Inside line: Matchams return

Inside line: Matchams return

Why Matchams WILL return

By Roy Barton, the man taking racing back there

The lendendary Matchams Park circuit in Hampshire is to make a motocross return, years after many people thought it had been lost forever after complaints from residents. And the man bringing it back is Roy Barton, director of the MCF.

Although many have doubted the circuit would ever be back on the calendar, Roy is keen to explain how the re-birth of the great track is happening. Over to you, Roy…

“MCF expanded into 4x4s and the one of the organisers of 4x4 events is local to Matchams Park and had been in touch with the new land managers there, to look at running a 4x4 endurance day.

“I went down and had a look and it quickly expanded as they have a lot of days they can use the land. We don’t want to over-use it, just get it back on the calendar for bikes and get people’s desire up to race there.

“We don’t want to flood it with events so everyone locally starts moaning. There had been lots of stuff on the land which annoyed the locals on a regular basis and we don’t want to start that again.

David Philippaerts and the late Andrew McFarlane go for it on the legendary Matchams track

“I had a look around the motocross track. It’s been unused for some years, so the fence and bridge has rotted away, but the circuit is still there. All the jumps are still in place but need work to tidy them up.

“The 4x4 organisers have access to machinery and have started to put infrastructure in like air-conditioned Portacabins. The bridge will come down as it’s a lot of maintenance so we’ll be putting a tunnel in for spectators to reach the infield. The track was laid out for GPs and it needs rebuilding. We’re speaking to Justin Barclay about getting him in there.

“We’ll run three events there in 2017, with two purely motocross. At the end of February will be the Matchams Grand national weekend, covering all classes from youth up to adults. On Sunday we’ll have a pro class. We haven’t lined anyone up yet but it’s all positive, and there will be a big prize fund.

“The MCF are also running the new Triple Crown series in the summer, over three rounds. The middle event will be at Matchams in July. Then at the end of the year will be a 4x4 event, including classes for bikes. There will be a three-hours event for 4x4s, two hours quads then three for solos on the enduro track over two days.

If you like riding sand, you'll love riding Matchams!

“The dates are set in stone by the high court so it’s all systems go. The doubters will always be there, though. It’s been said so many times that Matchams is coming back but now we have the right people speaking the right language in the right place. It’s going to happen. There will be no practice days, though. And the 4x4 guys use us all over Europe and are loyal to us, so we will control the MX there.

“We will build on it but at the minute everyone wants to get back and ride at Matchams We want to keep it that way. The plans for 2018 are probably open it to a couple more motocross days. We need people to know we’re not going to blitz the place with bikes. We have lots of clubs so from 2018 they’ll want it. It’s expensive to run there and they know it. But maybe we’ll let one youth and one adult club run there.

“And there’s an Arenacross track which may be used for a Summer evening series a long way down the line."

Barton: The MCF is a grass roots federation

As a former sidecarcross world championship racer, Roy Barton soon moved into organising events like the Under-21 British motocross championship. He joined the ACU for two and a half years as motocross manager, then joined the MCF in 2009 – two years after the federation was set up by events organisers Matt Bates and Craig Elwell.

As ex-GP rider Bates ran the Red Bull Pro Nationals and Arenacross, Barton started building the MCF up as a modern and credible alternative to other federations.

“When I came in for MCF, working on regulations and insurance, there were two just the Whitby and South Somerset clubs. We built on that and now we have 4x4s, motocross, rider coaches and a rally centre in Wales for adventure bike training.

“We are still the regulatory body for the Arenacross but they are Matt’s events. From the MCF we are doing 2600 annual licences 8-10,000 one-event licences too.

“We have good insurance backing behind us, with good underwriters in London who regulate other governing bodies to. It’s a dangerous sport and we need to make sure clubs have the right cover in place. We’ve had it tested a couple of times unfortunately, and have worked with Health and Safety Executive but have a good package .

“We know how hard it is for a club to make money at an event. Our licences are at the top end, price wise, but the clubs are getting the backup. And every licence holder gets personal accident insurance which in 2016 paid out £90,000 in accident claims.

“We’re expanding into enduro and cross-country and four wheels, too. But the grass roots is where we’re at. Although we have done Arenacross and Pro Nationals, our core is club level.

“We have clubs in North of Scotland with 30 competitors, with different needs to a big youth club with 220 riders. We know 2016 has been tough for clubs with a slump in entries. A lot of our riders are in building trades and there’s been a slump there, so we have the same number of riders but we think they are using their bikes less at the minute.

“We’re a club level federation and have no desire to run a professional British championship. We’ve launched the Triple Crown series for 2017 but it’s not aimed at the pro rider. We’re a club-based organisation and our riders want a national series to race at. And so far having just three events is not a bad idea. Riders say they can commit to and get to the end of it – which often doesn’t happen in much longer series."