We are now about a week away until racers start arriving in Mettet, Belgium for the worlds largest supermoto race! Whats awfully surprising to me is how little information gets out about this race, at least in the USA, and how few people know how it works.
Unlike almost any Supermoto Race you've been to, there are no real "classes" at Mettet. Unless you are what they consider a "Prestige" rider (more on that in a bit), then you will be lumped in with about 300 other riders all trying to compete at the end of the weekend with the Prestige riders. There are no engine size limits, no rules on modifications, its pretty much bring the fastest supermoto you can build to compete against Joe Supermoto and the top factory teams around the world. Your skill level means nothing to them here, so long as you're not in anyones way and making things dangerous, you could be an average amature racer going up against full on factory supermoto racers. For example, I am not that fast, on the right bike I'm a slow pro, average amature rider. In mettet I was racing against 7 time Dutch champion Marcel Van Drunen (MVD) and Devon Vermeulen (TM Factory rider). When I say I was racing against them I don't mean it in the general sense, like you may tell your non racer friends, we weren't just at the same event together and they were in the faster class. No, I told Marcel good luck before the race and then went back about two or three row to go to my bike because we were gridded up together.
Now onto the different classes at Mettet. Basically there are two (for supermoto bikes). There are technically three different classes for SM bikes at Mettet. Starbiker, Prestige, and "supermoto".
The Starbiker class is for pro riders (factory racers) that compete in other disciplines and dont necessarily race supermoto that often. Thats how you see riders like Troy Bayliss, Matt Rebeau, Ben Bostrom all competing at Mettet. They get invited by the promoters to come race and help draw big crowds. Now don't get me wrong, these guys are obviously extremely fast as well and are a total blast to see ride and hang out with in the pits. In years past they have raced on a shortened version of the track, generally avoiding some of the bigger jumps or longer dirt sections since the majority of these guys are road racers. This year they will be running on the same course as everyone else.
Prestige riders are another pro level class (mostly factory racers) that are again invited by the promoters. To gain entry into this class (and the super awesome Mettet Bibs) you must be one of the top 10 FIM S1 riders, hold the world championship S1 title or the Belgian Championship, be one of the winners from the last 15 years of the Mettet Superbiker (yes there is one sole overall winner) or more realistically for us USA riders win a AMA National Supermoto or FIM North America Supermoto Championship (their pro class of course).
Most of you are probably thinking "great, well there go my chances at ever racing in this event." And normally you'd be correct. But because this is Mettet and it's a supermoto race (meaning its goddamn awesome), youre not out of luck just yet!
Ah the "Supermoto" class. Basically this is the class you enter if you weren't invited by the promoters. You say you came in second place in the Belgian Championship? Great you race the supermoto class. Oh wait you won the UK supermoto series? Yup still racing supermoto class. Came in 47th place at FIM North America's SMEC 3 (Novice) class? Yup you too can race here if you desire. This class has roughly 250 riders in it and they break it down into 5 groups. So you line up and grid with about 50 other riders and all go at the drop of the same flag. Crowded doesn't even begin to describe this. Terrifying doesn't even do this justice. This class is absolutely the worst possible experience you could possibly have racing a supermoto (unless you're in first the whole time) and yet its also a ton of fun. Yes you are terrified you're going to get run over the entire time. But so are the 5 other guys right next to you and oddly enough this is somewhat comforting. Once you get used to the mass chaos of a 50 person grid you actually start to see it as a normal race, I could almost argue it being better. While I knew I wasn't going to be the fastest person there, I did know I was always going to have awesome battles with other riders. That is the one guarantee in the class, tons of passing back and forth and tons of fun.
The weekend is somewhat complex. When you're accepted to race at mettet they send you what group number which will be 1-5 about 3-4 weeks before arriving at the event. Friday will start timed practice which well determine your starting position for the first race of the weekend. I believe the top 4 finishers from those group move onto the semi finals. Everyone else will go to the last chance qualifier. The top two from the LCQ move onto the semi final and everyone else gets sent to a consolation race and that ends their racing career at Mettet for that year. Everyone in the Semi Finals are competing for the top 8 places. These riders get moved on to race in the final of the weekend, what Mettet Superbikers calls their "Superbiker" race.
The whole weekend is full of racing and while the SM class is racing, the Prestige and Starbiker riders have their own races in between. They race much less, and they don't have to worry about getting disqualified from the final Superbiker race. But for those 8 racers that fought up from the SM class this is the big show. They worked and rode their asses off to make it here and they don't quit. All of the guys making it up from the SM class are definitely world class pro's. You wont find anyone like me stumbling their way into the final superbiker race anytime soon. Last year the 8 that moved up were:
Marcel Van Drunen
This is a pretty impressive list of fast european SM riders that had to start and work their way up to the final from the entry level SM class.
Lucky for you I know exactly how to get you (YES YOU!) there, and how to do it so it doesn't break the bank. Stay tuned for next weeks article and Ill explain how to do this trip on a budget of $3,000 (or less).