Editor’s Note: One of the most challenging aspects of Monster Energy AMA Supercross racing is the “Whoops” sections. The April issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine examined the origin of the “Whoops” element of Supercross racing and revealed some of the challenges.. Here’s an excerpt from that story.
Whoops are long set of evenly spaced hills, usually about three or four feet tall and about 10 to 12 feet apart, but those specs vary. If riders hit them just right, they glide across the peak of each hill at about 35 mph, with what appears to be the greatest of ease. But if they get it wrong and dip a front wheel too low or get the back end kicked out, their eyes will suddenly go wide open because they know what’s about to happen and it isn’t going to be pretty.
Supercross racing legend Jeremy McGrath puts it best when he says of being able to handle whoops, “This is what separates the men from the boys.”
The origins of whoops pre-date motocross racing in America and actually go back to desert racing. The first mention of whoop-de-doos (the formal name of whoops if you will) in Cycle News in the mid-1960s was a description of a section of a desert off-road course. When Supercross track builders first began building tracks on flat stadium floors they wanted to replicate the types of obstacles riders might encounter in a natural off-road environment.
Early whoops usually consisted of telephone poles laid diagonally across the track with dirt placed over the top. That’s what legendary track builder Gary Bailey did to make the early Daytona Supercross tracks among the most difficult of their day. That was what passed for a challenging obstacle in the days of three-inch suspension travel. A rider on a modern motocross machine would barely even notice the whoop-de-doos of the 1970s.
Motorcycle Hall of Famer Jim Weinert remembers those early Daytona Supercross tracks built by Bailey.
“At first I thought the track would be just another race track,” Weinert said. “But quickly it became clear things were different. First there were the whoops, or whoop-de-doos, as they were originally known — short, squat bumps that came in rapid succession. Those things took timing. The bikes we had didn’t have any real suspension travel and going over them, it was like, ‘Boom, boom, boom.’”
Those early, modestly sized whoops began to grow taller and more challenging as rider skill and bike suspension advanced. The artificial whoops that were once exclusively the domain of stadium tracks have even been built on motocross tracks, which were once natural terrain courses.
Seeing what Bailey was doing at Daytona, early Supercross promoter Mike Goodwin wanted taller and more challenging whoops at a track he had built for a Supercross inside the Rose Bowl. Having tackled the section in practice, riders complained that the whoops were too difficult. Legend has it that Goodwin listened for a few minutes and then walked away. A few minutes later he came back on a bike and rode through the whoops. And it should be noted that Goodwin could barely ride. It stopped the complaining.
Whoops are generally made of hard-packed dirt, but maybe even more dreaded than standard whoops are a diabolical obstacle called sand whoops. Sand whoops cause riders to use every last muscle to keep their bike upright and going forward, blasting through the deep sand. Those whoops quickly sap riders of energy. The most infamous of sand whoops in America are located at Spring Creek Motocross Park in Millville, Minn.
The track hosts an AMA Pro Motocross National each year and most riders look at the track with a certain amount of dread. Millville’s sand whoops even have a mascot, the Millville Whoop Monster, a creature that looks like it emerged from a slimy swamp. The Whoop Monster stands in the island in the middle of the twin set of whoops and tries to encourage riders just when they need it the most.