Tyla Rattray stood amazed. It was his first foray into international racing, and at no lesser event than the 80cc Junior World Cup at Gaildorf in Germany. Incessant downpours had turned the track into a quagmire, but the organizers were clinically efficient, and not even the most dire of conditions could distract them from their task. Everything ran like clockwork, and when the sun finally peaked out on Sunday and basked the track and its scenic surroundings in wonderful revealing light, the youngster’s mind was all but made up. If he were to make the move to Europe to launch an international racing career, Germany would be very high on his consideration list.
GAILDORF – BEAUTIFULLY LAID OUT AND A SPECTATOR DELIGHT
The events of the next few months made the decision even easier. To participate in the European Championship series at the time, a rider had to have a licence form a European-based Federation. A few federations were approached and exhibited scant interest, but the DMSB’s representative (the inimitable Wilfried Nanz) took the trouble to visit South Africa to check out the prospective rider, and the die was cast. Thus began an appreciation and respect for German motorsport that endures to this day.
Coming in from the cold, we knew already that the German Racing scene was a good starting point. Even in the days before wall-to-wall internet coverage it was known in the far reaches of the world that the various German series were as good a gauge as any of where you slotted into the motocross hierarchy. The Inter-DM series, as it was then called, was a melting pot of international talent in the open class, and a goodly portion of the best 80cc riders in Europe participated in the international 80cc races run under the flag of the German Federation at Inter-DM events.
Time flies, and already more than 10 years has elapsed since a fresh-faced Mr Rattray put down his bags and settled in Germany way back in 2000. At 14 years of age, he was still too young to participate in Grand Prix races, but he could hone his skills, sharpen his teeth and gauge his speed in the DM – and Inter-DM series. It was at an event in the latter series, at Reutlingen, that he pipped the experienced GP heavyweight Michael Kadlecek at the post for a single point (back then only awarded up to 15th place) and erased any doubts that he may have had that there was GP potential within himself.
We have used Tyla Rattray as a close to home example, but countless similar examples abound of riders who will fondly remember the grounding their international careers have had in international German championship races. Perhaps the greatest testament to the popularity of the series is the fact that many riders from other countries forsook races in their homelands and travelled to Germany to cross swords with some of the best international talent out there. Dutch riders with international aspirations in particular, regularly paid their neighbouring country a visit to hone their hard-pack track skills, and there is no better example of this than young superstar Jeffrey Herlings that exploded onto the GP scene in 2010.
Germany has a strong history of home-grown talent as well, of course. Over the years, the German crowds could cheer on local heroes such as Roland Diepold, Didi Lacher, Bernd Echenbach, Pit Beirer, Marco Dorsch, and Max Nagl. The local interest received a major boost with the arrival in the scene of a personage who may very well prove to be one of Germany’s greatest sportsmen of all times and disciplines, Ken Roczen. This phenomenal youngster was just two bricks and a tickey tall when he made this reporter’s eyes bulge with a sensational performance at an event at Aichwald, and it was abundantly clear that here was a new star that Germany could and would cheer for.
KEN ROCZEN – SUPERSTAR AT SIXTEEN
Fortunately for the German fans, they have a federation and backers that organize events that make cheering all the easier. The already strong German motocross racing scene received a massive shot in the arm when the ADAC, the German Automobile and Motorcyclist association, announced that it would back and organize the ADAC MX Masters series as from 2005. The ADAC itself has a rich history in matters motoring and also in motorsport. The organization was founded as a motorcyclists’ association way back in 1903 and grew out to be the largest such organization in Europe and the third largest in the world. The organization is involved in all kinds of racing activities, from the German Rally to the GT1 series, motorcycle road racing, the German winter Supercross series, and even boat racing.
With more than 16 million members, the ADAC is certainly no street corner organization, and when an organization of this stature puts its weight behind a racing series that is already popular and well-recognized, chances are that something really special would come out of the mix. And so it proved to be. Since its inception, the ADAC MX Masters series has gone from strength to strength. The series caters for 3 racing classes, to whit the ADAC MX Masters, which is an open class for the elite riders, the ADAC Youngster Cup for 14 – 21 year olds on 125cc two strokes or 250cc fourstroke machines, and the hotly contested and popular ADAC Junior cup, for 85cc mounted riders between 10-15 years. The series is wildly popular, as is evidenced by the fact that it attracts over 600 rider entries and more than 300 000 spectators per year.
THE ADAC MX MASTERS SERIES IS WILDLY POPULAR WITH SPECTATORS AND RIDERS ALIKE
The reasons for the popularity of the series are not hard to find. The German races are always organized to a T, the tracks are attractive, the racing is red-hot, the vibe is electric, and there is always that something special about German events, a buzz that is hard to describe but which clearly indicates that people want to be there. There are always additional attractions, such as the ubiquitous beer tent that promotes great social interaction with top class bands strutting their stuff. Make no mistake, once you have attended an ADAC MX Masters event, chances are that you will be hooked.
The riders are also well catered for. The organization is strict but fair, and riders know what to expect from the series. In these days of rising costs and tight budgets, it is nice to know that the ADAC makes a total prize fund of some 215 000 Euros available across the classes. Not only that, but the competitive nature of the series means that riders immediately have an idea of where they slot into the hierarchy. The fact that the three classes ride on the same track in the same weekend means that the junior riders can also gauge their development vis a vis the speed of the international heavyweights, and the top teams get a perfect opportunity of seeing rising talent in action.
In view of all of this, it is not surprising that an endless list of top riders have carved their names in the ADAC MX Masters history books. A trawl through the archives of the series will bring this into sharp focus. Names like Nagl, Roczen, Desalle, Leok, Strijbos, De Dycker, Herlings and many more fairly leap out at you. These riders have earned their spurs partly in the German series. A quick glance at the 2010 85cc world championship results quickly establishes the fact that all three the riders on the podium have a strong link to the ADAC series, and thus the future looks secure.
NAGL, ROCZEN, DESALLE, RAMON – BIG NAMES ASSEMBLED FOR THE GERMAN SERIES
The ADAC also does a sterling job of marketing its series. Races are advertised locally and nationally, fans can follow live online race timing, and the series website is a treasure trove of information. The webTV section of the series website provides up to date coverage of races and news, and the series itself as well as the teams and riders involved derive maximum exposure through the efforts of the organization, which in turn helps to sell the idea to sponsors.
The racing industry is going through hard times. Expansion is being thwarted and there are economic – and other assaults form all fronts. In times like these, the industry must be grateful for- and cherish any support that it can get. Racing fans in Germany and beyond can be extremely grateful tat an organization such as the ADAC has thrown its considerable weight behind the MX masters series. The motocross world is all the richer for it. We salute them for their efforts, and congratulate them for their successes. Long may it continue.