The effects that the coronavirus crisis is having on Pro Motocross.
Words: Simon Makker
The coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe has wreaked havoc on both the supercross and motocross championships. With the Monster Energy Supercross Championship being postponed until later in the year and the opening round of the Pro Motocross Championship at Hangtown cancelled, promoters are having to rapidly adapt to the evolving situation. MotoOnline.com caught up with MX Sports Pro Racing’s Davey Coombs to find out the latest on the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, which is now scheduled to begin mid-June with the Florida National.
Davey, we’re in some crazy times right now and I appreciate you taking the time to chat. How are the stress levels right now?
They’re surprisingly good. I practised a bit of social distancing from the seat of my Ducati today and I’m trying to homeschool a 12-year-old and 17-year-old while keeping a magazine going and setting up for the outdoors. It hasn’t been easy, but we’re doing well so far.
This is a very broad question, but how has this COVID-19 virus impacted the Pro Motocross championship? Can you give us a bit of a run-down of the modifications you’ve had to make to date?
It’s had a bigger impact on the MXGP and the Monster Energy Supercross, as they were already up and running. I felt really bad for Youthstream and Feld Motorsports, having their series interrupted like that through no-one’s fault. Both had compelling championships unfolding, and were ready to take off, before they were sidelined. We had the luxury of not starting until May 16, but we looked at the situation with the supercross races being cancelled and decided to back up our series to allow them to have May and June if they wanted to finish their series. Feld felt they wouldn’t be able to fit it in, so we then decided to make sure we finish as quickly as possible. We’re only aiming to go one weekend longer, on September 5, to give Feld the opportunity to recommence their championship in mid-September.
There have been some dramatic changes to the start of the Pro Motocross championship, with Hangtown cancelled and Pala and Thunder Valley shuffled back to later in the series. How did that come about?
Hangtown is in a state park and they asked to be cancelled this year – they’re very limited with the amount of time to get an event of that magnitude there and they can’t run it again until late September as it’s just too damn hot in Sacramento after June 1. They’ll be back on the calendar next year. The second round at Pala, we asked if they wanted to go at the end of the schedule and that worked perfectly for them as they’re undertaking some renovations. We’ve rescheduled them for September 5. The third round at Thunder Valley, we said ‘look, when you started the championship you were in mid-July, how would you feel about backing up until then?’. They felt that when this thing is over, people aren’t going to have a bunch of money or be willing to congregate in big crowds, so they were happy for us to push them back as far as possible. That meant our fourth race was Florida. The original plan was to have a weekend off afterwards, so we’ve backed them up one week, and we’ve planted our flag in the ground and said we’re started on June 13. That’s if this situation is over. If it’s not, we’ll have to start cancelling races.
It’s going to be an intense schedule, that’s for sure. Is there any more wriggle-room if you need to buy another couple of weeks?
Well, we’ve got two off-weekends in August because of the Olympics. Our broadcast partner, NBC, asked everyone to stay off the Olympic dates, but that’s now a moot point. If it came down to it, we could stick, say, Florida and Mt Morris in August if need be. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
What is the worst-case scenario for you?
Believe me, if we get to that point, motocross racing will be the least of our problems! If we’re still dealing with this thing in July, we’re all going to have to get real jobs doing real work, as we’ll have to rebuild our world. That’s frightening to think, but yeah, the worst case is there’s no outdoors this year. If we can get six races in, great, but we’re planning for running 11 rounds. We’re not going to run after the supercross championship if they end up in September and October, as it’s not fair to hog all the dates and backup dates. We made a point that we’d be ready to go on June 13, and we feel it’s our obligation to them and the fans to leave room for the supercross to come to its conclusion.
I’m assuming you’ve had to work closely with Feld Motor Sports to get to this point, seeing as you’re both working hard to offer as close to a full championship as possible?
Absolutely. We’ve had our differences in the past, but now we’re on the same page and working together the best we can. We’ve always been friendly towards each other and always been partners in promoting the sport, so now more than ever we need to work together. We’d already cleared the decks of our differences before this hit, so it was like ‘okay, great timing, we need to work our way through this the best we can’.
Looking a little further down the track, what does it mean for Motocross of Nations?
I don’t know now it can work unless the date is moved. The MXGP has had to push rounds back into October and November and the AMA Supercross is looking at recommencing in September and October. If everything goes to plan, the des Nations will almost certainly be a casualty. I love the des Nations and attend every year, but now Youthstream has the unenviable task of having to reschedule GPs after the des Nations. It’s my belief they will change it, because if it was on the same September 25 weekend as, say the Vegas supercross, no-one will be in France. They’ve put the Olympics off for a year, so I’m sure they can put the des Nations off for a year.
This current situation is going to benefit riders who are fighting back from injury. Who do you think is likely to benefit the most from this?
It will benefit some in the short-term, but what happens if a rider get dinged up at the end of the outdoors, or when supercross starts back up? Then it potentially hurts them for next year’s supercross series too. Tony Cairoli, Jorge Prado, even Zach Osborne and Broc Tickle, they’re getting to heal themselves up for the resumption of racing, but they’ve got a long way to go to make it to the end of the year, then to be ready for next year. Basically, if there are six or seven supercross races at the end of the year, we’re looking at 24 straight supercrosses when you factor in the 2021 championship. No-one could foreseen all of these effects this thing would have. We have so many more tools, communication and knowledge now, but we can’t figure out this little bug that’s causing havoc all around the world. I do hope we’re able to entertain our fans and friends and enthusiasts, I hope we can work together to build back up whatever we’re losing here. It was very serendipitous that we’d get on the same page as Youthstream and Feld over the past couple of years, because we’re all in this together.