Baseball, Basketball and Football (not Soccer!) – they are all Sports watched by millions in one certain country and are so massive it's difficult for outsiders to understand. And strangely, add Supercross to that list…
This almost uniquely American phenomena of indoor motocross has continued to grow in popularity since its inception in the 1970's and even with the US economy flat at best, it saw an incredible 830,000 paying spectators last year. Big brands such as Monster Energy and Toyota make big investments into the series and the top riders earn far more than their World MX counterparts, with some avoiding the 'great outdoors' completely.
The action is fast and frantic whilst the music, lasers, stuntshows, dancing girls and entertainment mean that the sport has extended its appeal to families and non-motorcyclists. Each event is held within a major city inside a professional football or baseball stadium.
With an average attendance of about 50,000 people, or even 70,000+ at certain locations, Supercross' major fan base also consists of one million viewers watching from home.
The very nature of the hard-hitting, precise tracks with whoops, berms, double and even triple jumps make bike set-up all important and a unequalled venue for suspension R&D. Öhlins was involved in this massive market very early in the 1970's through fellow Swedish off-road company Husqvarna.
Five time World MX Champ Roger De Coster was another customer of Ohlins as were the factory Yamaha squad, important both in traditional motocross and as the sport became big 'indoors'.
Previously in Performance we have mentioned Thorleif Hansen and his US escapades – he was also racing and testing there for Öhlins from 1974 onwards. His son Terje followed his footsteps as an Öhlins service technician and has spent considerable time in the States, first in the equally massive ATV market then through MX.
Terje enjoys working with the US teams and understands the importance of the American market, "I used to travel the World with the MX series but since 2002 I've been mostly involved with the US; it's been a really exciting time. At times I worked with Planet Honda in SX, the Cannondale project, Gas Gas and ATV R+D. It's been so varied with snowmobile racing, rallying in the Dakar and so on. But I always come back to the States, it such a massive market, so important for bike manufacturers and companies such as ourselves.
For sure, America is the MX capital of the World, especially in Southern California. All the kids in Europe and Australia watch US Supercross on cable, read US magazines and know all the riders, so actually its global, even though it only really happens in North America."
He was also instrumental in getting Öhlins USA heavily involved in the high profile Moto Concepts Racing (MCR) squad running MX star, Mike Alessi.
MCR was created in 2008 by childhood motorcycle racing enthusiast Mike Genova. The privateer team were looking to make the next step up in the ultra competitive world of US Supercross and with their immaculately prepped Honda and Suzuki machinery, top riders and Öhlins support they are certainly on their way. Alessi is Suzuki-mounted, while Jake Canada and Gavin Faith will be on Hondas.
Terje explains, "Towards the end of last year we approached some top teams and gave them extensive tests of all our products both outdoor and in Supercross. The Moto Concepts team took it very seriously and also tested another brand for maximum comparative testing. I'm happy to say they chose us and we've had a very good, professional relationship with them ever since."
Director of Racing Tony Alessi added, "The front and rear suspension get great traction and we've all been very impressed by their 'state of the art technology'. The entire team is extremely grateful to have such an impeccable product and company on board for 2013. With the Motocross season quickly approaching the superior help and support from Öhlins has boosted confidence in everyone to have high hopes for the future. "Terje continues, "Competition is tougher than ever in SX this season and there has been both ups and downs for the team. There's also been a bit of bad luck involved for the riders but overall they've shown great speed and we are pleased. Now we also look forward to the outdoor season for which we have already started testing.
"We feel we are 'back' again and teams and riders have noticed that Öhlins is back on the scene and are serious. We are putting a lot of resources into this to give the teams and riders working with us success"
If you've never seen Supercross just go on You Tube to check out some new and classic action!