20 March 1998

Motocross

clubs look to farmers for new race sites

LESTER Johnson knows that you have to tread a bit carefully when it comes to finding new sites for motocross race meetings. To many people a trials bikes is a noisy, smelly bluebottle of a machine, generally ridden by a crop-headed yob out to terrorise the local community.

While lone riders churning up bridleways can be a pest, the reality of organised motocross race meetings is a bit different, he says. He is chairman of the West Midlands Youth and Adult Motocross Club and points out that, with 200 members ranging in age from 6-16 years, his race meetings have more in common with a family barbecue than a hells angel convention.

His club, which draws its members from north Shropshire, north Worcs and the western half of Birmingham, is one of 36 around the UK that belong to the British Youth Motocross (BYMX) organisation. By the time you include the other motocross organisations and all their member clubs, he adds, you have a total of around 1000 organisations in the UK.

What all have in common is an urgent need for either temporary or permanent sites on which they can hold race meetings. Which is where farmers, especially those with odd hilly areas of not much agricultural value, can help out.

Site selection

A typical track covers about 6ha (15 acres), with extra space needed for parking up to 200 cars or caravans (though there are often far fewer than that), possibly on an adjoining field. While many farmers let motocross clubs set up temporary tracks on stubble after harvest, its an up-and-down grass field with hills and hollows that most clubs would ideally like.

Motocross bikes being inevitably noisy things, its essential that the track is well away from houses, he says. "We only accept sites that are away from houses in the first place and always check with local residents before we run a race. The ideal thing is a track next to a busy road."

Current planning rules allow up to 14 races to be run on any one site in a year. In practice most tracks will see far fewer race meetings than that.

Whats involved?

Once a site has been agreed between motocross club and landowner, the club organises the building of the track. If the field is already suitably undulating, this may not amount to much at all. If its flatter, the club (or the farmer) usually brings in a JCB to make hills and hollows and smooth over other parts.

Wooden stakes and tape are set up around the track, starting gates put in and a safe spectator area established. Finally an official from the ACU, motocrosss national governing body, comes to inspect the track.

There is no formal contract between the farmer and motocross club, so either side can pull out of the arrangement at any time. Equally, the host farmer can specify the particular times of the year when races can and cannot take place on the site.

However, Mr Johnson stresses that, contrary to what many people imagine, motocross meetings are highly organised events. "Before we run a race we inform the local police out of courtesy and tell the local hospital in case theres an accident," he says. "All races have ACU stewards and the St John Ambulance present."

"All extra insurance is covered by the ACU too. The farmer doesnt have to take out any extra insurance policies and bears no legal responsibility for what happens at the race. In fact every rider signs a disclaimer to that effect."

Piles of rubbish left after every race meeting? Not a bit of it, replies Mr Johnson, who adds that clubs know that they must pick up all the rubbish if they are not to quickly alienate the host farmers. In fact Mr Johnson says he visits the landowner the day after a race meeting to check that hes happy.

Money matters

A flat stubble field with no special features on which a temporary track is occasionally set up would probably net the landowner about £250 a race, while a really good track (ie with lots of hills and hollows) might hit the £400 mark.

An average track would probably be used four or five times a year (usually on Sundays or bank holidays), while a good one might host 14 races, ie up to its planning consent limit. Many motocross clubs also allow other clubs to use "their" track a certain number of times of the year. This is designed to give keen riders a chance to try a variety of tracks and the host club retains responsibility for picking up litter and liaising with the landowner.

Farmers in the West Midlands who think they have suitable tracks can contact Lester Johnson on (01753-525009). Alternatively, Sonia Goggins at the ACU (01788-540519) can put interested farmers in touch with 90% of motocross clubs around the UK.

A typical youth and adult motocross race meeting. This was at Hawkstone Park, Shropshire on Mar 1. In the lead is nine-year-old Tom Fish from Shifnal.

All over the country, motocross clubs

are crying out for land on which to

hold race meetings. Farmers could

help, explains David Cousins