The second annual Red Bull Straight Rhythm race is set to take place October 10th, 2015, at the Fairplex in Pomona, California. Big-name riders like 2015 450 Supercross & Motocross champion Ryan Dungey, James Stewart, Ken Roczen, Marvin Musquin and others will be competing in the Open Class while Lites Class riders include Malcolm Stewart, Justin Hill, Jessy Nelson and more. A bracket-style contest will determine which rider is fastest in the field, no nonsense, no points, just rhythm and speed.
Equally important to the event is the track itself, a straight run of 2500 feet from start to finish, featuring 75 jumps, 400 feet of whoops, dragon’s back obstacles, speed checks, stadium whoops, and table tops constructed out of 10,000 cubic yards of dirt trucked in for the race.
One of the individuals responsible for transforming those loads of dirt to the Straight Rhythm track is Jason Baker, Owner and Main Designer/Operator of Dream Traxx. Baker is a former racer that has built practice tracks for riders like James Stewart, Tim Ferry, Chad Reed, Ryan Villopoto and Justin Barcia, just to name a few. He’s also responsible for a number of Red Bull X-Fighters tracks, X Games courses and various other international Supercross tracks. We spoke to Baker ahead of this year’s Straight Rhythm to find out more about his take on the event, what goes into designing a track like the one we’ll soon see at the Fairplex and some of the features he’s most excited to see riders tackle on October 10.
So Jason, give us a bit of your background. How did you initially get into the business of building tracks?
I used to race motocross, until 2003, and I had a track at my house that I built and maintained and a lot of the top riders would come practice there. So it was kind of an easy transition for me when I quit racing to start taking care of a lot of the local pro guys in Florida. Through the years I picked up different riders and started to do different events and gained recognition in the motocross industry for track building. I’ve picked up friends and relationships along the way and that’s what led to me working with Red Bull. A good friend of mine, Dane Herron of DHI, we’ve collaborated on several events through the years and he contacted me about the idea of Straight Rhythm a few years ago and I was blown away, I thought it was an awesome concept, and I’m just really honored to be a part of it honestly.
What’s your take on the Straight Rhythm concept from a designer’s perspective? Does it push your creative limits to design a course for an event like this?
Yeah, of course. Anytime you’re doing anything with Red Bull, they are the innovators of one-off action sports events, you kind of have that pressure and you’ve got to come to the table with your best. That’s what Red Bull expects and for me I love that challenge and I love the way Red Bull works. As a designer and builder they give us creative freedom, they don’t limit us, they say ‘we hired you to do this and do it the best and make it awesome.’ I love the concept, I think it truly shows off the rider’s talent of figuring out a track and going as fast as they can. I think it easily titles the winner as truly the fastest rider at that given time. I mean, how much better can it be to have a start and finish and get there as fast as you can?
Are there any takeaways from last year’s inaugural race that influenced this year’s design?
The thing that helped us most the first year was Red Bull’s commitment to research and development. It wasn’t a blind shot. The first year we were able to try different elements, new elements and features you wouldn’t see in a traditional Supercross track. This year we altered some of the distances that are pretty standard in our regular stadium atmosphere, we renegotiated some of them because of the speed some of the riders were carrying. They’re never really slowing down, you throw in a speed check but they’re just going straight and not having to negotiate a corner. So as far as last year, I think about the only thing we took away is that we had a really long rhythm section which we shortened back a little bit.
How much input do riders have in the Straight Rhythm track design?
The good thing is I work with a lot of the top athletes in the sport and manage and take care of their private facilities so I’m constantly interacting with them and even testing stuff at their places. So I have a good idea and of course we talk about what would be cool, some bucket list items you wouldn’t see on a Supercross track, I’ve tried to implement some of those features this year. There’s definitely rider interaction and input from them. Of course it’s our job to take that and do it in a manner that’s fair to everyone while being challenging.
Can you describe the track this year? What are some features you’re proud of?
The first thing out of the gate is the elevated start, which I think is very unique in the way these guys are going to be dropping in from a roughly 16-foot elevated platform down into the track. Straight out of the gate, literally, we’ve got a really unique feature there.
Early on we threw them into a sort of wide-open scenario going through some whoops and jumps and this year we drop them straight into a full-blown technical aspect. We’ve got three back-to-back really steep doubles, almost BMX style, that continue to grow by 10 feet each jump straight into the first speed check. You’re going to have to be on your toes right out of the gate and it’s not going to be a race to the first speed check this year. It’s all about technique.
That goes right into the second section which is one of the main big rhythm sections and I think we’re going to see riders try several different jump combinations. I’m really happy with the technical aspect of that rhythm section for sure and there should be some entertaining racing, seeing what the fastest line is and who can come up with something new and unique through there.
We threw in some dragon’s backs into the design this year which we tested out at [Jeremy] McGrath’s ranch and the guys really liked it so we implemented a couple of those. I guess another big feature to separate this year’s track from last year and even the test is that we took the whoops and made them the second-to-last section, the stadium-style whoops. We actually have a table top rhythm section leading to the finish that riders are going to have to choose to either get on top of for the first set of tables or jump through the first set of tables. Then there’s a break up, and then it’s almost opposite, so if you get on top of the first you’ll have to jump the next ones or vice versa. I think that’s unique, right before the finish line you’ll see another rhythm section with alternate lines and see who choses what to get to the finish the quickest.
It sounds like the entertainment value of the course plays a big part in design.
Absolutely, we all know a photo finish is exciting and keeps the fans on their feet. That’s what people want to see. So if riders get to the last section and everyone is doing the same thing and there’s no break up or no hold-your-breath type scenario I think you lose a bit of the luster of the event. So we are constantly trying to find ways to keep it exciting and keep the riders on their toes. If it takes them until the final rounds of the day to really figure the track out fast, you’re constantly seeing something new. That’s what we want, we don’t want the same run down the track every time, we want them to get faster and faster. That’s what happened last year and we tried to do this year.
Have you gotten any requests for private Straight Rhythm-type tracks?
Absolutely, I see a lot of interest especially around the time of the event. I constantly get asked what it would take to do something like this. I’ve been contacted for dimensions and ideas. I think it’s a growing sport and there’s definitely a growing interest.
Red Bull will be providing a live webcast of this year’s Straight Rhythm race available on Red Bull TV October 10 beginning at 12:30 p.m. PST. For those in the southern California area, general admission tickets will be $30 and VIP tickets are $125. Go to www.redbull.com/straighrhythm for more details.