Words Scott Bishop
For the first time in a long while, the great outdoors got moved inside and supercross was again under the roof of an entertainment centre. Brisbane hosted the final round of the ASX and for many of the riders it was the first time they had ever raced under a roof.
Indoor SX was a mainstay of Australian Supercross for the best part of 20 years, from 1986 to 2006. During that time many of us complained about the size of the tracks and how it just wasn’t supercross but now the industry is pushing hard to get some races back inside and try and reconnect with the fans.
There is no doubt dirtbikes indoors is a crowd favourite. Nearly 7000 spectators showed up to the Brisbane round and there was a bit on in town that weekend as well, so it can only be seen as a success. The event went off pretty well and, with a calendar already in place for 2015 and some direction on rounds and formats, things are starting to look up again for SX in Australia.
But racing around the floor of a big hall isn’t as easy as it looks. It’s intense with the tight track, obstacles every 10 metres, the crowd watching your every move and another 10 riders wanting to slam into you. It’s tough, but sitting there in the stands reminds me of a few moments during my career bouncing off the walls at indoor venues around the country.
I recall my first event was as a junior rider at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in 1987. Sydney has the smallest floor space of all the venues; it’s barely a tennis court. It’s like racing in your own garage.
In those formative years, a flyover bridge was built to give the track some length and also provide design options. It was the dodgiest bridge ever made. It had a near-vertical takeoff and landing and coming up a fraction short would send you into a rear booter from hell that would finally get itself under control when you wrestled the bike to a standstill out near the car park.
To jump it long was way too easy and a flat land that would turn an 80s-model MX bike into a long wheel base in microseconds. It was do it perfectly or don’t do it at all. Thankfully, that bridge didn’t last long and was replaced with a rounder one.
Then, sometime later, big jumps became all the rage. We were literally jumping from one end of the building to the other before turning around and jumping back. A triple is a triple — you sack up and jump the damn thing — but the obstacle that I found the hardest was when they started making the tabletop finish line with a single jump after it. Some Evel Knievel decided to jump it so we all had to.
The up-ramps were steep to toss us high for the finish line but the issue was they were tall and it was impossible to see what you were jumping to. It was a leap of faith as all you saw as you headed towards the take-off was a near vertical wall of dirt. On a 125, it was simple: nail the turn, shift to third and hold it wide open. Then you just made it. Judging the distance on the bigger bikes was tough.
You know a jump is big when they start putting safety fences between you and the crowd to stop you from flying into the stands. Well, that fence nearly wasn’t strong enough for me. After missing the landing, I OJed it by five bike lengths and flew off the berm into the safety fence. Then the bike launched itself out into the start straight in full helicopter fashion, scattering the field of riders in the next race. I then had to do the walk of shame past the entire field to collect my twisted metal machine and head back into the isolation of the pits.
Dirt can make or break a track. Racing indoors is often the perfect environment as the dirt can be super tacky and the bikes don’t get dirty.
Well, that wasn’t the case one year when the dirt used was more like potting mix than usual race dirt. It was soft, wet all the way through and even when walking on it you’d sink a few centimetres with every step. But race we did and before the first round of practice was done we were already down to the floorboards as the dirt just blew apart. The bikes returned muddy as if from a motocross race and for the first time at an indoor we were washing bikes between races.
The sludge from washing then went down the drains and out into the Sydney Harbour, where the EPA spotted the huge slick and, none too happy with the damn dirtbikers, wanted to shut the whole show down.
It would have been an ugly race no matter what angle you looked at it. The riders were barely able to do any of the jumps and the crowd must have wondered who these jokers were circulating around out there. Thankfully, that was the first and the last time the potting mix was used.