Tony Skillington interview – Parity

We talk to FIM’s Tony Skillington, the CMS Director, today about the changes in the Dutch Masters of Motocross (where they allow 2-strokes to race the 4-strokes), and the possible changes for the world motocross championships in the future, not only for two strokes and 4-strokes, but also the possibility of the electric motocross bikes being eventually involved.

Motocross is in a very brittle state at the moment, with the environmentalists pushing to have motocross tracks closed, and national parks off limits to motorcycles. It’s been something that has been talked about for decades, and with the electric motorcycles becoming more and more advanced, this is also something that might be implemented in the highest level of the sport sooner, rather than later.

MXLarge: There is always the two strokes versus four stroke debate. Is the sport in a good place with four strokes? Old school people like the two strokes, the four strokes are expensive, two strokes are cheaper, and now we hear in 2018, in the Dutch Masters of Motocross they will be having the two strokes against the four strokes. Can you tell me a little bit about this?

Skillington: From what I can understand Geoff, what they are going to do is, for instance in the 250 class, you have the option of racing the 250 4-stroke or the 250 2-strokes in the same race. From that point of view, it gives people an option, to test the latest technology and I am thinking KTM or Husqvarna, where you have the fuel injected 250 2-stroke available. From all reports, from this new generation 250 2-stroke are very impressive and very positive, and I am sure some teams, will be thinking this is an option at National level, without a huge commitment on a 250 4-stroke.

MXlarge: Obviously the Dutch championship (along with the Italian championship) is the premier national championship, so it’s a great place to test the waters, with strong fields.

Skillington: Yes, I would consider one of the top four in Europe at the moment and a good testing ground for the latest generation of 250 fuel injected 2-strokes.

MXlarge: Obviously the EMX is a class with a lot of riders, and there are also 2-strokes involved. Firstly, how important is the EMX for riders when first starting up.

Skillington: I know Geoff, everyone fully understands the costs of making a 250 4-stroke competitive. The amount of money that needs to be spent to make it competitive is hugely expensive and there are many teams who do not have the funds, or the experience to make a 250 4-stroke competitive at the highest levels. While the 250 2-stroke is a simply machine, where as a father, uncle or the riders can actually work on it themselves, and they can come in with an amount of funding, with this 250 2-stroke and get a measure if this is the future for them.

MXlarge: Could there be the situation where the 250 2-stroke, the fuel injected bike, will be too good for the 4-strokes and that could bring in some confusion as to where this situation stands?

Skillington: Right now, we don’t know, but my thought process is with the latest 250 2-strokes (KTM and Husqvarna), and we haven’t seen this bike on the start gate, all I can say is the power delivery is smooth and strong and it would be interesting to see how this bike performances against the 4-strokes.

MXlarge: There is always the argument that we should go back to the 2-strokes, just 2-strokes in every level.

Skillington: To be honest, it’s hard to go back to the future and we are in the generation of the 4-stroke engines. We are also in the age where the factory 4-strokes needs a lot of money spent on it, at the highest level. I think for the average privateer team, it isn’t possible to run a 250 4-stroke factory bike, while the 2-stroke, you have the chance to have the finance to do that.

MXlarge: So, if it works in the Dutch Masters of Motocross, and it’s a success and there isn’t too much advantage from one or the other. Could we see the FIM change the rules and let both bikes race together in the Grand Prix?

Skillington: Ok, let’s look at the options for both of those bikes. As announced last year, it is possible to run the 250 2-stroke against the 250 4-stroke in the EMX class, so again, it’s about waiting to see how these new generation of 2-strokes (KTM and Husqvarna) perform. We don’t know what the other manufactures are working on in Japan. The FIM don’t know, nobody really knows. We keep an open mind and then we make a decision. I would never rule anything out, only something in, and we will be ready willing to be open minded about this.

MXLarge: What about the electric bikes, they seem to be developing quickly?

Skillington: Ok, we have been approached by a company in the USA, Alta Motors, who want to present the bike to us and speaking to our colleges at the AMA, they have also been in discussion with them about the electric bikes. To be honest, I think if we consider it, if there is enough interest, I think we need to implement the bike as a separate series, a little like the Honda 150 series. I don’t want to start creating confusion that somebody can compete on an electric bike in MX2 or MXGP, that is a long way down the road. I think it depends on the interest, and it has to be considered by FIM Europe, but we are a long way off.

MXlarge: It does seem like the future or not?

Skillington: I would agree. If you see the outrage of the internal combustion engine within Europe currently, alternative technology need to be looked at. There is another discipline out there, which is in no man’s land at the moment, is the electric mountain bike. From what we understand the international cycling federation are not interested in this, but this could be another leaf in the book of the FIM to have this machine facilitated.