I read an article yesterday by Wiley Watson on Vurboffroad.com. It really got me thinking that this editorial was well written, but it was written from the wrong perspective. So I decided to write a rebuttal. In doing so, I had well over 500 words and an editorial of my own. If what you read below makes no sense in context, please read the Vurboffroad article first, and then see what I have to say. This is In Response.
Vurboffroad Article, The Future of our sport?.
I could easily respond to this editorial with my personal opinion on how WORCS has become a lackluster event and why most of the promoters choose to reuse the same boring track year in and year out. But, opinions are too easily taken the wrong way and often used as ammunition for e-thugs, so I am going to address some of the more realistic reasons as to why interest in off-road racing seems to be dwindling.
First, there are fewer riders. Since fewer bikes are being sold, fewer people are racing. With inflation contributing to a still unstable economy, bikes are more expensive, gas prices create increased travel costs and the payouts at races have diminished because the series needs more money to pay their staff.
If off-road racing was to follow the MX/SX model, there would have to be some serious schedule adjustments. MX/SX racers travel the country throughout a set time period of the year. The schedule is designed so that teams are not randomly flying all over the country. However, most schedules for the off-road series last an entire year with multiple weeks between races. Possibly the GNCC could be scheduled during the first part of the year and the WORCS during the second half, but this would cut out other local organizations.
The number of sponsorships and the amount of TV coverage are other factors that have left the off-road series in the dust. With outside sponsors like Red Bull and Monster Energy stepping up to the plate from the “Extreme Sports” world, more fans have become involved in supporting those sports. Although these sponsors have become more involved in the “Off Road” world, most of these events are extremely hard to film and televise. This makes it much more expensive and time consuming to produce such events and make them available to the non-sport viewer.
As far as which series to race, there are only two to try and really make money: GNCC and WORCS. The others are “passion” series. I grew up racing Enduros with my dad. We liked long trail rides and riding in the woods, so Enduros were perfect for us. We would go to as many races as we could just for the fun of doing it together. The same is true with the National Hare and Hound and BAJA. You do not go to those events expecting to make a living or to become famous; you do it because you have a passion for the sport. The AMA once ran racing events in the East and West Hare Scramble Series, but those are no longer the top places to compete. My understanding is that they are trying to bring those series back, but it will be difficult and probably involve more local riders than national.
Lastly, there is a brand new series of competition coming up in Hard Enduros. Even though I hate what they do to my bike, I really enjoy this form of competition. It is a challenge for me physically, mentally and emotionally. (If you have ever made it out to Muenster, TX for Red Bull’s Last Man Standing, you know there were more than just a few guys crying!). What this tells me is that off-road racing is not contained to one form of competition. This makes off-road competition less defined and so harder to create an event or series that will cater to everyone who wants to be involved. If you want to race Motocross, you go to a Motocross track. If you want to race Supercross, you find a Motocross track that has a Supercross track. It is pretty well defined.
An additional note to the comment about the GNCC having a bigger amateur and spectator turnout than WORCS: Promoters don’t make money when they have 40 pros on the line and no amateurs. They make money when they have 400 amateurs on the line and charge for each family member to enter the property! All of these organizations are privately owned and they are in business to make money. Not always a fun truth, but there it is.