We’re a little less than a month away from the FIM World Supercross Championship kicking off on October 8th, in Cardiff, Wales. Luckily for you, we here at Vurb were able to grab an exclusive interview with Adam Bailey, the Director of Motorsport at SX Global, the promoting group of the World Supercross Championship.
Adam has a lot of experience in promoting as his group has brought us Australian SX as well as the AUS-X Open since 2015. The WSX idea has been in the works as far back as 2017 and right when the group was on the cusp of making some serious moves in 2019, COVID hit and halted the plans. Since then, SX Global has announced that they acquired the rights to the FIM licensing and have been spending 2022 recruiting teams to race their championship.
On August 25th, WSX announced their racing format and lately teams have been dropping press releases left and right announcing their riders. Adam was nice enough to chat with us just as he was kicking off another busy Australian morning.
vurbmoto: Adam, thank you for taking the time to meet with us today. How are you?
Adam Bailey: I’m doing really well, thank you. Thanks for taking the time to chat.
Thank you as well. This is an exciting time for you!
Yes it sure is a busy time. We got started on this project really about a year ago, we really started to get underway with planning and strategizing how we were going to pull this all together. It was always going to be busy and always going to be a stretch to get events up and running for 2022. We really thought that it was the right thing to do to prove the concept, get our team’s feet wet, and get this thing rolling. Our first full season is going to be 2023. We’ve got our eyes on 2023, but we’re really excited to launch in Wales on October 8th.
You just announced the racing format, which is completely different from Monster Energy Supercross. You announced that you’ll have a three main event format as well as a Superpole to allow for the top riders to be on the track as much as possible. What went into these decisions behind the scenes?
I think first and foremost that we’re all fans of supercross. For myself, I have been watching it since I was a young guy at ten years old. I saw it in Australia first and followed the American Series soon after. I was a big fan of Jeremy McGrath back in the day and to see what Chad Reed has done and James Stewart through that whole period. I’ve just been a huge fan throughout. The reason we made those changes when we sat down to talk about the championship, we said, if we had a blank sheet of paper, which we do, what would we do to make supercross better? To elevate it around the world. It’s one thing to want to take supercross around the world, which is what we are doing, but what would we do to make it better in our view? One of the main things that comes to mind with a traditional supercross event, and it’s not just in the US, but also around the world (in Australia too) you would watch the best guys race the heat races and then you wouldn’t see them again until later in the night. Which meant in the four hour night program that for two hours of it you weren’t watching the best riders. One of the main reasons for the format change is to see the best riders throughout the show. We removed the qualifying to make the main event and instead we’ve pre selected riders, which follows the MotoGP format. The top guys racing the Moto GP are racing every race in MotoGP. There might be wildcards at each event, which is what we are doing, but there is no risk of the top guys not racing. That was one thing, to make sure the main riders are being featured throughout the program. Then second to that, we looked at what is the most exciting part of racing? Which is the start of the race. Keeping the race tight and close was the next focus. We wanted to try and do our best to make sure we had more race starts and gate drops, so that’s the reason why we have three races. We think it works, obviously in the US they have the Triple Crown Format. By putting them in back to back to back in our format with a short gap in between it adds a layer of complexity and pressure to the racing, which we think is really exciting. The riders have to prepare quickly, have a drink, reset, if they have to make some changes to the bike in order to get ready for the next one. It adds a huge layer to the racing that we think is just amazing to the fans.
The Superpole is really underrated and it works in other forms of racing. We have it in Supercars here. Supercars is our version of NASCAR. It’s just the opportunity to see each of the top ten combined riders out of the heats, one lap on the track as fast as they can go. It makes for a very cool spectacle. It gets each rider that one chance to go as fast as they can with no excuses or other riders getting in their way. It’s going to give the rider a chance to show their true speed, which the fans will really love too. Overall, the format is to enhance the fan experience whether they’re at the event or watching it on a broadcast. We think it makes a huge difference and the fans are going to love it.
Besides the racing aspect, can you share what other forms of entertainment that you will have during the events?
Anyone who has ever been to our events in Australia that we’ve been running since 2015 knows that we run a different format. From the moment it starts to the moment it finishes the racing is entwined in the show. That’s anything from the lighting and pyrotechnics, which other events have, but the way they are played through the entire night. The way the music is intertwined is the equivalent to an ice hockey game or an NBA game. It’s never a dull moment, which is really important to us. We throw in freestyle motocross, which the hardcore fans have seen a million times, but the kids and newcomers to the sport think it’s exciting, so we throw that in during the night. This year we’ve got some pretty big music names as well. In the UK we’ve got an artist named AJ Tracey, who is a huge artist in the UK, in Australia we’ll have two fantastic Australian artist. The reason we do this is to make sure fans, whether they are huge supercross fans or not, we want them to have an amazing night. We know that supercross fans will love it for the format and the racing, but we believe newcomers and families who have never experienced supercross before to have a great night too. That’s the reason we are upping the ante on the entertainment forefront.
For a family who has never experienced one of your events before, can you give them a rundown on what to expect when the show starts?
