Announcer Jeff Perrett has been part of the British Arenacross Championship presented by Fix Auto UK since 2014. He’s a former pro-racer himself, so ahead of the new season we sat down with the microphone master to get his thoughts on the mouthwatering championship battle that lies ahead!
AX: Jeff, you’ve been calling Arenacross series since its inception, how excited are you for the 2024?
Jeff: Yes I have, and it doesn’t seem that long ago! Time flies when you’re having fun right? I’ve loved being part of the AX team from the very start, it’s a privilege to be out there calling it all these years and I’m thankful to Matt Bates and the team for the opportunity.
I remember the first one at the O2 and thinking it was just another commentating gig, until just before the start of the show when I looked out and saw most of the lower seating full up – it was the only time I got nervous! Just a few months before I’d been to see Pearl Jam play a gig there, then here I was about to walk out under the same spotlight with all eyes and ears on me; it was a bit surreal. I remember taking a deep breath and telling myself ‘just get through your first few sentences’; I embraced and enjoyed the experience and have ever since.
I’m genuinely excited for the 2024 series for many reasons. It’s been a tough few weeks with a family member in hospital over Christmas and the depressing weather, so I’m really looking forward to getting the 10th year of Arenacross kick started into life at Manchester, that coupled with the fact that I thought last year’s series was the best so far.
AX: With the return from Covid last year and the new British-based line-up, did the racing and the general atmosphere stand out as being something unique for the AX Tour?
Jeff: Absolutely! Matt and I had a conversation about making it a British-only series several years before, so I’m pleased he did. The buzz in the pits was better and I think that was because everyone knows each other. That’s no disrespect to any overseas riders that have raced the series, but when they do they understandably tend to stay in their own circle. Also to have predominantly British riders only I think will get the more hardcore British motocross fan and industry more involved because there’s more of a connection. Joe public wouldn’t know Greg Aranda from Tommy Searle for example, so I don’t think getting bigger names in really makes that much difference. They just want to be entertained with a good show, close racing and by having the top British riders all racing closely on the same level makes for better racing, I think. Last year saw some of the closest and most exciting racing we’ve had from front of the pack to the back because we didn’t have some international indoor specialist romping away with it out front.
As a fan of the sport, which I am first and foremost, I think Arenacross is really important in trying to improve British motocross and helps get that back on track somewhat. There’s a new, fresh audience coming out to Arenacross and seeing dirt bike racing for the first time; it’s a starting point for them to take up the sport if they’re influenced by what they see and to go to their local motocross dealer or track.
You can’t jump straight into AX. American motocross boomed in the 1970s and a major part of that was the introduction of Supercross in 1972. Now Arenacross is an ACU sanctioned championship I’d love to see Matt, the ACU and the two British ACU motocross championships work out a long-term plan to promote the sport as a combined force, a bit like what they’re now doing with SuperMotocross in America.
I think that would also help attract our best young talent to race Arenacross. I’d love to see a combined points system somehow where we have a ‘Grand National’ champion or call it ‘Champion of Champions’ and the rider with the most points across all ACU championships gets to run a blue plate with a gold number like they used to do in America… I think that would be cool.
Let’s make stars of the riders we’ve got here at home and have a better planned structure to develop youth talent. With more indoor racing these days and the new World Supercross series I know if I had a kid racing, I’d be focusing on Arenacross and indoor racing as a career path and even if they didn’t make the grade in that it would still improve their skill set for motocross.
Let’s be brutally honest here, you’re more likely to get better exposure for existing sponsors and pick up some more by racing Arenacross due to the footfall of people coming out to watch. As much as I love motocross and it will always be the pure form for me, indoor racing packages our sport better to the general public and the corporate world. Riders, bikes and everyone stay clean and in the warm, it’s easier to follow and understand what’s going on in front of you. It’s also easier to film and livestream.
AX: What’s exciting you most about 2024? Tommy vs Conrad take two? Jack Brunell on a Stark? Harri Kullas in the mix? Justin Bogle, or even the return of Ashley Greedy?
Jeff: Everything you just mentioned!
Honestly, there’s not one thing in particular. As my co-commentator Matt Crowhurst and I often say, ‘it’s Arenacross and anything can and usually does happen’. It’s the nature of the beast and with all that talent out there on a tight track and amped by the atmosphere something has got to give.
AX: You get involved on the mic with the crowd and also with the Freestyle crew – how much has the Freestyle team raised its game over the years, and what’s your favourite FMX trick?
Jeff: That side of the sport has evolved so much since Carey Hart’s backflip and our guys smash it every show. As much as FMX has evolved, my favourite trick is still ‘The Whip’ but that’s from my appreciation and love of motocross and being an old duffer who used to like doing them.
I have huge respect for those guys, especially when they do the ‘train’ runs. There’s no room for error there at all. If one of them gets it wrong, it’s not going to end well. F**k that for a game of soldiers! They’re braver men than I’ll ever be.
AX: Do you think the Stark team coming in will see a whole wave of electric bikes taking over the series eventually?
Jeff: In a word, yes… and I know that Matt (Bates) sees it the same. Like it or loathe it, electric will open opportunities to race in city centres, country shows and so on. Although I don’t want to see electric bikes in traditional motocross races as such, but to be fair I think that transition will take more time that people think.
I’d be okay with an all-electric Arenacross style of racing though. Short tracks, easy for the public to follow and understand, I think that will help promote dirt bike riding in general. When motocross goes all electric, I’ll be stepping out of the game I reckon. I’m knocking on now and I know I’d miss the buzz of the smells and sounds that evoke some of the best memories of my life.
AX: Finally, any predictions for the new season? Manchester winner, other winners, and overall Champion maybe?
Jeff: I had some good banter with Tommy last year because I never chose him for a win when I was asked several times throughout the championship. He pulled me up on it most times and of course went on to win. So he can thank my reverse psychology mentoring for that!
As the co-host of the championship, I’m going to go ‘all Ricky Carmichael’ on this and not make a prediction and sit on the fence.
Having said that I would love to see Jack Brunell win, not because he’s on the Stark but for him. He’s worked hard at it and dedicated his racing career to Arenacross and Supercross and his dad was and still is a huge influence and inspiration to him. I know how much it would mean to him, and I’d love to see that happen.
Whatever happens I’m sure it will be another awesome series. I wish all the racers across all the classes the very best of luck and to put on a great show for the public, but most of all to have fun and enjoy the experience. That’s why we do what we do and people should never lose sight of that.
AX: Many thanks Jeff we hope you have a great tour and will see you out there!
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