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Davey Coombs wants to make outdoor MX cool again

July 17th, 2008 · No Comments · Industry, Profiles in Riding, Racing

mx-sportsI just read the interview with Davey Coombs in the new Cycle News — Issue #29, July 23, 2008 — talking about MXSports and the future of the outdoor series:

We want to make motocross as cool, as competitive, as entertaining, and as safe as possible.

Live TV, improved facilities, adding new venues, listening to riders, listening to fans, taking a business approach that admits we have to modernize but recognizes motocross has its own unique value — that it does not have to be Supercross, just in the daytime.

I know many of my contemporaries have tired of modern stuff for a variety reasons, and I don’t argue with that. But I still like it enough to want it to get better. Outdoor MX has sucked for the past 15 or 20 years in ways that have nothing to do with the simple passage of time, and that really bothers me. We can’t go back &mash; it won’t ever be “like it was” in the ’60s or ’70s because that’s just not possible. The world is too different. Nothing is like it was back then. But it doesn’t have to totally suck, either.

One of the things Coombs mentions is the interest of Barber Motorsports Park in hosting an outdoor national. This is really exciting. If you have never been to Barber just imagine a 720-acre golf resort — except without the golf, and dedicated to motorsports. The folks at Barber are big into bikes. They have been trying to get a MotoGP but were snubbed. They are getting AMA Superbikes, and maybe a World Superbike round. The idea of a national caliber outdoor MX track on the rolling, wooded hills of the facility is very cool. Unlike many roadrace facilities where a track would have to be laid in the infield, making it basically a SX track in the sunshine, Barber is situated in a way that make one very cool MX course.

What would be interesting is that Barber would never run weekly, or even monthly, MX races. they would run a National, probably a Loretta Lynn’s qualifier, and maybe 1 or 2 other specialty races a year. That’s it. The track would never get beat out, the top soil would never die. Hell, they’d probably disc, smooth, and re-seed it between events.

The other thing that could happen is that Barber is setup to be a little “factory zone” — that is, a good portion of the land is zoned as commercial and industrial. It’s like a business park, intended for factories, R&D facilities, race team HQs, etc. Nothing is there yet, but there will be. It’s conceivable that a full-time private MX development and testing facility could evolve there. Birmingham is not substantially different from Atlanta, in terms of access to the southeastern US. It is just as accessible for freight and distribution, has about equal technology infrastructure, but far less issue with over population. With land prices and costs of operation that are often half of what it costs in California, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the logic in locating there.

With Gibbs Racing being the first satellite team to setup a full HQ outside of SoCal, and more riders moving to Florida and Georgia to find riding areas, I predict we will see more and more of this.

Coombs also talks about the need to be flexible, to accept the necessary changes. He talks about the one-moto format, but I think he sees this differently that some of us might expect. From what I’ve gathered watching a few of his RacerX Films appearances plus what he has written, I think he looks at it much more like the current Superbike format. Where there are two distinct races instead of one race in two halves. In other words, the National might be one moto, but there would be two of them. (That’s really going to screw up the record books.)

Personally, if I could get live TV coverage of a one-moto National on Saturday afternoon, I’d take that. As long as the fans on site got their full dose of racing, it wouldn’t be a problem. It’s a semantic issue. The AMA already awards points based on motos, not National wins. The National win is, in reality, insignificant. So we go to one-moto Nationals. We get two winners each weekend. And James Stewart has to win 314 of them to equal RC’s “National wins” record. So what.

So think about an afternoon of racing, there are two MX1 nationals. There are two MX2 nationals. The live TV guys can come in at 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, or 4:00 and pickup a national race live. In an hour it’s neatly packaged, wrapped up at the end, and commercially viable.

Of course, there’s still the possibility that DMG could go all NASCAR on us and mandate some stuff that’s just not viable. That’s what may be happening in road racing right now. But DMG will learn. These are not idiots – which is a nice change.

Coombs also has a business-like approach to the Supercross-only problem — where a rider chooses to ride only the SX series and forgoes the outdoors, as Chad Reed and Kevin Windham have done, and as James Stewart is rumored to be doing next year. Coombs solution is simple and elegant – make the sport cool again so the riders want to race outdoors. Better race facilities, better purse money, more media coverage, better overall atmosphere. As Coombs says, we all grew up racing outdoors. It’s in our blood. Make it cool thing to do again and the riders will come.

As I have said here before, in my opinion the future of outdoor MX looks bright indeed.

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