A BLURB FROM OUR SPONSOR
Words Scott Bishop
Motocross is an image-driven sport. As it’s slowly adopted a more professional approach, riders and teams have stepped up their presentation. These days, public relations have a much bigger role in a race team.
Same with the companies that promote their products via racing. After every weekend of racing, in almost every paddock on the planet, there’s a press release documenting all the action from the weekend. But what’s in those releases isn’t always what happened on the track. Here are a couple of the more pumped-up examples of the stuff that slides through my inbox from time to time.
There is a company that produces stands and workshop tools for some of the teams in the US. According to their releases, the bikes, riders and mechanics have absolutely nothing to do with the results from the weekend — it was the bike stand.
For example: “Milk Crate Bike Stands Win AMA SX.” Now, unless I was watching the wrong race, I didn’t see a bike stand win any race at all. In fact, I didn’t see it qualify, I don’t think it had a very good heat race and I’m pretty sure I never saw a bike stand do a lap. But according to the headline on this release, their stand won the whole kit and caboodle.
So, you get their bike stand and you’ve got yourself an AMA winner. Nice. And it keeps your bike dangling in the air when it’s not being ridden, too. How cool is that?
Youthstream, the promoter of the World MX GPs, doesn’t mind firing off a press release, either. In fact, I think the PR person there must be paid by the release because it seems as if they deliberately send out a dodgy release only to follow it up with a corrected one a couple of days later — then the confirmation that the previous release was in fact correct and the incorrect one was the first one. Which we already knew. Are you with me on this?
So far their plans for 2013 have included a heap of GPs out of Europe; then that was trimmed down to just a few opening rounds. Then they’re going to the US; then they’re not. Then they’re having combined race formats at the outside Europe GP’s; then they’re not sure and it will depend on the amount of entries they get. Then they’re having MX3 and women at some events; then again, they might not.
I think the best solution would be just a sign on the day prior, all in a run, with the winner getting a discount voucher at the local junk-food establishment of his/her choice. They don’t get prize money now, so a 12-inch meat lover’s at the local pizza shop can’t be all bad, can it? That seems to be as logical as their current PR.
Motocross clothing manufacturers love the image they can create in racing. Plug yourself into the coolest rider in town, have him win a couple of races and the clothing walks off the rack on Monday morning. Because teenagers are a huge market in gear, that philosophy generally works. But the older I get, the sillier I become and I start to wonder if those fluoro red and baby-turd green pants and jersey were the real reason a rider won.
I get it that good boots and helmets are important to a rider. I even get that gloves are important, but I’m not sold on the notion that the majority of riders can tell the difference between 20 different jerseys or pants. And, as most riders change from year to year yet get the same results, the new and improved feel of the NASA-approved MX space pant hasn’t really done its job of getting the rider higher up on the podium. But they love telling us it does.
The motorcycle industry is a pretty corporate affair and most releases from manufacturers are pretty boring affairs. You never get a quote from a rider who throws the bike or the team under the bus if the results weren’t as good as expected. You get the standard “I need to come out swinging next week to get back on the box”-type stuff and that’s about all.
The rider generally takes the fall for a bad result and it’s only recently that riders have even started to say they need to continue to develop the bike before the next event. That is as controversial as most riders get.
It’s the complete opposite in car racing where the driver takes absolutely no responsibility for the result — unless they win. Then it’s all their doing; the team of 50 mechanics back in the shed pounded Coronas all week in a titty bar on the way to Acme Raceway.
It’s not uncommon for a driver to unload on the car or the team if things aren’t going to plan: “The guys in the pits just couldn’t build the car I was after today. We were chasing our tail from the moment we got here and if we’d have found 100th of a second in the car then the 21st place would’ve become first, no problem.”
Look, Fangio, you’re the one driving the bus here so take responsibility for the result. Maybe you didn’t convey the right feedback to the team. Maybe the fact that you drive too slowly around turns, brake too early or don’t commit 100 per cent is the real reason you didn’t finish closer to the front. I’m yet to hear a car driver say in public, “The car was perfect today and my driving was awful — that’s why I was beaten.”