It is no secret that pundits have been critical of the Maxxis British Championship and those at the helm in the past. Why is that? There was not a specific reason, as such, but most just wanted to see an attempt to make progress. That has occurred this off-season, as a handful of tweaks and improvements have been made with the goal of creating a successful series.
What has happened? The British Expert Championship, which will run alongside the Maxxis British Championship, was launched earlier this week and will give those outside of the top ten a trophy to chase. Entries in MX1 and MX2 have suffered over the last couple of years, especially towards the end of each season, so this is an attempt to combat that and keep those on the bubble of breaking through hungry. That is not to imply that those guys are mailing it in, but some additional incentive could go quite far and help struggling privateers justify the expense of travelling to Shropshire or Swindon at the end of the year.
How is this going to work? Well, right off the bat, those who finished in the top ten overall in either class last year are excluded. What if a rider has ridden at an MXGP round in the last two years? They are out. What if they plan to race as a wildcard at a single MXGP round over the next twelve months? They are also out. What if a rider has finished in the top five overall in EMX250, EMX300 or EMX125 over the last two years? Well, they are also pushed out. Those appear to be the only rules at this stage, but it would not be surprising to see another restriction creep in over the next couple of weeks.
Jake Shipton, Carlton Husband, Matt Burrows, Luke Benstead, Ross Rutherford, Tony Craig, Kristian Whatley and Luke Norris should all be eligible in the MX1 class. A guy like Stuart Edmonds, who finished twelfth in the series just last year, competed at the British Grand Prix two years ago and that should rule him out of the British Expert Championship. Kristian Whatley obviously stands out in that group, as he will probably beat the rest of those riders with relative ease. It would not be too surprising if former champions are excluded as well though, seeing as the series is supposed to encourage engagement from the lesser guys, but that was not included in the list of rules that we perused.
Would excluding Kristian Whatley be the right decision? This will almost certainly be a hot topic once the new season fires into life, especially considering that it is rare for there to be a former British champion with limited MXGP experience on the starting line. So, bearing that in mind, it is probably best to let it slide on this occasion. It is not a foregone conclusion that he will win it anyway. If he does become the first MX1 Expert winner in the Maxxis British Championship though, it will be a good marketing tool for the new Rob Hooper Racing Yamaha team. There is no doubt that this is the greatest plus of the whole deal.
Fans typically overlook those outside of the top ten, unless they have an invested interest in one of the guys, but that is just the way it works in all sports. This series will give the media a new angle and way to promote the privateers and lesser teams in the paddock, which will ultimately result in a stronger series. If those guys can head to sponsors and explain that they finished second in the MX1 Expert series, rather than stating that they simply finished thirteenth, it will undoubtedly attract attention and mean that it is more likely that they will receive support. How could it possibly be a negative?
It is safe to presume that is what everyone wants, right? It would be quite the step forward if the gulf between the leaders and the riders in eleventh is not quite as large. The only way that this thing will work out though is if it is acknowledged by promoters, riders, teams and manufacturers as a real thing. If it is pushed to one side and looked at as a novelty, then it is not going to move forward and grow in the way that it is intended to. Time will tell how this thing is going to work out.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX