You ask, PulpMX’s Steve Matthes answers in monthly column.
In this month’s instalment of Matthes Answers, led by PulpMX’s Steve Matthes, hear his opinion on how the SuperMotocross (SMX) series is shaping up, how Jett Lawrence compares to the 450MX standard of one year ago, if we could actually see Hunter Lawrence step up in 2024, Ducati and Triumph entering the sport, a current take on World Supercross, plus his WildCat Race Team support for RedBud! If you want to send him a question, simply get in touch via the @motoonline socials and we’ll pass on the most timely questions each month.
What’s your take on the dynamic that SMX is creating, linking together SX/MX and the playoffs? The overall point-standings have been generating added interest lately…
Yeah, I mean I get the interest in the SMX series that’s been created and it’s always a good thing to get the riders more money. It’s also already succeeded in getting some more riders to come out to the nationals to get some points, but I’m in a ‘wait and see mode’ for this, to be honest. I’m not sure anyone wanted two extra races in the schedule, the hybrid MX/SX tracks we’ve been told are coming never really work that well, they tell us these are the ‘playoffs’, but yet noone gets eliminated and also, the single-double-triple points awarded at each race is kind of hokey. If, say, Aaron Plessinger goes 5-5-1 and wins the title when something happens to Sexton or Lawrence and he’s crowned the ‘SMX champion’, it’ll mean as much as Ken Roczen being the ‘World SX champion’ after a two-race series, you know? So we’ll wait and see how this goes… again, more money for racers is always a good thing, but call me a little skeptical that we’ll all really care that much about this three race series on the end of two pretty gnarly championships.
Where would you rate the Jett Lawrence of 2023 in comparison to the Eli Tomac/Chase Sexton of last summer?
I think he’s right there – I don’t think he’s better than those guys. Look how far those two were ahead of everyone else, so that tells me the level is about the same. Heck, in the second moto at Pala, Sexton was all over Jett and they had huge lead over third, just like last summer. So, while Jett’s been mega-impressive, I think if you dropped him into the summer of 2022, he’d be first to third each moto depending on the different factors.
Speaking of Lawrences, is Hunter a lock for the 450 at HRC alongside Jett next season?
Yes, I think he is. When you look at the factory Honda team, it has Chance Hymas under contract for next year and also we all believe Jo Shimoda is going there as well on the other 250. And there’s been no talk of Honda looking for a 450 rider, so they’re not going to have Jett on a 450 and then three 250 riders, right? So all signs point to Hunter making the jump to 450s in 2024.
Considering it’s rocky start, can World Supercross gain any proper momentum this year and how much attention will it receive from the US?
Nothing has changed to me about WSX. I’ve been on the record early and often that it’s awesome to have another series where United States-based riders without a factory ride and ones that don’t want to do MX can go race. There’s awesome money up for grabs and it’s six races now, instead of two. It’ll never replace US SX and it’ll never be on equal footing with it, but it’s a ‘proper’ series and one that I will follow. I do worry about the sustainability of the series because clearly the USA-based big money companies that sponsor the sport here (energy drinks, MX distributors) have formed an alliance of sorts to not give the WSX guys money, so how sustainable is a series that relies on smaller sponsors/ticket sales for its main revenue? I’m guessing the model will be ‘MXGP-ish’ where the local government are hit up for some subsidies, but I can’t see Germany, Australia, Canada – to name three countries – going to be giving them any money. I do worry about that long-term, but for now, I’m going to enjoy the racing!
Let’s talk Ducati and Triumph. Do you see them becoming genuine factory teams in both Supercross and Pro Motocross, as in places that top-tier riders will actually want to go?
Don’t forget Beta in there, although that seems to be a Beta USA effort and not the same as the OEM, European-based company. I think, like anything, there will be some trepidation by the big names to go there right off the hop, but if the riders they do hire aren’t pushing their bikes off every weekend like the Cannondale guys were, then riders will do what riders have always done and that’s go where they can make money to race. The bikes have to be good though, that’s step one.
Wait, you are title sponsor of the WildCat Race Team for RedBud? Tell us more!
Yeah, man! HEAR US ROAR!!!!! Look, I like privateer guys and this story of a rider from Venezuela and Spain coming together to race the 450 class and then doing well is an awesome story, right? Lorenzo [Locurcio] is a good dude and the team is looking for sponsorship for the rounds to keep this going, so I stepped up for RedBud and I’m stoked to be onboard. It’s awesome that our national series is so full of international racers and WildCat Race Team is a great name, as well… Suits PulpMX, I think! LET’S GO TEAM!!!