2018 NSW MX Titles… A Royal Flush!
Late last year, we spoke with Motorcycling NSW’s CEO, Dave Cooke, about his ambitious plans to reinvigorate the long-ailing NSW State Motocross Championship. So, now that the new-look series has been run and won – capped off by the thrilling King of MX finale at Port Macquarie in June – we asked Cooke to reflect on and rate the series’ performance, and offer an insight into whether we’ll see any changes to its key ingredients – the race formats, venues, prize money and marketing – for season 2019…
TM: Congratulations on the King of MX finale at Port Macquarie. By all accounts, it was an incredible weekend’s racing, in spite of the biblically wet weather.
DC: Well, we set out to create an epic event, and between the weather and the efforts of the riders, that’s certainly what we ended up with. The idea behind the development of the King of MX concept was to not only reinvigorate the NSW State Titles, but to turn it into an event that allowed everyone to compete at the same time – from Juniors to C-graders to Pros. To put on the two richest MX races in Australia at the very end – as feature races to crown the King and Queen of Motocross – was a bit of a crazy idea, but it has certainly added the event’s wow factor, and I think it will become one of the most popular events on the national calendar in the future.
Last year, you acknowledged that the NSW State Motocross Championship was in desperate need of a reboot? Has the 2018 King of MX achieved that?
Absolutely. To go around the state and run six separate qualifying events and then pull over 500 entries at the final is a testament to how well the new format has been embraced by the riders. But perhaps the best thing of all is that the new format doesn’t require riders to follow a series all around the state to gather points, as they did in the past. They only need to qualify once and then go to the final, so it has opened the door for a lot of riders from regional NSW to take part. The previous format proved too expensive and time-consuming for many of them. Consequently, we saw a lot of names at the final that would not previously have competed in a State Title event series.
If you look back at the objectives you outlined for the 2018 King/Queen of MX series when we spoke late last year, what boxes did and didn’t you tick with the 2018 series?
I think we achieved everything we set out to achieve, but like anything, along the way you discover things you can improve on for the folllowing year. Obviously having to move the final from Coonabarabran to Port Macquarie due to the drought was a disappointment, but the Hastings Valley club did an awesome job of getting their track ready in very tough conditions, so we still ended up with the epic event we were planning, thanks to their hard work. But there are certainly plenty of things that we have already reviewed and plan to improve on for next year – things like the organisational structure behind the event, and some of the operational components that will create an even better atmosphere for riders.
Has the experience with year’s series prompted you to look at any changes to the series’ format, which uses regional rounds to qualify for the big, high-profile series finale?
If anything, this year only proved that we were right in taking the qualifiers to regional NSW. By running six qualifiers all over the state, we gave every rider in NSW an opportunity to be part of the event, and that was something which really stood out to us as a big positive once we started running those meetings. There were so many parents who told us their kids could not have gone to the Titles the way it used to run, but now with the new format, they could. Right from the start, we said this concept was going to be all about the riders, so getting everyone involved is very important to us. I must admit, running seven events – and many of them a long way from Sydney – put a lot of strain on the office staff who travelled to every event this year. But they all loved being part of it and getting out and meeting the riders and parents and local officials, so I think we will be sticking with the format.
What about changes to the class structure or prize money or venues or race calendar?
At this stage, we’re hoping we can go back to Coonabarabran’s Goanna Tracks for the final, and we will look at taking the qualifiers to some new clubs in 2019. We want to be able to share the qualifiers around every year. That way, every club can benefit from the series and every rider can be part of it at some stage. We think the class structure is pretty right, and if we can bring some big sponsors on board from outside the sport, we’d love to increase the prize money even more.
Did the 2018 series get the sponsorship support you were hoping for, or was this year’s series all about laying the foundations for brands to invest in 2019?
This year was more about laying the foundations for the future. Like any new concept, sponsors are generally going to want to sit back and see what happens in the first year before they invest. We were prepared for that, and MNSW was happy to lose money on the series this year to try and establish it. But there were a number of companies who jumped in to support us and believed in what we were doing – such as our series sponsor, Bikebiz, as well as The Tool Store, Parader Clothing, UniFilter Australia and Teencee Graphics.
How MNSW sees the King of MX fitting in with the multi-round East Coast MX series in NSW, which itself attracts a lot of riders.
Part of the reason we went for a qualifying series was so that riders could compete in everything if they wanted to. In theory, you can attend one of our qualifiers, and assuming you do well enough to qualify for the final, you can then go off and race East Coast or DirtX or Amcross, or whatever club events you want to ride in. And then you only have to come back to King of MX for our final. So for many riders, we’ve actually freed the calendar up a bit for them, even though we have more events than we used to. Some riders might need to come to a few qualifiers before they get a result that gets them their golden ticket to the King of MX final, but for the most part we think we’ve actually made it easier to ride in multiple series now than was previously the case.
There was talk of TV coverage and/or live streaming for the King of MX series finale. Have there been any developments there?
There were some discussions early on about that, but the cost proved prohibitive for this year. Plus we very quickly realised just how much work was involved in building a completely new event from the ground up, so we simply didn’t have the manpower to pull that off. But it’s certainly still in the mix for the future, and I think the format of the feature races in particular is made for TV. So as the event grows, I think you will definitely see it start to reach new levels in terms of its marketing and communications, hopefully including TV coverage down the track.