Catching Up with…John Maguire from MMRS
By Jeff McConkey
Sometimes we need to step back and remember that this great sport of our is about much more than just the riders on the track. It takes an awful lot of planning, work, and money to get us to the point where a gate can even drop. MMRS has been doing a great job in central Ontario for a number of years now and 2016 looks to be a very interesting year for racing at both the professional and amateur level. With lots of new developments to talk about, we gave the series’ namesake, John Maguire, a call to get caught up on all that is coming to motocross this summer.
Direct Motocross: Hi John, how is it going?
John Maguire: Jean and I are doing well, Jeff, thanks for asking.
What are you up to on this cold February day?
Actually, we are enjoying the winter as we do every year. Jean and I are avid skiers and I don’t mind working and playing outside all winter.
What else keeps you guys busy in the off- season?
Most people, I’m sure, think that Jean and I only work at promoting and organizing motocross events, but actually that’s only our weekend job. I have a very successful business building energy efficient custom homes as well as a distributor of “insulated concrete forms” supplying and training other contractors. So that keeps us busy 5+ days a week all year. Then in April we add in the motocross and ramp up for a 7-day-a-week work program running both businesses.
For the people who don’t know, you are the owner of MMRS (Maguire’s Motocross Racing Series). Can you tell us how you and your wife, Jean, get started in motocross racing?
Without the risk of dating myself, we will just say “back in the day” I road as a teenager and developed my skills to the point of a full factory ride. I moved away from the sport while Jean and I raised our 3 children. When our youngest son reached his teenage years, right out of the blue he ask if he could try riding dirt bikes and that’s all it took for me to jump back into the sport. How Jean and I ended up starting MMRS is an involved story we won’t get into right now, but I will say as we start into our 9th season with MMRS our passion for the sport is being filled with long days hanging out with great people.
Your club has been a centre piece in the Ontario motocross scene for a long time now. What keeps the racers coming back year after year?
I think every successful business has to have a long-term as well as a short-term plan. Our short-term plan was simple – to prepare the dirt on a great track and whoever shows is welcome, and if no one shows up we will ride it ourselves. Having said that, I would have to say first it’s all about the dirt, second would be making people feel welcome when they come through the gate, and third would be the familiarity of dealing with the same smiling faces of our great staff every weekend.
For a rider or family that has never been to an MMRS event, what can they expect in a weekend?
First off, they will be well informed when they navigate around our website before they leave for the track; they will easily find all the information they need, from race orders, what to expect for fees, current track conditions, track tours and directions to the 8 different tracks on the MMRS schedule. They will be greeted with a smiling face and helpful instructions as they pull in on Friday night. They can set up for camping and make their way around the pits to visit other families.
Saturday brings a full day of practicing, learning the track they will be racing on the next day, gaining confidence and reducing the risk of injury. Practice is organized into different ability and age groups. Saturday after practice they can watch as our Tyke riders ride the track – some of them for the first time. They can prepare their bikes for Sunday’s racing program and then lay back and relax in a family and friendly environment. Generators and loud noise will be done at 11 o’clock sharp, our security will take over for the night and we can rest for a full-on, fast-paced Sunday race program with the largest classes and fastest riders in the province.
You have one of the most thoroughly trained staffs in all of motocross. Is that something that is really important to your wife Jean and yourself?
Thanks for that comment, Jeff, especially coming from someone of your riding caliber and experience in the industry. Yes, we do have a well trained staff that is dedicated to doing the job they way it needs to be done to make things easy, efficient and on time or ahead of schedule for the riders and their families. That is a standard we set and is very important to both Jean and myself but the credit goes to our staff implementing and maintaining the standard. If we want our riders to be professional and have fun, we as organizers, need to be professional and have fun at our job – which we do.
I have to ask you about those old water trucks. An MMRS Photo Report isn’t complete without a shot of one of them. What’s the story on those beauties?
They do make for a good photo as they spray their way around the track, especially at sunset or after dark with their lights on. With all the different tracks we race at I had to create something that was strong, all-wheel drive and versatile enough to maneuver up and down the hills and reach all the areas of the tracks to apply an even amount of water in a limited time. So we built them, painted them and put them to use. They also provide a great place to advertise our sport as I move them weekly from track to track on the back of my tractor trailer setup.
From an outsider looking in, one of the things that impresses me the most is your relationships with the local towns and communities. How important are they and how did you create such a bond?
That’s a difficult one as anyone that has been involved in developing a track will tell you. Jean and I spend countless hours, money and time away from our business and personal time developing tracks and defending our members’ right to enjoy the sport they love. The relationships we have with our landowners and their communities is very important. If we don’t have happy landowners and satisfied communities that welcome us, then it’s simple – we don’t ride.
It is and should be a great feeling when you pull into town and the local businesses are smiling because you’re back, then you get to the track and see a well maintained camping and pit area, a track that’s just looks like it needs ripped to pieces and large group of buddies just waiting to do it. It all starts with a dream – then the work starts. If I was going to give any advise to prepare anyone willing to try, well, you’re going to need time, patience, a good support team of professionals, some cash for studies and stuff and, oh ya, some broad shoulders and thick skin because you’re going to get called the bad man by the opposition for sure (Laughs).
