The Next Level of Supercross Worldwide – Mike Porra Interview
The new Australasian Supercross Series
Change, Excitement, and The Future – The Next Level of Supercross Worldwide
Interview: Supercross Promoter Mike Porra
Mike Porra and Chad Reed have a vision – to bring supercross to a new level worldwide. Mike and Chad have teamed together to create a new supercross series in Australia, New Zealand, and Asia. Below you can read the interview with Mike Porra about this new series – how it started, what the initial plans are, and what the future hopes to bring.
Amanda: Hi Mike. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us today. We’ve been hearing quite a lot about the new supercross series in Austrailia. What is the official name of the series?
Mike: The series is called a new name, “SuperX – The Australasian Supercross Championship”.
Amanda: Mike, can you tell us a little about yourself and your history?
Mike: Yes. At the moment, I’m the worldwide promoter of the Crusty Demons Live shows. That’s kept me quite busy the past three or four years. My company is called Rush Sports & Events International. The major thing we do right now, among many other things, is the Crusty Demon Live shows, which we’ve taken around the world in the past three or four years to many countries … the United States, Australia, England, India, China, and others.
In 2008, we’ll do close to 100 show, across 20 countries in Europe, and throughout Australasia.
Before this, I was a partner in another sports and entertainment business … and I was with the sports and marketing group IMG, as the General Manager for the Australasian region, and that’s what really got me into the whole sports and entertainment area. I’m a marketing person by background, having owned advertising agencies before that. So, I’ve been involved in motocross through the sport of freestyle motocross and Crusty Demons for the past four years, which has now lead to the supercross.
Amanda: It sounds like you are very busy. How did the idea of this new Australian Supercross Series come about, and when did it come about?
Mike: Australia has the highest per capita sales of dirt bikes in the world, by far. And Australia sells the second most in total sales of dirt bikes in the world behind only the United States, which is extraordinary considering Australia is a country of only 20 million people total. Australia sells more dirt bikes than any other country in the world, including all in Europe and every other country in the world except the US.
So, this is definitely a dirt bike crazy country, and area. The Crusty Demons phenomenon is absolutely massive here as well, and ‘Crusty Demons’ in a household name and brand here. ‘Crusty’ has an almost 100% brand awareness now, with huge numbers as far as live attendance. In 2005 / 2006, Crusty Demons became the biggest touring event to tour in Australia, bigger than the Rolling Stones or U2 at that time, which really blew a lot of peoples minds’ being that a dirt biking sport could do that.
The sport of supercross has not been run as well as it could be here, and has not done as well as we believe it can do here in Australia. It has a great grass roots following, but certainly was not a very high level. I decided to look at it (the sport) seriously about a year ago, and started to do some work, and some strategic research. At about the same time as this, I went and met with Chad Reed. Chad knew very well about Crustys, and he knows about riders all over the world.
Right away, Chad and I had a good ‘meeting of the minds’ so to speak. We met in Los Angeles, and we had a meeting with his manager, and within a half of an hour, we both knew that we wanted to do exactly the same thing: to build a fantastic new supercross series in this part of the world, with Chad and I doing it in partnership.
The paperwork followed, and we had the contract signed in a matter of weeks.
We created a new company, with its major objective is to re-invent and recreate supercross in this part of the world.
And just as importantly, for us to do some new things that are not being done anywhere else in the world. We want to be much more innovative and create a much better supercross series experience than any of the others in the world. And when we explain some of what we’ll be doing, you’ll be able to understand better what we have in mind.
We are really starting fresh down here in Australia, and the manufacturers are very, very excited about what’s happening, and the possibility of an exciting new supercross series here in Australia.
The manufacturers have said to us “We know you are going to do some new things, shakes things up, and maybe do some things we wouldn’t normally go for ….. but go ahead and do your thing!”
So, we are going to be able to be very innovative from the start. Our company has a ten-year license with Motorcycle Australia, which is the governing body of motorcycling in Australia. We are officially sanctioned, and M. A. (Motorcycling Australia) has said they are fully behind us and will support us with whatever we need to make the sport successful in Australia.
Amanda: How long have you had a relationship with Chad Reed, and when did you know things were really starting to get serious with Chad on this supercross series?
Mike: Right now, I’ve had a relationship with Chad about 18 months. And I think Chad will tell you about 30 minutes into our first meeting, we really had already started to come together on the business side of things, and knew that we were going to do this together. We both had exactly the same vision of what needed to be done to make it something special.
Amanda: Can you tell us a little bit about what the series will be like in this first year?
Mike: We are going to have seven championship races all over Australia this year, and possibly one in New Zealand as well. In the event doesn’t happen this year in New Zealand, it will definitely happen next year. We have seven races locked down, and we are just finalizing the contracts with the venues. We are very close to announcing the dates and locations.
Securing the venues has been the most difficult aspect by far. That, combined with Chad’s schedule, and then also our schedule of doing events all over the world. Each of the venues might have only one or two open weekends during the year … doing seven events during a possibly nine week window of Chad’s schedule … it’s been quite difficult. It’s been crazy, but we are there now. We’ll start in October and end in late November this year. It includes all the major cities in Australia.
Very importantly, we are doing three or possibly four events with new formats that have not been done before and are being introduced in our series. In Australia I have been involved in developing other sports such as Iron Man, and triathlons. With these, we created race formats that were very different … some are shorter, some are very different ideas that are made for television or for the live crowd in attendance.
I wanted to bring those ideas and thinking over to supercross. I’ve been to the United States and seen the sport at it’s very best … I was surprised to see that every single race is run exactly the same. Eight times out of ten, by the first lap the guy out front is leading a parade.
I believe that presents a great opportunity for us to do it in a much more exciting way. And seeing that we are starting from the beginning, that gives us the ability to do that.