We have earlier access for our VIP ticket holders, so they can see timed practicing and qualifying sessions earlier. Then the main show starts at 5 pm in the UK, it’s a full audio and visual experience. The stadium kicks off with pyrotechnics and big screen visuals that introduce the main riders. Then you get into the racing straight away and then it’s back to back to back racing, into music, to freestyle motocross. Even the breaks are filled with a lot of music performances before coming into the main events and the back half of the night. There is very little down time. It’s literally scheduled minute to minute. Other than a couple minutes between races where there is music to grab a beer or a bite to eat there really is non stop action, which we think makes for an awesome show.
The WSX Championship has announced a lot of fan favorites as far as riders go. How does your format allow for fan engagement on race day as well as in the pits?
I think the fans will enjoy the fact that they get to see these riders on the track more. With the back to back main event format, to get three holeshots and run away with it is super unlikely. I think it means unpredictability with the racing. It makes it quite tough on the rider to be honest and not all riders will like the format. No one knows exactly what will happen. Ken Roczen is clearly a fan favorite and Eli Tomac in Cardiff. They are going to get three great starts to be able to run away with it and to have an easy time of it is highly unlikely. I think from a fan experience its next level.
The teams aspect is different in WSX, as only a certain amount are allowed to race your championship, what was the thought process behind that? You also have this large purse up for grabs, which could be a new phase for the sport.
At the very start we wanted to identify the things that were broken with the sport. One of the things we felt was that there was no value in having a team. The only teams that can survive in supercross are factory owned or are supported from the manufacturers. In motorsports, that is not ideal. The reason it works so well in NASCAR is that they are all privately owned teams that are supported by the factories, but are not owned by the factories. That’s really what we wanted. We wanted to create something that doesn’t rely as heavily on the manufacturers. It relies on and builds value for the team owner. We want these teams to thrive and be successful businesses in their own right, in which they are. This way they can afford to pay the riders more and the overall business model works. Currently and normally the only way a team can survive or compete at the highest level is if a manufacturer puts in an unjustifiable amount of money and they do. That was the whole reason for creating a team license structure. We wanted to follow what has been successful in other sports: Formula One is like that, NASCAR is like that and incredibly successful, and they’ve just recently rolled out in the past three years to create a charter system where the value in those teams has gone through the roof. If you have something that not everyone can have, then the demand goes up for it, then obviously the value in that goes up. What we wanted to create was to give the team owners something that can be worth something in a few years time. There are only ten teams and as many manufacturers to get involved, providing that we build the platform that they’ll want to be involved in. That is on us to do, which we will, then the teams have some bargaining power. They actually have something that is worth something and they actually have the ability to get supported by a manufacturer or a brand. Or they can negotiate with a couple, but they’re not completely reliant on it. That’s the whole purpose of us supplying support to them. They have something of value and they have a commercial value they can offer manufacturers. Those manufacturers can support them with a genuine return of investment, where previously that hasn’t been the case.
What are some of the benefits for teams that sign up to race your championship? Is there certain things that they can do in the pits? What are the different avenues teams can go down once they become an official team in WSX?
The teams who have committed their signing fees we’ve provided and paid them to get started. We understand that some of them are new business startups that have yet been established. We’ve assisted all of them equally financially. We’ve covered the cost of their freight around the world, so we’ve created travel cases to take a little bit of freight to all the events and we cover the cost of that. They have appearance fees to be paid to show up at each event, which will cover their travel cost at each event.We’re also providing them a pit structure so that they don’t have to provide their own. In the US and Australia, for example they have the transporters and rig setup. We’re creating a traveling infrastructure, similar to a Moto GP, and at MXGP they do something similar. Teams can obviously have their own brands and sponsors on the setup. We’re working with them on activation for their sponsors. We’re trying to be as helpful as possible when it comes to them getting a commercial return for what they’re doing. This means things like providing them TV broadcast content they can use on their own channels, providing them the ability for them to activate their sponsors and brands in the pits, providing them the opportunity to sell merchandise in the pits, or us selling it on their behalf. To pay them in royalties so that there are actual opportunities to earn from their own brand and merchandise. The same thing goes for their riders to be able to sell merchandise and monetize their own brands and followings. We’ll have processes in place where there are commissions paid to teams and riders that promote the live stream for example, on their channels. Really what we want to provide is as many income streams as possible for these teams and therefore the riders.If we do that the teams thrive, which means that riders will make more money. It takes the owners off of relying on manufacturer money and it means our money can go further too. The plan is to create a whole ecosystem where the teams are a part of the journey with us. They are our true partners and if we succeed then so do they. We think that’s the way to create real longevity in the series and the sport.
With so much work that you’ve put into this Championship, and you have so much experience promoting the Aus-X Championship, what is the most exciting part of WSX for you?
The most exciting part for me personally is two parts. It’s seeing where the sport can go when it becomes a truly global sport. I want to make sure that we’re respectfully appreciative about what has been done in the US. The US is where that supercross was born and this opportunity is here because of how much of a good job that Feld has done. They’ve helped build supercross into what it is in the US. What’s most exciting is seeing what it can do when it becomes a global sport because it isn’t currently. The riders and the teams are paid in the US. For me, that’s a limiting factor. If they are global athletes like they are in Moto GP or a Formula 1 athlete the opportunity for them to earn increases dramatically, then if they are paid out of one country. That’s just economics.
Secondly, it’s showcasing the sport to new fans. To have a World Championship go through Europe, Australia, Asia, the US, and South America. To create a real genuine World Championship to see these countries enjoy supercross the way that we believe that they will is just incredibly exciting.