You too, can be a VIP.
You too, can be a VIP.
Five-hundred dollars, plus travel expenses, was the cost of supercross insiderism for four lucky fans at the St. Louis supercross last weekend. But was it worth it? You’ll have to read on and decide for yourself.
Although the BTO VIP Fan Experience is open to anyone willing to shell out the cash (assuming there is still a spot available), St. Louis’s VIPs, Jason, Brian, Rob and Eric, were certainly not casual fans. Rob, who hails from Joplin, Mo had a 4+ hour drive just to get to St. Louis. Jason and Brian came from Tulsa, and Eric flew in all the way from San Antonio. As far as the level of fanhood goes, the BTO experience could be likened to moving up from the “B” class to the pros. For one shining day, you can be transformed from an excited fan-in-the-stands to a more-knowledgeable “insider” with an all-access pass to the parts of the pits and stadium you’ve never seen before.
The day starts around 10:00 a.m. J.T. met the guys at the outside entrance to the pits — you know, the one all the pros walk in — to give the guys their credentials.
It cannot be overstated how much cooler a supercross is when you have team credentials. A credential is a magical portal that can take you places you’ve only dreamed of. Want to go to the pits before the public is let in or after they are forced out? No problem. Want to roam the tunnels under the Edward Jones Dome and take the elevator to the press box to avoid crowds? We can do that. Ever been to the back 40 (Google it) where the privateers pit with naught but their bike and a toolbox? You have now. The track withstanding, you can literally go any place, at any time.
After the credentials are distributed it’s time for the truck tour. The VIPs are first taken to the rider lounge where they can use the lockers for themselves throughout the day, which comes in handy if you bring a camera. (As you can tell from the pictures, this reporter didn’t…) As we moved from the lounge to the back of the truck, none other than Forrest Butler was introduced; and we all saw that Georgia Albertson is as radiant in person as she looks on TV.
The work-area of the truck was a bit underwhelming, but for a good reason. We expected to see motors being built or suspension torn-apart, but instead we were greeted with crockpots and burger buns. KTM now handles the BTO team’s suspension and motors, so areas that were once buzzing with mechanics, are now storage shelves for Bubba Burger. There were some suspension components in one cabinet and parts here and there, but engines and suspension are swapped-out whole and exchanged with the factory team rather than stripped and fixed in the truck.
I’ll take the fixins’ for pulled-pork over engine-work any day.
The time in between the truck tour and track-walk was a good time for Q&A. J.T. was pretty happy to answer any questions, and it was refreshing to see that the J.T. we know from the PulpMX show, is the same guy in person. The same goes for the other media guys we met during the day. If you think that Matthes, Weege and J.T. might change or interact differently face-to-face than on a podcast, you would be wrong. They bicker, bench-race, make predictions and bemoan the lack of respect for contracts on race day, the same way they do on Monday.
Before track walk, J.T. handed out some shirts that are exactly like the ones the team wears. The VIPs have to give them back at the end of the day, or when they decide to start having some beer. I won’t say which guy it was, but one member of the group promptly returned his shirt after track walk. He wasn’t “going to let KTM ruin his life” that day. Hey, the guy came to have a good time…
The vote among the VIPs was unanimous that track walk was the best part of the day. I’d love to tell first-hand that I agree, but for some reason my media pass wasn’t good enough without a photographer’s vest. It must’ve been great because Jason and Brian from Tulsa told me they would have paid the money just for that.
“When you’re in the stands, the racers just make it look so easy,” said Jason. “Every thing is so much bigger than it looks on TV. We ride, but we wouldn’t even think of doing this stuff.”
From the track, it’s on to the mountain-top view known as the press box. To get there, you have to walk 1/5 of a mile or so through the bowels of the stadium until you find the same elevators Ricky Carmichael and Jeff Emig use. Maybe I am making too much of this, but knowing you can get to the same places as your racing heroes is cool, which is what the whole VIP experience is all about.
Does this make you want to shout “Reeeeeecolaaaaah?”
The press box is populated with journalists, some team personel, racer-entourage members and plenty of people who just make you go “huh?”. It’s pretty quiet and generally all-business up there during practice, and the view sucks after about 5 minutes unless your name is Hawkeye and you shoot arrows at aliens and hang out with the Hulk from time to time. The press-box seating is nice for keeping track of all the action at once, but it gives you no perspective for the size of the obstacles. The pressbox is the seating provided by the fan experience and some may say this could be the one “downer” of the BTO experience. I was informed though that St Louis is the one round on the series where the press box is way, way, way too high and “they’re not all like this weekend”. That’s the consensus anyways. No worries however, as the guys spent the night show roaming around to different open seats anyway.
The VIPs are free to roam as they please and during the night show one can see the non-glamourous side of Supercross. The pits are an erie place while the racing is going on. The hospitality areas and fans are gone, the lights are turned down low and most of the illumination is coming from the trucks. There are no fans, no music and no atmosphere of excitement. You might see a rider and team huddled around a bike discussing setup and the occasional man-friend, but it feels like an episode of The Walking Dead. Creepy. When the pit party ends, it really ends. However, it is nice to be able to grab a free soda and snack from the truck at will.
After the crowds are gone, this is what every pit looks like.
Ultimately, the VIPs got what they were looking for: a chance to be a part of the action for a change. They now don’t have to wonder what it would be like to be on a team. Two of them are planning on doing it again during the outdoors. They get to see what everyone in the stands can only speculate about. They also get to oggle at the BTO spokeswomen from close range. And there was some hardcore ogling going on for several minutes by some unnamed VIPs and their unnamed guide. For $500 you can oggle too. Maybe that should be the new selling point…
For more information on the BTO Sports VIP Fan Experience, visit http://btosportsracing.com/vip/