After attending the Boise Endurocross recently and speaking with various riders, teams and industry types, it got me to thinking: what’s next for offroad racing? With so many racing series and single-day races out there on the national and international level (in some cases competing against one another) how many more of these series and/or races can there be before the scene becomes so diluted that winning a championship or event begins to carry less weight?
If you’ve followed the amateur motocross scene the last few years, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. These days there are so many amateur motocross “Nationals” out there that riders and industry companies find it hard to discern which events truly carry weight. Offroad racing may not be in the same present situation as amateur motocross, but nonetheless there are still a lot of series out there. We have the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, Endurocross, National Hare and Hound, National Enduro, J Day Offroad, AMA Big 6, WORCS, East and West National Hare Scrambles, and the Full Gas Spring Enduro Series. Not to mention the various single-day events such as the Tennessee Knockout, King of the Motos, the SCORE Baja series, and various other regional events such as the Idaho LoggerCross. That’s a lot of offroad series and single-day events, often competing against one another for riders’ and manufacturer’s attention. How will decisions be made going forward?
Let’s look at one series in particular, Endurocross, and ask the question: what’s next? The consensus with most of the riders at this year’s Boise EX event was that this was one of the toughest courses to date; with almost everyone in the main event going down or getting stuck multiple times on one obstacle or another. Don’t get me wrong, the racing was phenomenal in the Boise main event, but how much harder can these courses get? As it is, the top two racers in the series, Colton Haaker and Cody Webb, have distanced themselves from the rest of the field so much so that they are the only two riders to win a main event this year. In Boise, Webb picked himself off the ground after a first-turn crash and even without goggles still worked his way back to second place with 4-5 laps left in the race.
So, what’s the next iteration of Endurocross? How will they keep interest in the series going forward? One answer could be something similar to the SuperEnduro series. SuperEnduro is Europe’s version of American Endurocross, except with a slightly more tame, high-speed course and three separate main events. Based upon what went down last season they may be on to something. The racing seemed to be closer and the three main-event format provided numerous winners on any given night. The mellower track seemed close the competitive gap and make for better racing. Regardless of what direction these two specialty series head in the future, one thing’s for sure, for an Endurocross specialist like Colton Haaker, the SuperEnduro series has helped to extend his season and add more value to himself as a racer. Only time will tell what becomes of this series in the future.
The last few years have been good to the GNCC and National Enduro Series with both series as popular as ever with racers and teams alike. In fact, GNCC just announced the series had set a record for the highest level of attendance in its history at the final round in Indiana. These two series arguably hold the highest level of emphasis from the factories and industry companies alike when it comes to winning a championship. To win a championship in either one of these series undoubtedly holds merit. I don’t see much changing with either of these series in the near future but that’s not a bad thing. When you have a good formula, why mess with it, right?
Out west we’ve seen the resurgence of the WORCS and National Hare and Hound series. This is also a good thing, especially if one looks back just a few years at either series. This year the WORCS series experimented with a night race at the Southpoint casino in Las Vegas, Nevada that resulted in a huge rider turnout. Based upon its success they will hold a similar race in 2017, this time at The Orleans in Las Vegas, Nevada—site of Endurocross for many years.
As for the National Hare and Hound series, even with the ever-present threat of land issues looming, with the help of dedicated clubs putting on the various events the series seems as popular as ever—with good rider turnouts. This year’s series featured its own version of a hybrid race due to the last-minute addition of a replacement round in New Mexico (after another round was cancelled). With so little time to prepare for the event, the club organizers created a roughly 25-mile loop that was run four times instead of the usual longer two loops. In some ways, perhaps this was a happy accident that could help the series going forward. With less need for land by running a 25-mile loop four times, it could open up more potential venues as well as make the series more spectator-friendly. Of course, traditionalists may argue that four 25-mile loops could potentially lead to lapped traffic issues. If only we had a crystal ball to gaze into for this series’ future.
In my opinion, one of the most exciting things to happen to offroad racing in the last few years has been the growth of sprint enduro racing. John Day of J Day Offroad was the originator of this format here in the states [Editors Note: I stand corrected: J Day was one of the originators but evidently not the first to run a sprint enduro event in the U.S.] and has been at for quite a few years in the New England states. For some reason his series just hasn’t caught on outside of the New England region, but regardless, his events are as popular as ever with huge rider and spectator turnouts at each round. Enter Jason Hooper and the creation of the Full Gas Sprint Enduro series, which quickly became an overnight success with a format embraced by the riders. Both of these series are a breath of fresh air and have serious crossover potential; with the ability to draw riders from both the offroad and motocross side of racing. It’s worth noting, that all of the riders on this year’s ISDE winning U.S. Trophy team (minus Taylor Robert, whom was already racing World Enduro) have raced and excelled in the Full Gas Sprint Enduro series. It seems hardly a coincidence considering the format is similar to the grass-track special tests of the ISDE. This series has helped our riders hone their skills for the type of format used in the ISDE event. With a little more help from the OEMs and industry companies both of these series will be elevated to same level as the GNCC and NEPG series, and rightfully so.
When you look at all of these series combined then add in the single day races, you quickly see there’s not much room left in the calendar year. Offroad is enjoying a resurgence and we seem to have nice balance that’s allowed this type of racing to grow and become as popular as ever. More riders have realized that offroad racing gives riders seat time instead of wait time. The value is there and my hope is that the OEMs and industry get behind the offroad scene even more and give this type of racing the due that it deserves.