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Leader Lights help SuperMotocross fans keep track of the race

Finding the leader in dirt track motorcycle racing can occasionally be difficult for fans once he begins to lap the field. Rooster tails of dust and mud caking the number plates tend to obscure the rider’s identity, but SuperMotocross has a solution.

First tested earlier this year in the second Anaheim race, leader lights were installed on 80 percent of the bikes two weeks ago at zMax Dragway for Round 1 of the SuperMotocross Championship. By Chicagoland and Round 2, 90 percent of the teams had them installed and the series hopes to be close to 100 percent by the season finale next week at the Los Angeles Coliseum - a race in which the leaders are likely to lap more bikes than they have during the first two weeks.

This fully automated system triggers a bright green band of LED lights on the fork of the leader’s bike.

SMX Chicagoland 2023 Jett Lawrence Leader Lights on straight.jpg

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“We’ve gotten feedback from the fans from when we first debuted them in Anaheim,” Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX, told NBC Sports. “A lot of people were asking, ‘what were the green lights,’ and that was during the initial R&D proof of concept.

“People knew what was happening and what was coming - but what we found is they didn’t quite get it. ... Once they saw them on 80 percent of the bikes last week, now people understand to look for those green lights and find them. ‘That’s cool; great. That’s something we needed’, (the fans responded).”

The lights are mounted just underneath the number plate and each manufacturer and team have slightly different configurations of how they affix those plates. Therin lies the challenge at getting to 100 percent before the season is complete.

Leader Lights are intended to enhance the current system, which is the use of two to three pylons dotted about the track that light up when the leader passes them.

SMX Chicagoland 2023 Jo Shimoda Leader Lights.jpg

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Fans were not certain what they were seeing at Anaheim 2 earlier this year when Phil Nicoletti tested the lights. Development continued throughout the season and into Pro Motocross.

Last week at zMax Dragway, Nicoletti was once again the first rider to trigger the lights when he took the lead in his Last Chace Qualifier.

After the race Mike Bonacci, ClubMX team manager for whom Nicoletti rides, commented on seeing those lights at zMax and for the first time earlier this year in Anaheim.

“It was cool to see the lap leader lights on every bike in the first round of SMX,” Bonacci told NBC Sports. “ClubMX as a team worked on testing and developing the system and first tried them at A2 earlier this year. Phil actually led a few laps in the main event and the place went crazy when his lights were on.

“Seeing them come full circle and be on every race bike to enhance the fan experience was very gratifying and we are proud to have played a small part in it with Feld.”

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Austin Forkner out for remainder of 2023
US Team named for 2023 Motocross of Nations
Jeremy Martin renews with ClubMX for three years