To give you an example, one of the rounds of the series will have a format called ‘Man on Man’. It will be like a tennis format, with 32 riders that have qualified for the finals. We’ll have 16 heats of 2 riders, doing one lap. Each race is only one lap … and the next race starts right away as the previous guys cross the finish line.
Then it goes to quarterfinals, semi-finals, and final. The final will be two laps, with maybe a third rider thrown in. But apart from that, every single race is two-man only, man-on-man, one lap only.
You can imagine, that’s frightened a lot of people of doing a race like that and having it as a full championship round, counting for points in the series … but we are going to do it.
We’ll have another race in the series called ‘Survival’. We’ll have two heats that will get the field down to 20 riders. We’ll start the race with the 20 riders, and do a five lap race … and at the end of that five laps, the last five competitors will drop out.
When the first place riders crosses the line, a clock will start, running for 60 seconds, until the next race starts.
So, if a rider finishes in 15th place and survives for the next race, if the clock is at 55 seconds, he has only five seconds to rest, get organized, and over to the starting area for the next race. So, the winner gets 60 seconds of rest, with each rider finishing behind with less and less time in between his finish and the start of the next race.
There will be points and prize money for each of those 5 lap races, so riders will definitely be going for the wins. But there’s also real racing going on at the back of the pack, to try and not be one of the last five riders that will be eliminated. So it will start with 20, the next race will be 15 riders, then ten, then the final race of five riders.
We have a few other different concepts for races planned as well that we are going to put in place, including one called ‘Super Sprint’. We’ll also have three or four of the traditional 20 lap races. One of the races will be run at a big speedway venue, and we’ll run the track right up the hill 60 or 70 meters or so right into the crowd, and then it will run back downhill, with a massive jump bringing them back to the main track.
A group of us here from Australia, went to the big Anaheim Supercrosses last year, and the year before, and … I was very surprised. The sport is so big in the USA, … it was good, and the entertainment was OK, and the introductions were pretty good … but I thought all the way across the board, the show side and the entertainment side were not as good as I thought it might be on the world’s biggest stage for the sport.
And the racing … at the last race I attended, I think Bubba Stewart had the lead into the first corner … and after about seven or eight laps I was ready to head out. He was so far out front … there wasn’t much racing after the start.
So, I think for it to be successful here, we need to make it much more exciting, and different, and entertaining. And we need to make it fantastic for television as well. I think a few ears will *** up once they get a hold of what we are doing here. We plan on having a great field of great.
In addition to the formats I spoke about previously, we are looking at other components such as pit stops, and many other ideas. And having these top riders race with these different formats, I think we’ll be changing things up on the international level as well.
Amanda: What are your future plans for the series and its growth?
Mike: The ultimate goal for us, which we hope to get done by year two, but certainly by year three, is to take this series into Asia. Australia and New Zealand are a given. We are already getting great support from New Zealand, And Ben Townley is really keen to coming back. Also, the New Zealand government is very keen to get us in and have a big race there. And then we are looking take the supercross series into Asia.
After a period of time, if we are successful in doing that, then the vision is certainly to have this series as a proper Asian series. That is why it is actually called the Australasian Supercross Series because we would like to have a whole range of races right through Australia, New Zealand, and south east Asia.
We would like to see another major series between what’s going on in the United States, and in Europe – three major series: the United States, Europe and Asia. And with our window of time, which is currently October through November, we hope that will avoid other people’s seasons, so that riders are able to come in and treat this as an entirely different season. They can come to win great prize money and expose their sponsors as well.
Amanda: Speaking of your vision and thinking of the future, if you were to dream about what this series will be like in ten years, what would that be like?
Mike: It is interesting that you bring up ten years. Something that has happened already here in Australia, which is incredibly exciting for us, is we are just about to sign off on an offer to have all these events televised live in Australia.
I say that’s amazing because our deal with Motorcycle Australia said that we have to get some coverage for these events, and we imagined that for the first couple of years we would be a one-hour TV package on daytime television. But where we will end up the first year is with the one hour TV package that will be 100 percent live. So that’s a really big result for us in the first year.
So the ten-year plan is a big hunk of that – getting live television coverage, to therefore really being able to promote the sport. We need to see this go live because people need to get into the actual live racing of these events. And I believe when people start to see it with these new racing formats, they will really enjoy it, and our version of supercross here is not going to be positioned like other motor sport events, like our Formula 1 racing (which is like NASCAR) which is very big here.
The whole positioning of this sport is it’s going to be a cross between action sports and motor sports compared to just straight motor sports. We are making it very cool, very young and very hip. The racing will be extreme and very exciting. So that’s the way we are positioning it. I think when people see it, we will have a good chance of developing into something that is mainstream very quickly, and in 3-5 years I want to see this thing being a mainstream sport in Australia and New Zealand. But in ten years, I would like to see the SuperX series be a mainstream sport not only in Australia and New Zealand, but all throughout Asia.
Amanda: Now if you could say anything to the fans about this very exciting new Australasian Supercross / SuperX series, what would you like to tell them?
Mike: I would like to tell them two things: One is to come and see one of the great sportsman that this country has ever produced. Chad Reed is not that well known in Australia, because he hasn’t really competed here. The majority of his career has really been in the United States. So he isn’t that well known here … but (with a chuckle) he will be very quickly! Come to SuperX, see Chad and support him. He is excited to come back and help develop the sport.
The second thing: get ready for a great sporting event, which is really going to blow your mind in terms of excitement and entertainment! The sport has a huge following anyway, so many people ride here. And the thought of super exciting, bar-to-bar action, and the brand new racing formats, new venues and tracks … it’s going to be very spectacular!
My message to Australian sports fans especially is your going to want to put SuperX on your radar, because you’re going to love it!