Speaking of communities opening their arms to MMRS, over the last few seasons, your ‘MMRS Madoc National’ has become a “can’t miss” event. What can racers and their families look forward to for 2016?
Ya Jeff, the Madoc town looks forward to every single time we come to town for an event and makes everyone feel welcome. Madoc is one of the only communities that have taken the time to check out “those people at the fair grounds” and realized that we are a close group of families, peacefully enjoying the sport we love.
The community shows its appreciation every time our riders visit a local business. Last year, they helped us grow our MMRS Madoc National to be amongst the largest events in the country with riders attending from all over Canada and the USA. Every rider that attended said they were coming back and bringing friends.
So what can you expect this year in regards to our National? We are hoping for our usual continued growth and the riders can expect the same friendly event with the best riders to compete against. We have made a few changes to the structure for those riders that love riding with MMRS but just live too far away to attend all the scheduled events. Our National is now 4-race series, 1 race at Muttco, 2 at Sand De Lee and the payout at Madoc.
OK, onto the big news – MMRS recently made a big announcement for the 2016 season and beyond. Would you like to tell us about it?
Yes Jeff, there have been some changes in the works for about 4 years now and 2016 will see the results of something that has never been attempted in motocross before. Let me explain, it makes no sense for promotors of the events to create events all over the province running on the same weekends. So, Jean and I and some others set out to fix that.
In Ontario, we have the the 400 highway and the city of Toronto clearly dividing the east and the west. Jean and I at MMRS started working with Johnny (Grant) and Kevin (Tyler) at MX 101 Sand De Lee track to co-ordinate the east, 4 years ago. It took until last year to remove the barriers, clean up the race orders and class structures and move forward with a solid program and schedule.
The end of 2015 brought more changes involving western Ontario which removed the barriers we needed removed to co-ordinate the east and the west. So, with Johnny and Kevin at MX 101 working with Jean and I at MMRS working with Ryan (Gauld) at the new AMO and Brett (Lee) and Mark (Perrin) at Walton we have developed a co-ordinated east – west schedule with the riders’ best interest in mind.
Riders will now only need to purchase 1 membership to ride any of the popular amateur events in Ontario. The rider will simply buy either a MMRS membership or an AMO membership and they can ride either the MMRS or the AMO series, including the (Parts Canada) Walton TransCan and the MMRS Madoc National without buying any other membership.
We are also offering a pro series in 2016. This series is a trial series for the pros in Ontario. Our group of promoters is paying 200% to the pros on selected events from June till August. It is our feeling that there isn’t much incentive right now for a rider to move from the “A” division to Pro if there is no regional program.
In the past, some of the pros would come to race while most of them would find somewhere else to go or do for the day. We are trying to develop that level of riding again at a regional level. The trial part is simple: we want to see if the current pro riders are going to show an interest in a regional program. If they do, we will develop a solid program for the next generation so they won’t have to travel long distances to compete. We love to see the pros show up and we are willing, as promoters, to develop a solid support program for them that we can currently afford and build on.
These new changes and improvements not only benefit your own members but they also benefit Ontario motocross in general. What is the long-term goal?
These changes definitely affect all the racers riding motocross in Ontario. Our members now have 8 different tracks on their schedule and the western Ontario riders now can use MMRS’s exclusive tracks. Motocross riders can ride Sand De Lee, go to the Walton TransCan and the MMRS Madoc National series, ride the MMRS provincial championship series, MMRS 6ft. Trophy series, the AMO Madskills series, the Sand De Lee Ironman series, or any combination of series – all with only purchasing an 1 – $85.00 membership. That’s cool! The bonus is all the riders in Ontario should be at the same events each weekend.
A lot of people probably don’t know this, but MMRS club also likes to help a few of their riders get to the next level. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
MMRS does have a race team that consists of some of the best riders to promote the sport of motocross. We talked earlier about communities and their perception or our sport. The people we select is not about one fast rider but a family that we can help achieve their goals and in return they mentor our new members, promote MMRS, help the sport in general and help us give our sponsors value for their dollar. We are very proud of our riders, their attitudes and their individual accomplishments.
At the end of a race weekend, what puts a smile on your face?
Jeff, you saved the easy question for the last one! The handshake from the riders as they pack up after a great weekend. Or seeing the 50cc rider hugging his trophy as he lays sound asleep in the back of the seat heading out the gate followed by a wave of appreciation from the parents.
Well, thank you for your time, John. Who would you like to thank?
First off, thank you Jeff, and everyone at DMX, for taking such an interest in amateur motocross in Ontario and the future of MMRS. Sometimes we think the work that we do at he regional level developing riders and keeping the sport together and healthy gets lost with media only following the top 1 or two National riders, so thanks again from all those at the regional level.
Jean and I personally would like to thank our landowners, along with all the people that help in the development and maintaining of our tracks. They give us the variety in tracks we enjoy. We also like to thank the 100’s of riders that show up to race each weekend. Without good numbers each week it would be next to impossible to put on the program we do and also our staff that work their weekends to provide the organization that puts each event on. Also, a big thanks to our sponsors for their continued support: Orange Motorsports, KTM, Oakley, Wheels Online, Kawasaki, Husqvarna, Honda, Saulin Tires and Little Devil Racing.