Empire of Dirt
Probably 15 years ago now, I had my thoughts about how we could make the Motocross of Nations even more competitive and more fun to watch. I’ve written about it before, but as the years have gone by, it’s only become more apparent to me that this idea would work very well. And it doesn’t have to replace the Motocross des Nations’ current format (although I think it should), but it could be its own standalone event instead. It could be called the Trophee des Nations after the event that used to be a big deal but no longer exists. Or, we could call it Trophee des Regions, which might be even more accurate.
First, here are the primary issues I see with the Motocross des Nations today. One, many countries have one or two really great racers on the team, but without three of them, they have almost no hope of ever winning the event. Team Italy over the years is an excellent example of this when Antonio Cairoli is healthy. To date, only these 10 countries have ever won the event: Great Britain (16 times), Belgium (15 times), Sweden (seven times), the Soviet Union (two times), Czechoslovakia (one time), the USA (22 times), Italy (two times), France (six times), Germany (one time) and The Netherlands (one time). Two of those countries don’t even exist anymore! So there are a ton of great racers who never have a real chance at winning, such as Tim Gajser (Slovenia) and Pauls Jonass (Latvia).
Second, those great racers like Gajser, Jonass, Cairoli (when healthy), etc., always make it a point to try and beat Team USA at the events because they’re fundamentally racing for “the GPs.” That’s basically what the event has become ever since Team USA started winning in 1981: GP vs. AMA. That’s how most of the racers see it, especially if they aren’t on a team with a realistic shot at winning. But even when they are on such a team, like Team Belgium in the Stefan Everts years, it would always get assistance from Cairoli or other GP regulars.
Third, the three-moto format was developed when there were three racing classes (125cc, 250cc and 500cc), and now there are only two—250cc and 450cc. Today, they have to make up an additional class that’s basically a 450cc class anyway, but they call it the “Open” class.
So, here is what I think:
Have the event (or a “Trophee des Regions” event) embrace its tribal nature.
First, the race would be divided into three regions: The United States, Europe and the rest of the world.
The USA would field racers from here, and Europe would get to combine everybody to one team so that wins by people like Cairoli, Gajser, Jonass, etc., would be much more relevant for their team’s chances. And then “The Rest of the World” would get all the best racers from Canada, anywhere else in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, etc.
And instead of three racers per class, per country (including a made-up class that only exists at the Motocross des Nations), each region would field upwards of 10 racers per class in the 250cc and 450cc classes only.
We could combine a gate of both bike sizes like they used to back in the day, where the big bikes were on the front gate, and smaller bikes behind them (to avoid a 60-racer-wide gate), or they could run their own motos altogether. I favor that latter, as the point should be to determine who has the best racers in each class and overall. And then we could still throw out the worst one or two scores for each region to even things out a bit.
What’s funny to me now, 15 years or so after I thought about a formula like this, it as an idea to help the GP guys have a better chance of defeating Team USA, but after eight straight losses, I also think this would help Team USA be more competitive against the GP guys! And we might need that now.
Using this past weekend’s event in Assen as an example. Justin Cooper crashing into Jason Anderson ruined Team USA’s chances right off the bat. We were finished just like that. (This sort of thing happening to other teams has benefitted Team USA many times in the past as well, though, so this isn’t a one-way street.) First off, those two would’ve been in different classes, but even if they weren’t, there would’ve been several other racers on the track for Team USA in that moto. And I think there’d be a very good balance dividing up the teams this way, as there are more or less always 10 solid racers from each of these regions to race each of the two classes. I also think it would bring more and better racers to the event if the top racers from each of these regions believed they had a real shot at winning the overall.
However, the main issue with implementing this idea is travel: We have to get everybody to participate, and that means sending (for the USA, if the race is held outside the U.S.) 10 racers, bikes, mechanics, etc., to the race, instead of just three. That’s expensive.
But that money exists, we just need a promoter with the will to put it together and get sponsors to cover the travel (and pay purse money)! CN