Chatter Box: Mark Chamberlain

Insight from the British team manager

· 14 minutes read

Motocross of Nations announcements have been coming through quite quickly over the last two weeks, but one nation has remained quiet. There has been no word from Team Great Britain on their plans, riders or anything like that. So, bearing that in mind, this seemed like a good time to call Mark Chamberlain and find out what is going on behind the scenes.

MX Vice: I guess we will start off by talking about Action Sports Music Live, which is kind of your baby. What was the inspiration behind creating it? Was the whole get kids moving thing kind of where you started from?

Mark Chamberlain: Yeah, pretty much. When I went up to the showground last summer with my two, we were there kicking around and just liked the venue. Then your brain starts ticking. Obviously the first thing that comes into your head is to put a supercross track in that arena, then I was thinking about the whole kid's thing and keeping my two active. It makes a big difference to how they are, how they behave and how much fun they have. That was the starting point, really, then I asked the showground if it was a possibility, thinking it would be a no. It was one of those ideas that just comes in and out of your head. Then they said, "No, we could look at it" and it evolved from there. That was last summer, then just built off the back of that really.

Tommy Searle won the first Supercross UK Open event at ASM Live (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

From a few people I have spoken to, it sounds like the crowd was not the strongest or at least not what you expected. Can you point to a reason for that? Is there anything that you have already got in your mind that you could fix if this event comes back?

The first year is always going to be difficult because you are trying to sell something that is new, a new concept. There are different things. Maybe the date will change [and we will] run a bit earlier in the year. Promotion-wise to get a following going, as you know, it takes a bit of time and then when that momentum builds it starts building itself. I did not want to go in and pretend that we have got a load of followers or whatever and we just built everything from the bottom. It takes time to build that. We just worked away, worked away, steady away and there are a lot of things that we could change.

The concept is all good, but when you go again you have a fresh start. You think, "Okay, right, let's not do that. Let's put the money into this or that." It was a good learning experience. It was what I expected, but there were things. Just obviously the date change with Hawkstone, not that it affected our crowd and such, but then that affected the ease at which to get the riders. To actually launch the supercross side was late because we were really trying to dot the i’s and cross the t's for the show.

It was a case of initially of, "Yeah, yeah, no problem." Then when we explained to them the ins and outs of what we were doing, and how we were bringing thousands of tons of dirt into the arena, it then had to go through a lot of different people to get the okay. By that stage the event was being promoted but not the supercross, so I was not willing to push the button really hard on that until we got a final definite okay, you have got all systems go, you can do it and we signed everything off. That was late, but it is a process.

We have got through that now and to go again, that process is a lot easier. I am busy obviously now, but I would say after the ‘Nations I am going to sit down and really go through it with the people that were involved in it with me and a lot of people believe in the concept. I want to build on it. If I cannot and it is doable, I am going to do it again.

Max Anstie was phenomenal at the Motocross of Nations last season (Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo)

Obviously, you effectively put motocross into the mainstream. Did you face much opposition from people, even those not involved in the event directly? Was there any negativity?

Honestly, no, I am amazed at how simple it was. To be honest, as far as the show ground are concerned, they were more concerned about our PA system than they were the bikes, which I was amazed at. They said that it travels, is different and the local residents maybe feel like there is someone sat in their lounge. Maybe they felt like that with it being on Saturday. I do not know, but we were really conscious to work with them on that.

They were happy with the way that we operated. So, no, as far as the motorcycle side, it was really straightforward. I was surprised. All the time I was thinking that was going to be the thing that they were going to say, that it is going to be too noisy. That is great to know that we have gone to a venue like that and pulled that off with no backlash as far as the noise or anything like that goes. That is a real positive for everyone, I think.

Moving onto the Motocross of Nations, which is something that I am guessing is really taking up your time, where are we at with that? I guess an announcement is coming very soon? In your mind, do you know what is happening or are you still kind of figuring things out?

It's just a case of I have not got the information in front of me to be able just to say, "Right, okay, that is what we are doing." It has been a tricky few weeks, but I definitely did not anticipate it being as difficult. The ACU are fully behind me. I also want to make it clear that they stepped up. I have gone back and said the budget would need to be looked at and it needs to be more, but the issue is that we have got some great riders on some great teams.

To do the job properly, in the fact of what the teams and the riders want and what we want, when you write that down and when you budget that, it is too much. For us it is too much and then we had to go, "Right, what can we do to make that less and to be able to make it work without compromising the choice of the team?" That is where we are at. Maybe it was a bit of inexperience on my side. I know a lot about the sport and running a race team. What I did not anticipate was the amount of money that it would cost to go for one weekend and that is something that we are looking at.

The bottom line is that I was really hoping we were going to do that at the start of this week and get it nailed down and it does not look like that is going to happen. I think I am going to go to Switzerland. Not think, I have decided I am going to go to Switzerland to try and just get through that with some teams and then hopefully we can make the call ASAP on exactly who is doing it and how we are doing it.

Most pundits believe Ben Watson will represent Great Britain in MX2 (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

You would think that having a rider like [Max] Anstie on a factory team would be like the golden ticket for someone in your position, after talking to a few people in the pits, but it sounds like having someone like Jake Nicholls, who can get a Honda from Canada and drive it down, is actually the easiest solution to this problem that a lot of countries are having?

