Anyone who’s stayed in their seats during intermission at a Supercross in the last ten years has seen the KTM Jr. Supercross Challenge event (KJSC for short). With the young riders taking on a full-size Supercross track, the usual reaction is somewhere between, “Aw, that’s cute,” and, “Man, I wish I could have done that at their age.” Christy LaCurelle, the KJSC Coordinator, kindly answered some questions for us on the program’s history, what it’s like to participate, and how to get involved.
How many years has the KJSC been going?
This year will be the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the KJSC Program, which we are very excited about!
What were your initial goals for the program, and has it met your expectations?
The initial goal of the program was to create a safe riding program for kids that would include the whole family, so that people outside of the sport can see what a real family event motocross/supercross racing really is. We hope that this program helps attract new families to our sport as well as keep that spark alive for those that are already involved. Each week, when we leave an event, if there are 15 smiling faces,we’ve met our expectations. Every time I see one of those smiling faces at a track or if I see their name in the race results some time after the event proving to me that they are still at it having a good time and enjoying the ride, that’s when we’ve exceeded our goals.
Who are the sponsors of the KJSC?
KTM Hard Equipment, Thor, Motorex, M2R, Michelin, FMF, Ogio, Scott, and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).
Describe a typical day for the riders.
The fifteen lucky riders arrive at the track at 9:00am on Saturday and sign up with the AMA and then report to their very own factory rig. Once they arrive at the rig they are provided their Thor KTM Hard Equipment gear and they meet with their mechanics to make the necessary adjustments to their bikes. The riders then report for their mandatory riders meeting with the KTM and Clear Channel Staff as well as all of the event sponsors. After the meeting the riders are led out to the stadium where they get to walk the track for the first time! After track walk we have a quick lunch break and then it is time to suit up for first practice. After first practice (and my favorite part of the day) the riders sign autographs in the pits for all of their fans. Then its back to the track for their second practice. After practice they have a short break for dinner and then they are lead out to the stadium for opening ceremonies where they wave excitedly as they are introduced to the thousands of screaming fans. Then it’s back to the truck and time to put on their race face, because the final moto lies ahead. At 8:10pm the KJSC riders head out to the track to race their final moto. When it’s all said and done they report back to the trailer and we get to say our goodbyes and thank them for a wonderful day!
Who get more excited on a typical weekend? The riders, or the parents?
Oh my, I think it is a toss-up. Every once in a while you get the parent that can’t even control themselves and they are bouncing off the walls the entire night, just stoked that Nathan Ramsey just walked by or that they just stepped foot on the stadium floor (which is understandable because I get the same way sometimes) but then you have a lot of kids that are just super pumped to be riding an the same track as their favorite pros so they can be pretty hyped up and fun to hang out with as well.
What are the requirements for participation?
To be eligible for the KJSC the rider must have one year of race experience, above average grades in school, be seven to eight years old on the day of the event and under 52 inches and up to 70 lbs.
How do you apply to be a part of the program?
It’s very simple, you can walk right into any KTM dealer and ask for an application. The applications have a list of all the rules and requirements and then its up to you to turn in a completed application before the deadline.
Are there things you can do to improve your chances of being chosen?
The only thing that helps your chances is to apply to more than one round. There are so many riders that apply each year and since it is a random drawing the only thing that would help is if you applied to more than one round so that your chances of being selected will increase.
Are rider/parent combos selected based on the region where they live? Or do they travel to specific events?
The selection process is entirely random, so it does not matter at all where you live. If you are willing to travel to an event you can apply to whichever events you’d like. You will see a lot of local people at certain venues because more locals apply to certain events so normally there is a higher chance that people from that area will be drawn, but it is still random. Did I mention the drawings are random?
Have some of the KJSC competitors gone on to be successful SX racers?
Of course, and first on the list are the Alessi brothers. Both Mike and Jeff raced the KJSC in 1996 and they both turned pro last year. Also Zach Osborne has just moved up to the Amateur Pro class and he raced the KJSC program back when he was eight years old as well. There are many more riders that should be moving up within the next year or two that have also been a part of the KJSC Program.
For the most part, it looks like you’ve got the program down to a science. Is kid-wrangling the biggest challenge? Do you still have surprises on a typical weekend?
The actual process of coordinating the event definitely becomes routine throughout the season but since you deal with 15 different riders each weekend it is always fun and they are always saying something that catches you off guard. But their behavior is always outstanding because I make them sign an agreement form with me in the beginning to agree to be on their best behavior throughout the day.
Occasionally we see one of the riders bust out a pretty big double. What’s the standard policy? Do you try to curb their enthusiasm on going big?
Jumping the doubles is a pretty big crowd pleaser and the kids like to do it as well, but we always put saftey first. If the rider is capable of jumping the gap we allow it; and you can tell if the rider is sketchy or not.
At the end of the day, what do they take home from the experience?
Not only do they get a bundle of free goodies from the sponsors and a chance to live out their dream of becoming a pro rider at a young age, but, most importantly, they take home a memory that will last a lifetime.
What have you learned from the kids and their parents?
That the moments you spend with your family are the best! Time flies by so quickly, and you need to make the best of it. It takes a lot to get your family together and come out racing each weekend and you have to respect the families that pour their heart and soul in it, week in and week out, to help their child rise to the top and have a darn good time while they’re at it.