SMX: What’s it all about?

At a time when the busy motocross landscape is starting to morph and show wobbles of significant shift a new entity has arrived on the skyline. The Supermotocross Riders’ Cup is a lengthy moniker for perhaps the boldest attempt yet to bring some of the biggest hitters in the sport of motocross together in one start gate, and seems to draw sporting parallels to UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup; it will be an annual event where athletes perform for their teams, brands and contract as opposed to hoisting national pride as their main priority…as they would at the Motocross of Nations, which takes place the weekend before ‘SMX’.

Beyond the entry list – which is the most eye-catching element of this inauguration so far – the important element of the SMX is that fact that motocross is going indoors and to the modernity of the Veltins Arena (home of Schalke 04 FC, football fans). Bringing MX into a stadium allows the sport to tap into all the conveniences that have helped supercross become the second largest motorcycle racing series in the world.

“Our will is to mix the historic element of motocross with the new: the venues. We always want to keep tracks like Maggiora and Matterley Basin but we also want to draw families and people who might not have come to motocross before,” says Youthstream Director David Luongo a former professional footballer who has joined father Guiseppe in guiding the efforts of the MXGP promoting company. “The Veltins Arena is one of the most beautiful stadiums in Europe and it is very easy to work with the people and the management there. I met them with my football background and it was obvious to me that if we’d go into a stadium [with the sport] then it would be this one.”

“The flooring can be removed and it is less expensive than many other stadiums where this would be an issue,” he adds. “The idea was to try and bring the sport to the centre of a city but we did not want to build a supercross track, which is more technical and U.S. orientated. We wanted a track that would fit ‘both sides of the Atlantic’ and would be city based…and at the end of the season [in order] to make a ‘party’ together with the manufacturers. Of course it would not be feasible if the manufacturers were not with us on this project. So we asked and the feedback was very positive and we went in this direction.”

SMX will run for the first time in October and its genesis comes from the co-operation of the brands through provision of the factory teams and requests to their riders. Also sponsors such as Monster Energy, who have helped ensure the likes of Justin Barcia will be in Germany competing. It also benefits from a generous prize scheme that will see the individual winner from the three races on Saturday night pocket 50,000 euros (10k to the top MX2 runner) and an equal quantity provided to the victorious manufacturer. Through the angle of teams ‘united by colour’ and the spectacle on show, SMX aims to deliver something different. The roots of the fixture though initially began on the MXGP calendar and the desire for Veltins to host a Grand Prix.

“Yes, the idea at the beginning was to put it inside the [FIM World] championship to add something different, in a great place and where you could draw and fit 50,000 people,” Luongo says. “It was not possible because of the technical requirement when it comes to the length of the track. The project was so good that we did not want to stop it and found another idea off the back of the Motocross of Nations, which is the diamond of the motocross world and is the event that everybody wants to see. The small problem is that the Nations has four-five good teams but you end up missing the presence of some riders. Team USA and France, for example, are very strong but then you have other American and French riders that are very good. So the idea was to take the same principle of the Nations but to bring the quality even higher. To take the best rider per colour and create a unique event based on that.”

Timing was important. Particularly with the slender off-season in the USA, American contracts tending to start from October 1st, the Monster Energy Cup in mid-October and the Red Bull Straight Rhythm also on the general MX agenda. Not forgetting the obligations that Veltins also has. “We wanted to do it right after the Nations and the brands can use the timescale to make media opportunities and promotion because some [riders] will already be at the Nations and can stay one week-ten days more,” explains Luongo. “If we do it too later then they are already in preparation for the next season. It was important to compact it with the Motocross of Nations and also be aware of the football and the stadium was free in October. The next slot for international matches is in November and that would be too late.”

A date, a place, an idea, support and a cast in place: arguably the biggest mystery around SMX will be the build and reaction to a track that enforces the fact that fans are watching motocross on the stadium floor; not supercross, nor Arenacross.

“We want a motocross track and people say it is impossible but to me it isn’t,” Luongo asserts. ‘You have to imagine stripping back the stadium and just building a motocross track of 800m. It will mean less jumps than a track of 1600m [FIM regs state a 1650m length for MXGP] but you can have the same type of jumps, waves and speed as a motocross track and this is our target; to have good speed and to make obstacles that can fit both supercross and motocross riders. People won’t have to work too much on the technical setting of the bikes. It will be a hybrid track…but as close as possible to motocross.”

“It is a big stadium, probably one of the biggest in Europe so that helps,” says Track Builder Justin Barclay who turned his skills to the recent creations at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and some MXGP alterations to Glen Helen. “Logistically you have to go fast-slow, fast-slow and that’s really the only way to make it like a motocross track and move it away from being a supercross track. We just want the guys to have fun and feel safe indoors; that’s the main aim and objective. And that it’s good for racing.”

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