Yeah, that is what I was explaining to someone else. Even the other day I saw Jake at Stuart Miller's Memorial Day. He said, "It is probably simple with Max." I said, "No, it is not." I think even people involved in the sport are maybe a little bit surprised that it is not as straightforward. That is the way it is. We have just got to deal with that. What I did not want to do was just turn around and go, "Right, that is it. I am making a call on the team. We are doing that because it is the easiest option. We are doing that because it is the cheapest option."

I would rather get to the bottom of where we are at and then look at the budget and the options, then I have got all the information to then make the call on what I believe is the best team within that budget. Like I say, the ACU have got the budget and got someone else looking to put a bit in. There are other little fundraisers going on to pad the budget out, but it is not a bottomless pit. This is a building process for me and the team.

It was always going to be about long-term and trying to build it up, trying to build the budget and it is. It has not been quick enough in the period of last year to this year to go to America and chuck 50-60 grand at it to do it properly. That is just the simple fact of it.

Tommy Searle always steps it up at the Motocross of Nations, no matter where it is (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

There is a chance then that maybe you could be at RedBud knowing that you have done the best you could with your budget, but that you would have a different team if budget was not a problem at all? Would you say there is a chance of that?

In my mind it is a tough decision anyway, because I think the margin is pretty small between the riders. I know you are also going to have people say, "He had a podium there or done this or done that." We have got a good group of riders, but my faith is not in three people. I have got faith in more than that. I would not have honestly said that I have made the decision with all the facts if I do not have the facts. Once I have the whole budget in front of me, then I can look at it and go, "Okay, which way am I going to do it?"

The budget thing has made me think about a lot of different permutations or the different teams and the squad. You look at it and go, "Well, maybe he could ride this or he could ride that?" There are a lot of good options. I know it might not be everyone's first choice, because everyone's got their own opinion anyway, but we have got a lot of good riders at the minute. Some of them maybe are just coming up. Maybe some of them are just coming to the end or nearing that later end, but right now we have got a lot of good lads.

I have got faith in whoever we put on. We will go there and be right in amongst it anyway so, whatever the team, I am going to be happy. But I really just want the information to be able to make the call. Also, it's only fair to be able to explain to all the riders who go or do not go the situation that I have done my best to make sure I made a well-rounded decision.

Immediately after Matterley last year you launched the Motocross of Nations experience where fans could book a RedBud experience and get to do all this cool stuff. Has the money raised from that made a big difference to the budget you are dealing with now? Was that a success?

Yeah, it was a success. You are talking thousands. That chucked a few thousand in the bin. I did not want to make it so expensive that normal people could not afford it, so it is not like it is massive money, but it is enough to help and to make a difference. We have got forty people there also that hopefully are going to be mad for it and behind the boys. There were two ways of looking at it.

I wanted people to be close to the team, raise some money and also have that interaction to kind of feel like… Well, not feel like, the fans are part of it. They deserve to be part of it. That is something that, regardless of where we go or what we do, we are going to try and keep that going, because I want everyone to feel a big part of the team.

Max Anstie has already ended on the MXGP podium twice this season (Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo)

Is it important for you to come up with fundraising ideas like that to take it to another level? We have seen other countries just launch GoFundMe pages, which is obviously a quick and easy way to sort out a problem or try to, but is it important for you to just put a bit more effort in and show that you are trying to do this right?

Yeah, definitely. I just want to keep pushing forward and keep as many ideas as possible that do not devalue the team. Especially in the last week we have discussed the GoFundMe style of raising funds and I am not opposed to that, as long as we come up with something to give back to the fans that is worth their money. That is the way I feel about it personally. That is something that is on the radar. Again, it is something you cannot rely on, because you do not know how much it is going to bring in. You cannot just put a fantasy figure in the budget and say we will do a GoFundMe and definitely raise X amount. That has almost got to be a little bit of a gap filler to be able to do the extras on the list.

I would like to make it a well-rounded trip for the guys that is professional and as well done that weekend as possible so, for me, that side would be an extra. It would not be to do the essentials. What we are talking about; shipping, bikes and all that stuff, they are essentials. They should never be classed as an extra, so the base budget has got to come from what we are doing with the ACU and with the potential sponsors. That is the base that we work from and that other stuff would be to add extra things to it.

When you are negotiating to take a rider to America with these factory teams, is the cost of shipping a bike and all of that 100% on you and the ACU? Do you do a deal, so that you come up with a 50/50 split of the price, or is it on the team? How does that work?

Right now, it is on us.

The teams say that if you want a rider there, sort it out yourself and we will provide the details, the frame numbers and all of that?

Yeah, that is the request. A straight question and an honest answer. That is the request.

If all goes well and there are no more hiccups or anything like that, the team should be announced next week then? There is going to be a Team GB, even with all of this talk about budget, right? Just stop anyone overreacting…

100%. There are no issues with that. It is how we do it. I always want to do it the best that we possibly can because, when I took this job, it was going to be 100% and that is where I am at. We are going to push on. We are going to try and get this all buttoned down and, as soon as it is, I will be probably second to the riders most relieved about this team and that the team selection is out there and done.

Interview: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer

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