Features 2 Jul 2024

Rewind: AUSX Open memories

A brief history of the supercross that took centre stage between 2015-2019.

Following today’s announcement that the AUSX Open will officially make its return in 2024 at Marvel Stadium headlined by Jett and Hunter Lawrence, our latest Rewind feature takes a look back at a series of standout memories from the international event that was introduced in 2015 and spanned through the 2019 edition.

It’s safe to say the AUSX Open has been revolutionary for supercross in Australia and, up until it was launched, we had never really witnessed a race of its kind on that scale in this country, along with the calibre of riders that it consistently managed to attract down under over its five-year duration.

The AUSX Open debuted at the then-named Allphones Arena – now Qudos Bank Arena – in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct during late 2015. Despite hesitation about the venue’s size, there was an immense amount of excitement as Chad Reed and James Stewart were announced as the early headliners.

Reed was at the tail-end of his prime and returning to factory Yamaha ahead of 2016, while Stewart controversially pulled out of the event just weeks before it was set to take place. The Stewart saga didn’t end there, as a few days later he was confirmed to be in attendance, only to leave event organisers in limbo before being ruled out once again, this time just three days before the gates dropped.

While this was unfolding, AUSX Open founders Adam Bailey and Ryan Sanderson were working on a plan B, and swiftly recruited Cooper Webb alongside Ricky Carmichael, with the latter performing a series of exhibition rides across the two nights of competition. It proved to be a hit with fans, who were initially – and understandably – disgruntled by Stewart’s withdrawal.

Image: Supplied.

Fittingly, Reed captured victory on the inaugural night of the event in front of a home crowd, while Webb bounced back on night two to claim top honours and the crown, despite still being in the 250 class at home.

Hailed a massive success, the AUSX Open returned to Sydney for 2016, and once again, Reed and Webb were named as headliners alongside Ryan Villopoto, who was strapping the boots back on after retiring from full-time professional racing in 2015. Justin Brayton and Wil Hahn were also amongst the AMA Supercross regulars, although both were already here for the entire Australian Supercross Championship.

The line-up led to a sold-out opening night, as Reed went onto emphatically win both nights of competition, while a captivating SX2 title fight saw Hayden Mellross – who had dominated the domestic series that season – cruelly denied of the championship after suffering an engine failure, allowing Jackson Richardson to be crowned champion.

Back inside the confines of Qudos Bank Arena again for 2017, the AUSX Open gained Monster Energy as title sponsor, while Reed and Carmichael were announced as early attendees, since both had proven to be a mega hit with race fans across the country. Factory Husqvarna duo Jason Anderson and Dean Wilson were also named, as was then factory Kawasaki rider Josh Grant, while Brayton was also in for the entire domestic series.

It was a star-studded line-up, but it took a hit in the lead-up to the event, with Grant pulling out and a broken ankle sidelining crowd favourite Reed. Then Geico Honda rider RJ Hampshire was called in, as was entertainer ‘Ronnie Mac’ in a last-minute appearance, leading to that infamous ‘takeout’ by Carmichael/subsequent ghost-ride in an exhibition outing. In the end, it was teammates Wilson and Anderson who traded wins across the two nights – Anderson clinching the overall.

Image: Supplied.

Still going from strength-to-strength, and with former V8 Supercars supremo and Gold Coast Suns chairman Tony Cochrane named as chairman of the AUSX Open, the S-X Open International Supercross FIM Oceania Championship was formed in 2018 with the introduction of the S-X Open Auckland, making for a two-part continental series.

This only bolstered the entry list for the Australian round, which took place in Sydney for one last time. Reed, Anderson, Brayton, and Wilson were all named to return to Sydney, while Justin Barcia and Villopoto were also announced. However, Barcia withdrew over a month out from the event, while Villopoto was absent due to personal reasons leading up to the 2018 edition.

Fresh from winning the AMA Supercross title that year and still at Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, Anderson went on to sweep the night’s racing as the AUSX Open bid farewell to Qudos Bank Arena once and for all.

In what was possibly the biggest announcement since the AUSX Open had been formed, it was confirmed that the 2019 edition would move to Melbourne at the 53,000-plus capacity Marvel Stadium, where a ‘full-size’ track was promised alongside the entertaining spectacle we’d become accustomed to over the previous four years.

This absolutely delighted race fans, especially the critics of Sydney’s arenacross-type layout, and the list of international-based riders only extended, with Reed, Anderson, Wilson, Brayton, Carmichael, and Joey Savatgy all confirmed starters.

Image: Foremost Media.

There was one more rider to add to the list, and that would be young Aussie revelation Jett Lawrence, who’d make his professional debut in the SX2 category before his rookie AMA 250SX campaign the following year. It marked a passing of the torch, of sorts, with Reed confirming it would be his final pro appearance at home before retiring in 2020, while marking the very beginning of Lawrence’s career on the big stage.

The Melbourne event was dealt an early blow with Savatgy injuring himself in practice, although a stellar night of racing saw Brayton finally emerge as the AUSX Open winner, claiming a fourth-straight Australian Supercross Championship. On the same night, Anderson was crowned the 2019 S-X Open champion.

It could be argued that the atmosphere wasn’t quite as high at its peak with around 35,000 fans in attendance compared to what had constantly been a packed stadium in Sydney, but that number is expected to be well exceeded this time around for the Lawrences’ 2024 homecoming – a sell-out come November in the Docklands would be off the charts.

With the pandemic impacting live sports and entertainment globally in 2020, it unfortunately marked the end of the AUSX Open as we knew it, as event founders Bailey and Sanderson formed SX Global to become the rights-holders of the FIM World Supercross Championship (WSX). Leveraging their previous success, they continued to bring supercross to Melbourne as the final round of WSX in 2022 and 2023, however, that venture ultimately proved short-lived – with a new SX Global leadership group now planning on taking WSX to Perth this year.

What that has resulted in, however, is that it’s opened the door for the AUSX Open to return to Marvel Stadium this year on Saturday, November 30, set to be operated directly by AME Group, which has been doing a remarkable job in raising the standards of the Fox Australian Supercross Championship (AUSX) in recent seasons. The AUSX Open Supercross will also double as the fifth and final round of the domestic series, but it will be the Lawrences that the fans turn out to witness in person this time around.