British motocross is left with some tough decisions to make at every level following the announcement of the revamped MXGP calendar, in which there are only three Sundays without GPs from the re-start on July 5 to November 22. Those dates are August 30, October 25 and November 15.
However, the French GP at St Jean d’Angeley has yet to have its date announced. And the official MXGP dates for the Belgian GP at Lommel is August 2 and Germany GP at Teutschenthal on August 9, but both countries have announced bans on major events with spectators until August 31. And France has announced no big events will run until mid July at the earliest.
In previous years, top-level domestic series like the British motocross championship have organised their dates to avoid clashes with GPs to allow the very top level riders to do both. Such as our GP hopefuls like Shaun Simpson, Conrad Mewse and Josh Gilbert.
And increasingly with top British teams having foreign riders who do GPs, that affects them too. Many of these riders and particularly teams get the sponsorship funding party for their exposure in GPs, and partly for British from British sponsors. Such as Evgeny Bobryshev and Bas Vaessen.
And of course many of these rounds have European championships in a variety of classes, such as EMX125, 250 or two-stroke. So this affects riders from youth talents such as Eddie Jay Wade to veterans such as Brad Anderson.
Once the GP calendar then British championship is set, other championships arrange their dates around those British championships to attract as many of the top-level British riders who aren’t doing GPs. Such as the Buildbase Honda team of Tommy Searle, Jake Nicholls and Steven Clarke, Cresent Yamaha’s Jake Shipton or Verde KTM’s Lewis Tombs.
But with no dates free for British championships from August onwards, it’s going to be a tough year for the top level of racing as either the British would have to be clash with GPs, or potentially run a couple of weekends in August then at the end of November. Of course, this brings lots of factors into play like the weather, light fading by 4pm and many riders having contracts that expire before the end of the season. And few sponsors would get value for money out a of a couple of August rounds then a handful in near darkness and mud. So it’s unlikely that will happen.
ACU bosses recently contacted some race promoters, manufacturers and riders to talk through potential options, and although there hasn’t been an official statement, it’s known the feedback was everyone is keen to have a championship this year, even if it’s only a handful of rounds.
So with the ACU currently only halting bikesport until the end of May, we could be looking at a short midsummer series that starts in June or July and is all over before the end of August, slotted into dates to avoid GPs. And that the youth series would run totally separately so it could potentially be more rounds.
Of course, this is all still up in the air. As Germany and Belgium has banned mass spectator events until August 31, it would seem possible that the UK could follow suit. And even if events were allowed to run before then, would any spectators turn up due to the risk of Covid-19? Would teams and riders have to enforce strict social distancing off the track?
In a year where major sporting events like the Olympics, Tour de France, London Marathon, Formula One and MotoGP has been affected with events moved or axed, there is no precedent for what should happen.
In motocross, the Coupe de l’Avenir international has been axed as there is no room for it in the calendar, and the ACU has just announced it’s not sending a team to the FIM Junior World MX Championship at Megalopolis, Greece on the August 8-9.
When we get past the peak of the current crisis and things start to get a bit more back to normal, it’s fair to say it will be a different version of ‘normal’ to what we’ve been used to. With the spirit of co-operation and support we have seen in recent times as everyone falls behind the NHS and tries to do their bit to halt the spread of Covid-19, let’s hope some of that sentiment will stay and that motocross in the UK can come together to map out a whole new future that works for everyone.
Should there be a shorter British championship with increased promotion? If so, where would that money come from? Should there be fewer national series and a return to more club and centre-based event, where only the very best get to ride at national level? If ever there was a time for a big shake up, it’s now.