BLACK & WHITE: GOOD OR BAD? ANALYZING THE FIM’S MAXIMUM-AGE RULE

August 20, 2012
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Adios Tommy.

Started on January 1, 2010, if a rider wanted to race the FIM 250 World Championship, he had to be under the age of 23. No one is really sure why the FIM, under the guidance of Youthstream’s Giuseppe Luongo, would force riders out of the 250 class on their 23rd birthdays, but the rule passed and has been the law of Euro-land for the last three seasons?and is even enforced at the Motocross des Nations. Here is the rule

On the FIM’s part, they say, “The idea behind a maximum age limit in the 250 (MX2) class is quite logical. The 250 (MX2) class is a promotional class that gives young riders a chance to mature and to prepare for the ultimate challenge: participation in the premier class of FIM World Motocross?450 (MX1).”

“To achieve that goal, it is necessary that the best and fastest riders move as soon as possible to the premier class. Staying too long in the 250 (MX2) class makes no sense, as it would block young talents who have made their way to the top via the European EMX2 Championship. Therefore, a 250 (MX2) World Champion will be allowed to defend his title only one time (in the following year).”

All racing organizations have age rules. The AMA’s minimum age to get a Pro license is 16, but there was a time when the AMA changed it to 18 years of age to avoid lawsuits in states that didn’t recognize parental liability release forms. It was changed back to 16 when the courts ruled in favor of parental consent forms. The AMA does not have a maximum age in any class. The FIM does, and where you stand on the age rule depends on which continent you are on. You be the judge.

WHITE                      

FIM RULE: Under FIM rules, a rider is eligible to
race the 250 Grands Prix from the moment he turns 15 years old until the end of the calendar year in which he reaches the age of 23. Thus, a rider who turns 23 after a given GP season starts may ride the 250 class throughout the year. But, he must move to the 450 class the next season. Additionally, a rider who wins the 250 World Championship is allowed to defend it one time (in the year following his victory). After that, he must move out of the class. Which means that if Jeffrey Herlings wins in 2012, he will be thrown out of the 250 class after the 2013 season. Here is the rule:

ENTRY SYSTEM: Unlike the AMA Nationals, the GP circuit is a serious pay-to-play business (the AMA Nationals are also a moneymaking venture, but they aren’t as greedy). GP entries are limited to the 30 riders (give or take a few) who can afford to pay the rather excessive entry fees (six times higher than an AMA entry). If you are accepted (and your check clears), you are guaranteed to be in the GP you entered.

THE MOTIVATION: It is not unusual for the FIM to come up short on the numbers of riders needed to hold a 450 GP. Two weeks ago they only had 19 riders on the gate in Russia. The 23-year-old rule forces riders to automatically move out of the more popular 250 class to help fill the paying ranks of both the 450 class and, theoretically, the lesser-known MX3 class.

SIDE EFFECTS: Being forced to move to a bigger bike can place a rider’s career in jeopardy. Although there are success stories,, there are also 23-year-old riders sitting at home because they couldn’t get a 450 deal. Next year three of the top four rider in the 250 World Championships (Searle, Roelants and Van Horebeek) will have to move to the 450 class.

BLACK                   

FIM RULE: The arbitrary choice of 23 years old doesn’t make much sense, since it allows a rider to spend eight years in what the FIM calls a “promotional class.” In that time, a person could go to both a four-year college and four-year medical school. If you are, in fact, looking at the 250 class as a stepping stone to the premier 450 class, wouldn’t 21 years of age make more sense? At least it would release an unsuccessful rider in time to pursue another career. The idea that the 250 GP class is inferior to the 450 GP class is a specious idea to begin with. Neither class pays more (the GPs don’t pay purse money), and 250 Champions are more likely to get high-paying deals to move to the USA (where they can race the 250 outdoor class for as long as they like). For most young European riders, the 450 class is a dead end. Few, if any, American teams want the stodgy plodders from the 450 class, preferring the young, aggressive and trainable 250 class riders.

THE MOTIVATION: Looking back in history, it would come as a surprise to three-time 125 World Champions Gaston Rahier, Harry Everts and Alessio Chiodi to know that under modern rules they could not have achieved what they did. Additionally, under current FIM rules, Antonio Cairoli would have to give back his 2007 FIM 250 World Championship, because he would not have been eligible to race that class in 2007. The 23-year-old rule needs to be dropped.

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