Mark Chamberlain is one of the busiest people in the British paddock, as he wears many hats. Just last year he was managing Team Great Britain, for instance, as well as the successful MVR-D squad. However, it seems that the latter will be taken off his plate when the outdoor season begins in a little over a month. A lack of support means that one of the most popular teams in the domestic series will be unable to compete.
MX Vice: We will start with the AX Tour. How has that been going for you and the team? It seems that there have been some bright spots that you can hang your hat on.
Mark Chamberlain: Yeah, it is difficult with arenacross. We had higher hopes, if I am honest, but it is so difficult. There are such fine margins that your night can either go really well or really bad. We did not make one final with [Adrien] Escoffier and that hurt his championship, as we would be right in the mix if he had made that. You take it as it is though. You go there, the boys give it their best and then you just have to have some fun with it. We are pretty happy with where we are at.
Is that a little difficult to manage? Sponsors obviously want results, but arenacross is so dependent on starts. A result may look mediocre on paper but, in reality, it came down to the fact that a rider bobbled out of the gate and then you have to try to explain to sponsors.
We are lucky, as we have sponsors who know the sport. We have a new sponsor, Protein Water, this year and the main guy there has raced before. Everyone who we are involved with has a connection and understands, so it is not too bad. We all want results and coverage though – the sponsors need that. It is difficult. We are all lining up with the same purpose. If you get a result, you get more coverage on the social side and then with the normal media too. That is what makes the teams tick. Only three guys stand on the podium, unfortunately, and arenacross is even more cut throat than motocross. It has been good fun though. The series is good and we cannot explain.
I guess it is much easier to run a team in arenacross. There are more opportunities for exposure and it is easier on budgets, seeing as less parts are used and whatnot. It must be more enjoyable in that respect?
There is definitely less stress on that side. There is not as much preparation and not as much goes into it. The riders are ultimately hired guns and have their own practice schedules, so they are coming in and then going away again. I like the part where you go testing with riders, but arenacross is different. You have to remove yourself from that situation and just give the riders the set-up that they are used to. It is definitely different. I love motocross and really enjoy arenacross, so the two seem like different sports in a lot of ways. It has been good fun.
What about your plans for the outdoors? Do you have any plans with any riders, teams or anything at all?
No, it has been really disappointing to be honest. It looks like we are not going to be there. It is quite frustrating. We are still looking at different stuff but, ultimately, we do not have an outdoor team. There are a few bits and pieces that I am going to do personally, but not as far as running a team. It is still up in the air. We will not be going outdoors with two riders and a team as such. It is pretty sad and I am disappointed.
The reality is that you need manufacturer support and that base to work from, unless you have a big business or a pocket full of money to burn and I am not in that situation. I am not earning so much money that I can just write it off against tax and go to have a bit of fun, we are not that team. We are there, grafting, getting those little sponsors and making it happen. We cannot do it without that base of a manufacturer.
That is the biggest difference, right? You were an official Husqvarna team last year and you are not anymore.
Yeah, that is right, Husqvarna decided to reduce the number of teams that they help. We were pencilled in to be one of those initially, but for whatever reason it did not happen and they changed their mind. What can you say? We tried our best, got good results and did the best that we possibly could with the budget that we had. We always do that. If decisions are made up the line, then what can you do other than move on?
That must make you lose faith in the whole process a little bit. You had great results last year and gave Husqvarna a lot of coverage, so you must question what you need to do to make this work again in the future?
Yeah, you always do. You go through that stage of being a little bit angry and a little bit upset. That is just the natural response. We are big boys, at the end of the day, so you just get on with it. My brother and I have done our best. I am happy with that. It is frustrating, but that is just the way it is. There are bigger fish than us that have lost out, notably [Stefan] Everts with Suzuki. You look at that and it gives you a little bit of reality. It is not just because of us or because our face does not fit, it is because of situations and what people can offer. Those other teams that got there in front of us do not need as much financial support.
