Our latest trip to the south island was shared between two Southland clubs for three chocca full days, where we learned the secret to growing the sport here in NZ.
First we worked with the Southland Dirt Bike Riders at their home base in the quaintly-named town of Hedgehope, where a track fee of just $5 welcomed you to the gate. This was the first clue as to why this club has rocketed in numbers over the last year or so.
The circuit had some big uphill straights, but they were generally fed by a slow turn to help cap top speeds, winding their way back downhill or followed by an off camber turn. Aside from the finish line tabletop and rollers that were cut out by most classes, the jumps were limited to a small step up and a ski jump. This is what encourages the farm kids and dads who might shy away from a full blown motocross track.
Their events start off with a seeding practice to sort riders into a number of groups based on speed rather than the cubic centimetres of their machine, where they can then enjoy proper battles without worry of getting blown past by a much faster rider. That also means that all ages can safely get involved, with a maximum entry fee of $50 for a family.
This is grass roots, and with that the club now attracts 2-300 riders at each event. We saw that with a good bunch of keen adults on the Thursday morning, followed by a family of four kids and then a one on one session in the afternoon. The conditions were prime with beautiful weather to dry up what had been wet conditions this summer.
Friday and Saturday were both held at our traditional venue, the home of the Southland Motorcycle club. At 88 years old, it has all the facilities and focus that you would expect from a motocross club, but now they are having something of a revival thanks to the riders who began in the other club and were keen to take it further.
I was flat out using the main track all of the Friday with four decent sessions, followed by some keen young guns on the mini track the next day. I tried to motor through the skill levels without over loading them too much, followed by some starts practice that seemed to make a difference.
Which seems to summarise the effort that has gone into the grass roots racers in this country. A solid grass roots racing club feeding into the established motocross club for those that want to take it further. Motocross is not about the hype and shiny new graphics kits. As cool as the energy drinks and big jumps may be, it is really about getting bums on seats.