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Motorcycle News, Editorials, Product Reviews and Bike Reviews

350s for Supercross?

Beginning with a meeting in Europe several weeks ago that included FIM representatives as well as Steve Whitelock, AMA Manager of Supercross and Motocross, the idea of restricting the premier supercross/motocross classes to 350cc (currently 450cc) has been floated. Why?

According to an interview given to Cycle News last week, Whitelock says the problem (in Supercross, at least) is that “the riders can’t handle the 450s”, with the exception of James Stewart and (presumably) other star riders. Whitelock says it is killing competition, because the few riders who can handle the brutish power of the 450 run away from everyone else on a supercross track.

It seems to me that James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed ran away from everyone else on two-strokes a few years ago, and that has not really changed in the four-stroke era. I do not see the logic in Whitelock’s argument.

This is not to say that 450s are not overkill on a supercross track for most riders. They are. The top 250F riders’ lap times compare favorably with 450F riders (leaving aside the three superstars mentioned above). This is something like the 500cc two-stroke era where 250cc two-strokes began to run the same (or faster) lap times outdoors, and the AMA killed the class as essentially irrellevant.

I have also heard it said that the huge torque put out by the 450s damages supercross tracks too quickly, particularly the whoop sections. If this is the real reason behind recommending an engine capacity reduction, Whitelock should come out and say it. At the same time, I am not convinced that 350cc four-strokes will chew up supercross tracks any less than 450s.

In my mind, the biggest problem with the motorcycles competing at supercross events is noise. As a long-time supercross fan, the noise level of the current four-strokes in a stadium (enclosed or not) can be annoying, and distracting. In this regard, the two-stroke supercross era was more enjoyable for fans. Perhaps the AMA should focus on solving this problem first before it tries to force manufacturers to build new 350s. Maybe quiet 450s would make roughly the same power as a 350.

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