…Why not watch some Motocross? Brian Higgins, series manager of Maxxis-sponsored British Motocross Championship, dropped Tyres & Accessories a line publishing the series broadcast times. Round five of the championship, held at Desertmartin, Northern Ireland on 24 June 2006, will be shown at 17:30 (UK) today (29 June 2006) on Sky Sports Xtra, with repeats on Sky Sports 3 at 00:00 and 14:30 on Friday 30 June 2006.
Round 2 of the Maxxis British Motocross Championship, held at Canada Heights on 9th April 2006, will now be screened at 19:00 on Sky Sports Extra. To the obvious pleasure of Maxxis’ management, the programme has been brought forward an hour into the key “prime-time” viewing slot.
British racing fans experienced the beginning of a season’s worth of racing with the first round of the 2006 Maxxis British Motocross Championships, held 12 March at Cadders Hill, Lyng. The contest went on as planned despite forecasts of rain with a possibility of snow.
In a move to raise its profile among the tyre buying public and support its UK distribution network, Maxxis has signed a major sponsorship deal with Premiership football club Aston Villa. Maxxis, an acknowledged specialist in turf, cycle, 4×4, quad, light truck and ATV, has teamed up with Aston Villa FC for the remainder of the 2005/2006 season.
Under the terms of the sponsorship deal, Maxxis is an Official Partner of Aston Villa FC with preferential status as supplier to the club. The company has the benefit of perimeter advertising at Villa Park and corporate hospitality facilities, as well as invaluable mainstream TV exposure.
The UK’s All Terrain Vehicle market sprung from almost nowhere at the beginning of the 1990s creating a lot of interest for those tyre manufacturers involved. There had always been a consistent utility ATV market but this sudden swell in popularity was due to the increase in ATV sports in America. This surge was, of course, welcome but it was also short lived when the Brits realised the costs involved in the specialist recreation – there was a recession in the mid 90s after all!
In the years since then the sector has quietly developed into a profitable niche for those involved. This happened for two main reasons; farmers found more uses for ATVs and the machinery manufacturers designed a range of new quad bikes opening up the recreational arena to a sea of ATV enthusiasts. The ATV market has been split into these two categories – utility and recreation – since that time, but now there are two new classifications emerging, street legal and racing ATV tyres.
The Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA) estimates that there were some 5,000 utility ATVs on the UK market 10 years ago. According to the AEA’s assistant economist Graham Stannard, 8,955 units were recorded in 2004, a 0.1 per cent increase on the previous year. But these statistics only refer to those machines sold into the agriculture sector. Other ATV specialists estimate that there are currently around 1,000 new ATV bikes sold per month in the UK, that’s 12,000 utility and recreational models combined per year.
Utility ATVs clearly account for the volume of sales in the segment. But Martin Sanders, general manager of Honda UK Power Equipment, suggests that this may change: “The true ATV market (off road vehicles) has been stable over the past few years with all manufacturers and importers working on introducing new CE marked models.” Many industry experts agree, and a shift in volume sales from utility to race is expected in the coming years.
The sporting scene
There are currently three British championships in the ATV arena; ACU Quad Motocross, Speedway and Enduro. ATV enthusiast and championship organiser, Tony Nash, has been involved in quad racing since the early 90s when the sport first took off. It is a relatively cheap sport to engage in at club level explains Mr Nash adding that the increase in more affordable Chinese machinery has been yet another reason why ATV racing has become so popular. As well as an increase in competitors the sport has also seen a sharp rise in spectators. Public awareness has been helped further by Sky Sport transmitting the British Motocross championship to some 30,000 viewers.
With more high profile ATV championships due to be established and new European categories shortly due to begin the sport looks like it will move from strength to strength, which is good news for the tyre manufacturers involved. Maxxis has been involved in the UK Motocross scene for the last four years and became an official sponsor for the first time this year. “It’s becoming a real spectators sport,” commented Derek McMartin, Maxxis UK, adding that the British Championships are just one part of the story. “There are competitions for men and women and it is also becoming more popular for children. There are so many regional races we can put the Maxxis name out to many parts of the country and this has a good effect on brand awareness. Those involved are much more aware of their tyre choices too, as it is a sport where the tyres really come into play and success is not just down to the power of the vehicle. Most spectators have their own bikes at home, so there’s a direct spin off in terms of tyre sales,” explains Mr McMartin. Maxxis’ list of OE fitments (almost 100% for Yamaha) also commands further loyalty in the replacement market.
According to ATV enthusiast Tony Nash Maxxis is now recognised as the manufacturer in ATV tyres, and claims the manufacturer’s tyres can be seen on the bikes of many competitors across each championship. The reason behind this he says is due to the investment the company has put into world brand awareness. At the Quad Motocross Campionship alone the manufacturer has 400m of Maxxis banners and the start tape, even though it doesn’t have sole sponsorship rights. Maxxis seems to have made the right choices when it comes to investing its money and sponsors twice British champion Justin Reid. The competitor is known and respected as an engineer as well as an ATV racing expert and spectators follow his choice of tyre. Mr Nash also explains that most ATV enthusiasts in the UK subscribe to US quad magazines which are littered with Maxxis advertising and editorial, and what’s good for the Americans…need I say more.
Reports from the annual tyre tests at Daytona Superbike trials have been called off due to a series of tyre failures. Dunlop is working frenetically to overcome the difficulties but leading racers are not blaming Dunlop for the failures but rather the condition of the banked Daytona circuit and the power of the Superbikes. “Tyre wear is not the issue or the reason why for the failures.” Said team manager Matt Mladin. “The problem Dunlop is facing is that they just don’t know why it’s happening. The bottom line is that the speeds and the forces generated on the banking, I don’t think can be replicated in a closed testing environment and that makes it hard. The banking does have what feels like very sharp holes, what would feel like stutter bumps on a motocross bike, but at 270kph, so is this additional load causing the tyre to fracture. That’s the thing at the moment, we just don’t know.”
Michelin has launched the new AC10, a street-legal motocross tyre designed around the casing of its successful 12 range and suitable for everything from racing to green-laning. The AC10 features a non-directional tread to allow the tyres to be turned and increase their usable life, plus a treadwear indicator to ensure that this is done at the optimum time. Available in five sizes: 80/100-21, 100/100-18, 110/100-18, 100/90-19 and 110/90-19, the AC10 can be used with an inner tube or Michelin’s Bib-mousse and is speed rated to 80mph on the road. However, due to the depth of the tread blocks the AC10 is only suitable for use in enduro competitions not subject to FIM regulations.
Bridgestone has launched four new motorcycle tyres. The first is the Battlax BT-090 an ultra-high performance tyre for mid-sized motorcycles. The tyre uses cutting edge technologies to create an ideal sporting on-road and race tyre. The second, the Battlax BT 012SS, is designed to give uncompromising performance for motorcycles over 600cc. Also announced are two new motocross tyres for medium and medium to hard circuits, the M401 (front) and M402 (rear) for medium terrain, and the M601 (front) and M602 (rear) for hard terrain.