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First stop of the 2018 SX season at Anaheim, CA
NEWS

On the hunt for the definitive word: Jeremy McGrath talks Supercross change

Feb 072018

In mid-January the second most popular motorcycle racing series in the world took a small step in a radical new direction. Monster Energy AMA Supercross – a seventeen round spectacle run in NFL and Major League Baseball stadiums across the USA in eighteen weeks and averaging almost 50,000 attendance each Saturday night – experimented with a ‘Triple Crown’ format and three ‘Main Event’ races in the Angel Stadium, Anaheim less than an hour east of Los Angeles.

Promoters and organisers Feld Motorsport wanted to trial a facet of the annual Las Vegas-set Monster Energy Cup inside the high profile championship and give fans in the seats, those through live TV broadcaster Fox Sports 1 and the thousands of international followers through the online App triple-whammy for their buck.

There was a general feeling of open-mindedness in the veer away from the usual, sole twenty-minute and one lap Main Event and the most sizeable shift to the sport since establishment of the Supercross contest in 1974. The riders commented on a slight more hectic night programme but there was an immediate buzz in the stands once the glitz and glamour of the opening ceremony dropped away and the lights pinged to full brightness on the temporary track mounted on the A’s infield. Riders lined up in the gate and the serious business of racing got underway instantaneously with the formalities of practice and qualification having already taken place in the afternoon.

 

As ever with Supercross, the action was intense and at ‘A2’ Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac was able to seize his first overall victory after proving to be the strongest through the three dashes.

The Triple Crown will appear at Atlanta and Minneapolis (rounds nine and fourteen in March and April) before facing a review at the end of the campaign with the finale once more scheduled for Vegas in May.

 

In a search for further perspective on the current status quo of Supercross it made sense to seek out the ‘King’ of the discipline. With 85 wins and 8 titles the name ‘Jeremy McGrath’ is one that elevated from the realms of supercross to define the sport as a whole. McGrath was a star, a showman, a tour de force of competition and a visible face for the panache and style that went hand-in-hand with dirt bike racing in the 1990s. Thanks to a humility and an endearing way with people, McGrath is still hot property in motorcycling circles and a desirable figurehead for brands like Kawasaki and Monster Energy; as a motorcycling and motorsport athlete they rarely get any bigger.

"This is a real sport, real job and these guys are athletes. "

Jeremy, how do you feel about Supercross in 2018? Does it need a makeover?

You know, I’ve been in this my whole life and when the gate is about to drop I’m still like a little kid; I’m still passionate about it. I don't necessarily feel that you need to be a motorcycle fan to enjoy this show. Competition is alive and well, and on a selfish side I guess I’d like to see a bit more personality from these guys but sometimes competition breeds seriousness; know what I mean? This is a real sport, real job and these guys are athletes. We live in a world where everything has to change, and change fast-and-now. Everyone is bored after a minute. When we were young it was different and it seems that people’s attention span now is so short. It is always ‘what’s the next thing?’ and unfortunately sports get hit with that too. I’m excited for the format change – I think it’s awesome. People come here to see and watch something they cannot do. This is a spectacle. Not everyone can ride a track like this or make a motorcycle do these kinds of things.Do I think it needs a change? I’m not sure. I think Supercross on the whole is a tried-and-true formula that works…although it’s exciting to mix it up a little bit.

Is Supercross seen as ‘too American’? Is it curious why this series never really went international. You raced in Europe and Japan so you know there is an audience for it on a worldwide scale…

Some might say that about NASCAR too and Supercross could fall into that category. You have to wonder why it never went international…I guess it’s because Feld have mainly covered the US and a bit in Canada. About 10-15 years ago there was a World Supercross attempt but I know the riders didn't like that. Supercross starts here, and in January.

Coming back to the format: is there a danger that too much change complicates things? You see that with technical rule alterations in F1, NASCAR, MotoGP over the years…

I like what they do in NASCAR to try and make everyone even, and that's what sorta-makes-it-good. You really don't know who is going to win and it rotates around a lot. Supercross still seems to be about the athlete and a bike and there is a lot to be said for that. It’s pretty untouched.

Lastly do you still feel connected to this sport? In many people’s eyes you are the definition of Supercross. Does it sometimes feel strange to be held in this regard…?

It does feel like a different lifetime but when the races happen I am on the gate with those guys and I’m having those same feelings because I know what it takes, and I have been there and done it. I know what it’s like to have a holeshot or a fall because I have been in those same positions. The reason I love the sport is that I still love riding my dirt bike. It has provided me with a life that I could never have imagined. In one way it seems weird to me to hear that or say it of myself [his legendary status] because I never look at it that way but I guess it explains why I can still work in the industry and it’s through the relationships I have built. I’ve been a good ambassador for the sport and I’m not sure if all the past champions can say that. I’m just doing what I love and I am not trying too hard to be something. I think it is easy to see that I like what I do.

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