They are early in the game, have got businesses and whatever else. What is to say they will be there in a few years? From the point of view of a manufacturer, we were saying what we needed as a base to do the job and then we add to that with our sponsors. The other guys are just happy with what they are given though. A lot of them love that official title and will take a lesser deal to be official, but for us that does not run the race team. We have to have bikes, parts and money to run it. That is the way that we have to operate it. That is not criticising those other guys, as if that is the way that they want to run it then fair enough.
Early doors are the same. You just want to get in there and get this or that, but ultimately they are all trying to do this on a budget. They [the manufacturers] are getting you in and then trying to give as little as possible to get the most back. It is business and just the way that it works. I am obviously disappointed, but you just have to move on and that is that.
You have been around a while, so what are the differences between running a team when you first started and now. What has changed? I guess that it may be easier in some ways, but then other things may be much harder?
Yeah, to be honest, it is just harder full stop. There is less money from the manufacturers and less money from the smaller sponsors. When we first started, to get five grand from a sponsor was far easier. You could then build it up from there, get four or five of those deals and then someone would chuck you a diesel card. It has definitely gotten harder. The manufacturer support has basically just come down ever since we started. The best deal that we had was with Suzuki and all we have done every year since is get a worse deal. The bikes cost more money and input from manufacturers is less. You are left with less money to go racing.
From my experience, with a smaller team that is not based out of a factory, all it has done is drop down a level each year. You just notice that it is getting more and more difficult every year. KTM and Husqvarna have got so much stronger, then the others are not selling as many bikes. The other manufacturers have got less to sell as well. KTM and Husqvarna have got a massive portion of the market, but then they have reduced the number of teams that they support. I looked at whether we could talk to anyone and realistically you are just going to get less of a deal again. You get to a point where you just cannot do it, unless you are subsidising it.
Do you think there are changes that can be made to the Maxxis British Championship to make it easier on teams like yours?
Every area could be improved, but I think it is really difficult for everyone. You are in a spot where you need more people coming through the door and then more people riding too. You look at America and read what the industry is doing there to get people to buy bikes again, then you know there is a bit of an issue. When a manufacturer like Suzuki pulls out of MXGP, even though it is just one, it is a big thing. It is not solely a problem with one championship. It is a global problem that is quite worrying as a motocross fan, which is what I am at the end of the day.
We are shrinking. I cannot sit here and say that the [Maxxis] British Championship must help teams more, as I think it is a general issue. Each aspect needs to be worked on and everyone needs to work together on it. You cannot say that there are no problems, because that is not correct. There are obviously issues across the board. For me, it means that everyone should work together. America seem to be proactive with that, as they have a working group on that to get motorcycles out there. I would like to see the UK and Europe work on that as well.
We should all sit around a table and work this out. It is not just about my team or Suzuki World MXGP. It is a whole picture that needs to be looked at. It is not just me saying that because we have not got a deal. I will still be involved with motocross when my step son races or with Team GB. We need to look at it, because we cannot just sit back and let it shrink to nothing.
Finally, speaking of Team GB, it seems that the planning for Red Bud is already underway. What can you tell us about what is going on behind the scenes with that?
Again, I am just trying to get a bit of a buzz around it and people involved. We have got some ideas on different stuff and are currently talking to potential partners. I had a good meeting with the ACU a couple of weeks ago and they were really positive. We went through some ideas and they said that it all sounded really good. It has been a bit of a lifeline for me personally, to be honest, with the team potentially stopping. I have got something to really get my teeth into. I have got to leave the guys to get on with their jobs now, so I am just going to stay in touch and not meddle with what they are doing.
There are a lot of good boys in there and I think we could have a really good squad. If we do not have any injuries, fingers crossed, then I am going to have a very hard job selecting a team. I want to be a podium team with a chance of winning. The standard has been set and the riders are good enough, so that is the way that I want it to continue. Anything can happen in motocross, you know that, but mentally that is where we need to be at going into the race now.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX