News 21 Jun 2023

Return of Australian MXGP round linked to The Bend

World championship could arrive as soon as the 2024 season.

Image: Supplied.

An Australian round of MXGP is on the horizon once again and there have been signals that it could arrive as soon as 2024, with both Motorcycling Australia (MA) and FIM Motocross World Championship rights-holder Infront Moto Racing cooperating in a bid to finally bring the series back down under after more than two decades away.

Speculation has been mounting in recent months that the series – which will make its annual visit to Indonesia over the next two weekends – is inching closer to a landmark agreement that would bring the grand prix series back to Australia and, while The Bend Motorsport Park has constantly been linked to the project, there are multiple venues in the mix.

“If a promoter or a venue popped up tomorrow saying they had everything they needed to do it and they’re ready to sign a contract, we could have that contract ready and signed in around a month or so,” MA CEO Peter Doyle told MotoOnline. “Negotiations are that far down the track – it’s all done. We just have to find a promoter or venue and run a race.

“It’s a significant investment to host an event like this. You’re looking at a minimum two or three-day event – it’s essentially a motocross version of what we see with MotoGP. I personally think it’s one of those golden nuggets that’s sitting out there, because in this country if it’s done right, an MXGP in the right place with the right promoter can be a pretty special event, so I’m optimistic that we’ll get it here in the next couple of years.”

World-class Tailem Bend-based precinct, The Bend Motorsport Park, has been shortlisted as a potential host of the first Motocross World Championship event in Australia since 2001. It’s evident that the South Australian government has a desire for high-profile sporting events, including the resurrection of the Adelaide 500 event on the Supercars calendar last year, and that support would be critical in an Australian MXGP round advancing beyond preliminary discussions.

It remains unclear if a motocross complex would be purpose-built in the event of The Bend hosting a grand prix or if it would become an additional permanent component of the venue, which already has a 7.7-kilometre motor-racing circuit that complies with FIM Category A standards and boasts multiple configurations. There are also rally/off-road facilities, a 4WD Adventure Park, a karting track, and a recently-constructed dragway, in addition to a four-star Rydges hotel on pit-lane and a Big4 Holiday Park on the property.

“I don’t think anyone is going to do it without significant government support,” added Doyle. “Imagine what it could bring to a town as far as tourism, hotels and money spent in an area, we’re talking millions and millions of dollars. I don’t think it’s something people will be willing to invest their own money into though, they’ll need to pick up that government support. If you want to hold this event in the early part of the year, which I think would make sense for Australia, you really need to make the decision no later than next month.

“If it’s going to occur in 2024, it needs to be locked away by July this year, then there’s still a lot of hard work to do to get it done. If it doesn’t happen for 2024, then obviously we’ll be looking to lock something in for 2025, and that’ll give people a bit more time to negotiate with their governments and potential sponsors. It’s not a secret that we want it here, it’s more a matter of getting the moons to align.”

When contacted by MotoOnline this week, The Bend Motorsport Park CEO Alistair MacDonald didn’t directly rule out an interest in such a project, but stopped short of confirming any plans to bring MXGP to The Bend. It’s believed that a grand prix could coincide with a round of the national ProMX Championship if it were to eventuate, however, there would be scope for wildcard entries across the race weekend.

“We would welcome any motorsport to The Bend and we are open to working with all promoters, partners and series to continue showcasing The Bend as a world-class multi-disciplinary hub for motorsport,” stated MacDonald, who was previously the general manager of the Adelaide 500 prior to joining The Bend as chief executive officer. It’s situated around 100km southeast of South Australia’s capital city, Adelaide.

While The Bend Motorsport Park – owned by the Shahin family’s Peregrine Corporation and which officially opened in 2018 – appears to be in the box-seat according to multiple sources within the industry, it’s understood that there are additional groups with an immense interest to bring the world championship to locations in Victoria, Queensland, or New South Wales. The probability of Western Australia, which hosted the 1992 Motocross des Nations at Manjimup, being an option has declined in recent years.

The Motocross World Championship visited Australia at Broadford in 2000 – the 500cc class only – and 2001, which featured the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc categories on that occasion at the historic Victorian venue. It was at those events that the late Andrew McFarlane put himself on the radar internationally, finishing fourth on debut including a spectacular P3 result in the first moto of 2000, and then being the 500cc class runner-up the following year. Michael Byrne and Chad Reed also made their initial impacts on the world stage during those events.