How Much Does a Privateer Motocross Racer Make? - Risk Racing

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How Much Does a Privateer Motocross Racer Make?

July 26, 2020

How Much Does a Privateer Motocross Racer Make? - Risk Racing

There is a lot of money in motocross racing, and depending on whether you’re racing on your own or for a factory team, you might not get a large piece of the pie. Privateer racers race on their own because they love it as a hobby or want to work their way up to riding for factory teams. But how much does a privateer motocross racer make?

Privateer motocross racers earn money through private sponsorships that offset expenses and prize winnings, depending on their place in the race. A total purse, or ‘prize’, of $66,000 is divided between the racers, with first-place getting most, while other racers get a percentage of the rest of the purse.

Privateers don’t make a lot of money and depend only on sponsorships and purse winnings. If you start in motocross racing, stick around to find out the details about privateer motocross racing income.

1 The Difference Between Income of Privateer Racers vs. Factory Team Racers
1.1 Team Racers Earn a Monthly Salary
1.2 Privateer Racers Depend on Purses and Sponsorships
1.3 Team Racers Ride a Company Bike for Races
1.4 Privateers Buy and Maintain Their Bikes
2 Purse Money Depends on Where a Racer Places
3 Sponsorships Help Pay for Biking Gear and Accessories
4 Expenses Cut Into a Privateer’s Income
5 Conclusion

The Difference Between Income of Privateer Racers vs. Factory Team Racers

Some racers that ride for factory teams end up leaving because they want to have more control over their careers and negotiate top dollar for sponsorships and endorsement deals. Those who are already at the top of their careers and are famous often get better deals and can make a decent income compared with amateur racers without a team behind them.

Privateers who are just starting in racing depend only on purse winnings as well as private sponsorships. Since they are not famous yet or have not caught the eye of large corporations, they need to have another job to support their hobbies.

Team Racers Earn a Monthly Salary

Riders on a factory team earn a “base compensation” of 12 equal installments of $20,000 per month, plus bonuses and endorsement deals that the factory negotiates for the rider. Factory team riders can earn several million dollars for one season.

Privateer Racers Depend on Purses and Sponsorships

Racers that start in motocross or those doing it as a hobby only, earn money from prize winnings and private sponsorships only. While they might win up to $12,000 per race, the chances are slim that they finish first in every racing event in the season. Top privateer racers can earn between $100,000 to $200,000 per year, but most don’t make near enough to ride exclusively without needing a job to support the hobby.

Team Racers Ride a Company Bike for Races

Factory teams provide their riders with bikes for racing that are maintained and repaired by professional mechanics paid by the team. While riders don’t have access to these bikes outside of race time, the team also provides riders with practice bikes during their off times to keep their skills going. 

Privateers Buy and Maintain Their Bikes

Privateer racers are responsible for buying and maintaining their bikes, which can sometimes be quite expensive. Depending on their riding level, however, they might be able to get free bikes through sponsors. But they still might need to rebuild parts or build custom parts with what they can find should something go wrong on their bikes. 

Buying a bike can be expensive, even when used, which can be a barrier to getting started if you don’t have the funds already. The prize money also might not cover the added expense of bike maintenance and repairs. 

Purse Money Depends on Where a Racer Places

When a racer places near the top consistently, they can make a lot more money per season than if they place near the bottom continuously. If atotal purse is worth $66,000 and the top prize is $12,000, and a racer finishes first in every event for 18 events, the racer could earn $216,000. The prize money alone could pay for bike maintenance and other expenses.

However, if a racer places last consistently through the season, they might get $500 per event, which would only bring that racer $9,000 for the season, which will barely pay for gas, food, and lodging for the entire season.

There are also different bike classifications, such as the 450cc engine and the 250cc engine classes, that racers participate in, which also have different purse, or “prize”, amounts. In the 450cc class, the purse amounts are higher, so if a privateer racer races in that engine class, they can earn more per race than in the 250cc class. 

A Kawasaki 450cc engine bike can earn a racer up to $50,000 in first place for both motocross races: the AMA Nationals and the Supercross competition. If that same racer won second place, he would get a little over $27,000.

Sponsorships Help Pay for Biking Gear and Accessories

Private sponsorships for racers can help pay for racing gear, accessories, and even the bike itself. Companies will pay racers todisplay their logos on bikes during races or provide discounted equipment or bike parts

Companies like Kawasaki, Honda, and other dirt bike manufacturers will sponsor privateer racers. Tire companies likeMaxxis also allow privateers to be part of their team without the team contract that manyfactory team riders must sign.

Depending on how talented a racer is, compensation may range from straight money to a free bike to free safety gear like helmets, boots, and jackets. 

Sometimes, companies can be unreliable when it comes to payment after the race is over. Hence, you need to do your homework if a company contacts you to display their logos before signing a contract. There will be times when a company will back out of the deal due to any loopholes that might be in that contract.

Expenses Cut Into a Privateer’s Income

Your out of pocket expenses can really add up. Even if a racer won first place across the entire season, the expenses they incur for travel, bike repair and maintenance, gas for the bike and transportation vehicle, and lodging, as well as food for the trip. 

You may need an outside job to pay for the expenses that your winnings won’t cover, such as:

  • Gas for your bike and vehicle to transport. Since motocross bikes aren’t street legal, they need to be transported on a trailer or in the back of a pickup truck. You will also need special gas for your dirt bike if it’s a 2 stroke.
  • Food and lodging when you go out of town.Motocross events are held across the country, so if you are going to each event, you will need to figure in costs for hotels or campgrounds and food while you’re away.
  • Racing and membership fees are required for racing.
  • Repair and maintenance of your bike. Since you don’t have a professional mechanic on staff, you need to figure in the cost of maintaining and repairing your motorcycle before, during, and after the race.

While you might be able to come out ahead of the game with your winnings, make sure you have a backup source of income to afford and enjoy your hobby.


Privateer racers earn very little if they don’t have the skills and talent to work their way up the podium. Sponsors don’t want to sponsor you if you consistently place last or near the bottom. But if you’re working your way up and start finishing close to first-place, sponsors will notice you, and you will begin getting lucrative offers and deals. 

Your prize money can range from almost $50,000 down to $450 per event, depending on what you’re riding and where you place. If you have mad skills, then you might be able to make a decent living. Otherwise, you may want to keep your day job.

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