they knew they would have issues keeping moisture in the ground with the schedule they had to contend with, so they flooded the track and ripped it deep. Overall, we all need to work together to create solutions and we need to support the clubs as we need them. Racing in mud isn’t the problem, we all have raced in mud as bad or worse than what we experienced in Albury. The problem was the track was so deep in areas because it had been opened up and ripped that it put a lot of pressure on the bikes. We will all learn from this and hopefully not go through it again. We just need to communicate and work with everyone.

Joel Evans (MX1 privateer):
I think it’s pretty close. I guess it’s been bad and it has shown up really bad, but it could have been good. I feel like they just have missed the mark each round. Round one, for example, I think for the nationals they just get excited and try to make it like the big goal, I guess it’s the nationals with the best riders in the country, so let’s just make it super challenging. I think what that does, by making it super-deep and wet, it just doesn’t create a good race track. I think if they continued their normal local prep and then just put a little bit deeper conditions, maybe just local prep plus a little extra, not just go-all in, it would actually produce way better racing. I sort of think that is the main issue it seems at each track, it seems that everything they know goes out the door just because it is a national. Other than that, the one thing I would add is obviously Albury, I feel like the club did do a good effort, like trying to seal it, but I think if someone just looked ahead a little bit more… I’m not sure if it’s ProMX’s deal or the club’s deal or whatever. I think there has got to be some sort of communication where we’ve got weather apps on our phone, it’s pretty simple, everyone knew it was going to rain, and there was rain leading up, so just know that track, just like any sort of hard-pack track isn’t going to take the rain if you rip it up. So, maybe just hold off, it seems fairly simple that way to maybe just have a bit of extra communication and looking ahead at weather, then make a decision. I’m sure everyone at race on the weekend would have preferred a hard-pack slick track than what we had to race on. I think it is obviously a hard call, I’m not saying it’s easy, but if they just make the hard call the way to where it is going to be possibly too hard, that is preferable, in my opinion.

MA’s ProMX Management Team:
The ProMX Management Team acknowledges that the two extremes in weather conditions experienced by the Penrite ProMX Championship, presented by AMX Superstores at both Appin (39 degrees Celsius) and then Wodonga (32mm of rain over two days) made it challenging for both the club and the ProMX to provide the ideal track conditions. The ProMX officials work closely with each club to plan, prepare and predict the ideal method in track prep. These discussions start over a month out from the event, with further planning in the week leading into the event. The approach is consultative, the ProMX officials team understand the track requirements for a national championship event, and the clubs understand their venue characteristics. Unpredictable weather conditions combined with tight race schedules created by live TV broadcasts only adds another level of complexity to achieving the ideal outcome at each round. The ProMX Management Team conducts a post-event review after every round to evaluate where improvements for the championship can be found. The topic of track preparation in extreme weather conditions is currently under review, whilst noting that the ProMX round two (Appin) and round three (Wodonga) events were overall successful rounds in extremely challenging conditions.

Image: Foremost Media.

Noah Ferguson (GasGas Racing Team):
Obviously, Wonthaggi was cut short, but it was super-deep, which is what I expected a sand track should really be. We are all old enough to be riding bikes, and experienced riding deep sand, so I didn’t think that was too bad. Obviously, Wonthaggi got cut short due to the tragedy, but it didn’t get to its full potential there. Then Appin, it was wet in the morning, but by the end of the day it was dry. I think it caught a lot of people off, having those two different things. Obviously [Nathan] Crawford, it seemed to work in his favour and he rode really well there so I don’t see why it was a problem. Then Wodonga, it was mother nature’s problem there. I do believe they ripped the dirt off too early, they should have waited until the next morning, on the Sunday. All in all, there wasn’t really a whole lot they could do. They could have maybe got a dozer out there after qualifying and stuff and just try to tidy up a few things, but it really wasn’t anyone’s problem with that. If it didn’t rain that night, it would have been an unreal, rutty track, but I feel like everyone cracking up a storm is probably not the right thing to do. If you want to be an Australian champion or whatever as good as you are, you should be able to ride in all aspects of what the track forms up to be.

