AutoMatters: Monster Energy SUPERCROSS in San Diego

High-Flying Supercross racing
High-Flying Supercross racing

By Jan R. Wagner

Last weekend the Monster Energy Supercross series paid a visit to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Even though I’ve covered motorsports for many years, this was the first time I’ve covered Supercross and only the second time I’ve covered any form of professional motorcycle racing. I had no idea what great racing I’ve been missing! Monster Energy Supercross is exciting, with spectacular, non-stop, literally high-flying and close competition.

I arrived at Qualcomm Stadium in the early afternoon to check things out. There were already lines to get into the stadium’s rapidly filling parking lots. Inside, there were rows of transporters with covered areas next to them for the crews to prepare the motorcycles. It was similar to what you’d find at a NASCAR or IndyCar race. The walkways, and the “Party in the Pits,” were teeming with enthusiastic fans, including many families.

Supercross is essentially off-road motorcycle racing in large stadiums. It is one of the most physically demanding sports. Falls and injuries are not uncommon. Not surprisingly, Supercross tends to be a young persons’ sport, with many of the top riders ranging in age from 18 to 21. Riders typically begin to get racing experience at a very young age, and only the very best make it to Supercross. The top riders are very well paid.

To the casual observer Supercross motorcycles may look stock, but they are not remotely stock. Whereas their stock cousins might sell for $10,000, the racing versions are highly modified with specially developed competition parts, and can cost as much as $80,000. Their manufacturers include Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, KTM and Yamaha. There are two classes: 250SX and 450SX. The numbers refer to their engine displacement in cubic centimeters.

Preparing a stadium for Monster Energy Supercross is a massive undertaking. About a week before the race, a crew from a company called Dirt Wurx comes in and completely transforms “the floor” of the stadium. First they cover the stadium’s grass with protective layers of plastic and/or sheets of plywood. On top of that is added a base of asphalt or loose clay. Finally dirt is brought in and sculpted with heavy earth moving equipment into a challenging race track comprised of ramps, jumps, berms and what they call “whoops” – a series of smaller jumps that the riders skim across the tops of at high speed. It amazed me that the motorcycles did not fly apart with all the high jumps, contact and all-out acceleration and cornering.

The dirt obstacles on "the floor' were, in some cases, so steep that on Press Day I was unable to walk up one of them. I don't know how Dirt Wurx was able to build something so steep and durable out of dirt, but they did. The amount of time, effort and money that must have gone into bringing all of this to Qualcomm Stadium, all for only one day's racing, is surely incredible.

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Finish line at the San Diego Monster Energy Supercross

I can see why fans are so enthusiastic about the motorcycles and their riders. The racing action is wild, with frequent motorcycle-to-motorcycle contact and spills. Dirt flies every which way. Monster Energy Supercross, as presented by Feld Motor Sports, is tailor-made for the enjoyment of spectators, safe in their seats in the grandstand and yet close enough to easily see and enjoy the racing.

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