Steve Dixon is a busy man. The owner of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Dixon Racing Team is also the promoter for the world’s biggest MX event – the Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin on October 1. We sat down with Steve to see how preparations are going and get his thoughts on team selection and American participation.
DBR: Steve, the MXoN is getting close – how are preparations going?
Steve Dixon: “It’s going really well. We started about eight weeks ago with the track. Johnny Hamilton was there for seven weeks and he’s coming back next week. We made a lot of changes to the track at the hill end to bring it towards the spectators and there are a couple of new loops and a new jump by the trees.
“We’ve changed the start which will be quite unique with more of a drop-in start like Charlotte – it’s new and fair for everyone and it means the spectators can see the start from the bank.
“The track will be longer, probably over two minutes with a new loop by the wave section. It will be new for everyone so it will be pretty fair.”
DBR: You mentioned previously about making it a festival weekend. What can the spectators expect?
SD: “Matterley is famous for its festivals – it has the Boomtown Festival six weeks before the MXoN with 60,000 people expected there. They have expanded across to the track and we’re sharing facilities so the site is growing in stature.
“We want to get that festival feel so we’ve asked for a three o’clock licence with a new bigger entertainment area, a new parking area and new camping area. We’ll have a DJ and music till two o’clock with a wind down till three – we want everyone to enjoy themselves.
“We are looking at this as two events – one in the day and one at night. We must prove we can look after everyone, nowadays everything is so strict and we’ve spent hours at planning meetings with the Police, Council and Licensing and we have the same level of scrutiny as a music festival.”
DBR: A couple of years ago it did get quit rowdy in the camping area. Is there a message for the fans?
SD: “I’m a fan myself and I know people want to party. We’ve shown the police videos of the chainsaws and smoke canisters so they’re aware and the Police don’t want to be kill-joys but their main concern is safety.
“Some fans may not realise that all road traffic laws apply at a public event so if you hit someone on a pit bike it and they died it could be manslaughter. Previously someone was driving their car drunk and they got 10 points on their licence. After six years of promoting these events I’m aware of what can go wrong so we want to safeguard the fans without being kill-joys.
“I want the riders to have a great track to race on and the fans to have a great weekend with great racing, enjoy a few beers and go home safe.
“We also have to respect the neighbours and their rite to some peace and quiet. We’ve geared our security to interact with the fans and educate them so we don’t have chainsaws all night. We’ve never had any complaints about noise but everyone knows how easy it is for events to get shut down and we need to protect our future at Matterley. We already have the date set for the British GP on June 3 next year.
DBR: What are your thoughts on the British team?
SD: “The MXoN is close to my heart. In 1994 I was Malin’s mechanic when he won on the 125 and Britain won. Malin wasn’t having a great year on a 250 but I really wanted him in the team so I built a 125 bike for him and he ended up winning so I’ve experienced that winning feeling. I’ve also been team GB manager and finished fourth twice.
“At the moment, my pick would be Max Anstie on a 450, Dean Wilson on a 450 and Tommy Searle on a 250 – that’s our strongest team unless Shaun Simpson comes back strong from injury. Tommy always goes well at the Nations and just seems to rise to that occasion. Max was born in Winchester and always goes well at Matterley. Dean will like the track, it will suit the Americans and he will go well there.”
DBR: So, does that mean you would provide a 250 for Tommy if he was selected?
SD: “Absolutely. Darian Sanayei is riding for Puerto Rico on a 450 so we have a 250 available. I keep telling Darian that Tommy would be three seconds a lap quicker but he won’t have it.”
DBR: If Dean is selected are there any budget issues?
SD: “I don’t see why there would be. Husqvarna have a great set-up in Europe and the biggest expense would be shipping a bike. But the way KTM and Husky work is that everything is standardised and they have fantastic knowledge from Ice One – they have bikes here. If anything is an issue it maybe they have too many riders who will be at the Nations but I know they would find bikes for them. To get Dean across is just a few flights so there’s easily enough budget for that.”
DBR: The American media has been making a big deal about the schedule and Eli Tomac has said he won’t represent team USA because of all the races they do yet Dean Wilson is happy to come over for Britain. What’s your thought on some American riders not wanting to race?
SD: “The MXoN is completely unique and it brings up surprises. I understand that some riders like Baggett and Anderson need surgery. The Tomac one is surprising. I still speak regularly to Zach Osborne and he had booked his ticket before he was even picked – he was coming anyway to watch or to ride the Vets des Nations. This has always been a dream of his, to race for America, so this is what I think is strange.
“Some of the forums say they should get paid but this is like the Olympics – it’s the honour of winning for your country, it goes down in history and that’s the difference.”
DBR: What do you think about the American media saying we should move the date to accommodate the US Nationals?
SD: “Time is difficult in today’s society. As a race team, we don’t have time for our families but it’s the path you’ve chosen. Amateur racers ride every single week and they do a full-time job. I use the analogy of kicking a football. Without a team and opponents, you haven’t got a game. Without a game you haven’t got fans, without fans there’s no stadium and without all that there will soon be no football players. In motocross we all need each other, the teams, manufacturers, riders, organisers and fans and you have to respect that.”
DBR: Do you think the AMA should schedule a couple of weekends off during the Nationals so that their series ended when the MXGP does?
SD: “Let’s face it, this has nothing to do with schedules. The guys want to earn money so they race supercross and nationals. The MXoN has always been around the end of September. Then there is the Monster cup. The Monster Cup is about fans having a good excuse to go to Vegas – it’s an event that people like to get together at. But it’s not for a championship.
“That’s the same as the MXoN but I think you shouldn’t forget your roots. I think Tomac is doing a great job and getting a lot of stick now but he hasn’t said “no”, he just said he probably won’t. I don’t think he should be pressured into it, the USA have plenty of great riders that can all rise to the occasion. The team last years was supposedly a B team but they have such depth to choose from.
“In MXGP there’s a mix of nationalities so each country struggles to get three really top guys but the Americans seem to rise to the occasion and they’re so patriotic that its worth a 10 per cent boost. Maybe the Brits can get that boost at Matterley.”
DBR: Who do you think will be the top three teams?
SD: “France will be strong, so will Britain. Holland and Italy. Switzerland have great riders and Germany are always strong…”