Craig Dack (CDR Yamaha Monster Energy):
My general take is that it was a horrible day. Jed Beaton’s probably not saying that – he probably thinks it was a great day – but, you know, no one wanted to be there or go through that. You just have to do it… Water falls out of the sky, we race dirt bikes in the middle of winter and we had a mud race, which we haven’t had for a while. Apart from the guys that finished first, second or third, who were riding around all day at half revs compared to the guys that had bikes fail, every bike that you saw out there that failed was due to rider abuse, including our two guys, Luke Clout and Aaron Tanti – they were swinging off the clutch and about 5000 revs higher than the other guys that were in the top three. There’s a history lesson that these younger riders need to understand, an ethos in motorsport, that says that motorsport is about man and machine. These days the bikes are so good, so you ride them as hard as you can and they won’t fail, but in those conditions, and this was all spelled out to my riders at the start of the day, it’s about managing your equipment as much as anything else on that day to finish the race and the reason those guys didn’t finish was that both of my riders blew all of the coolant out of their bikes in the first race, they both came back with no coolant in, so that’s what stopped Aaron’s bike, because it just overheated. We saw steam coming out of their bikes halfway through the race and we were putting pit board messages out to not use the clutch and drop the rev-range down, but they just didn’t do that. The riders that are complaining now that didn’t finish the race would want to thank their lucky stars that we weren’t in Toowoomba, or somewhere with steep hills, because then they’d be really complaining. I very rarely get involved in this stuff and compare or talk about my racing days, however, we used to do a series called Mr Motocross, where it was four back-to-back 20-minute motos. We didn’t wash bikes in between races, we just put a new pair of gloves and goggles on and the mechanic filled up the tank, and back then you had to ride the manage the bike through all the conditions, because you could break them all the time. You look at the three riders on the podium – Beaton, [Todd] Waters and [Kirk] Gibbs – I remember them riding past me down the straight and you could hardly hear their engines. They were riding around in fifth gear all day, where the other guys were second or third gear hanging off the clutch. We had one of our riders come in and say, ‘I would’ve finished fourth in that race if my bike didn’t stop’. But hold on a sec, you killed the bike… it didn’t stop. The riders that are coming out and whinging are the ones that failed on the day, their bikes failed because of the way they rode them. I haven’t heard the top three guys complaining, and I haven’t heard any of the Kiwis complaining, because it’s just the type of day it was. You wouldn’t get a nicer or more dedicated bunch of people than out at that club, they were there all day Friday and all day Saturday – I stayed in the truck at the track and I came back from dinner on Saturday night at 9:00pm and there were still bobcats out on the track, so they did everything they could, and they’re not the final decision, because MA and other people have a part in the track. You can go through all the people saying, ‘they could’ve sealed the track better’, or this, that and the other, however, the conditions were the conditions and that’s the hand you’re dealt. There were people from the beginning of the day that wanted to shorten the races or miss qualifying, but this is a national championship and you have to run a national championship as scheduled in its entirety unless something like a tree falls down in the middle of the start straight and you can’t get through. Other than that, you have to race to the schedule and anybody that doesn’t realise that is in the wrong sport. We all know motocross is one of hardest sports in the world, then you add a mud race to it and it’s diabolical – it can be the worst experience of your life – but it is what it is. Australians are known globally as some of the toughest riders, we don’t want the rest world thinking we’re a bunch of whinging Aussies complaining about a mud race… that’s not the Australian spirit, especially leading into ANZAC day next week. No one wants it, but it’s part of the job.

Jayce Cosford (Yamalube Yamaha Racing):
So obviously it was pretty wet, but I don’t really care, I’ll just ride whatever man, but from a different perspective, people blowing bikes up and stuff, it would have been good if they were able to try and just move some of the mud off the track, because it was ripped so deep. Once we got all of that rain, it would have been probably ideal just to try and move a bit of mud, obviously is what it is sort of thing. With the other rounds, like Appin and stuff, it was a pretty good track and then they watered it a fair bit, so it was pretty muddy for us with MX2 qualifying out like straight away, we always get the muddy tracks. Probably just a little overwatered that day. Moving forward, I suppose, maybe just a little less water at the moment. I’m sort of like, it is what it is, but at the same time they probably could have done a bit better in the last couple of rounds as well, maybe putting a bit more effort to get rid of some of the mud on the weekend, then Appin and stuff maybe not watering it quite as much. We go and do track walk, and then when we come back in the morning it is a completely different track. I know they have to water it, but maybe a little bit too much in the last couple of rounds anyway. [Wonthaggi] was in the same category, really, they just overwatered it a bit, I think. It probably would have turned out to be pretty one-lined, same sort of deal just because it was pretty wet when we went out, probably hard to pass and stuff like that. Maybe moving forward, just a little less water and she should be right I reckon.

Dean Ferris (Three-time MX1 champion):
I’m grateful for the clubs running all these shows, but I think they messed up this time, real bad. It’s unfortunate, there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage done here and bikes blown up. I’m fortunate I’ve got good support from Yamaha and Brisbane Motorcycles and a few other people, so I’ll be fine for budget and for next round for bikes. But, next round there’s going less privateers that can’t come cause they blew up their bike today, so I’m not pumped about the situation.