The first ever motorcycle race at the Circuit of the Americas will be the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Race 1 of the 2013 season. So 24 of the fastest teenagers from across the globe have the honour of christening the new 5.515 kilometre circuit, just outside Austin, Texas with motorcycle race action on Saturday April 20th.
One of those Rookies will be the first winner at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas and that talented individual will have the opportunity to turn that into a double with Race 2 on Sunday. Doubles are a rarity in Rookies Cup racing though as the class is famous for its incredibly close racing and unpredictable results.
Unpredictable is the key word but if there is any favourite going into the first of the 14 race season it should be Karel Hanika from the Czech Republic who turns 17 on Sunday April 14th, the weekend before the GP. Not only did the long-hared blond finish 3rd in last year's Cup table with 3 wins but he was the fastest at both preseason tests this year.
Those tests were the first opportunity the Rookies had to ride the new KTM RC 250 R 4-stroke Moto3 machine, the almost twin brother to the factory KTM that ex Rookie Luis Salom used to win the opening Moto3 GP of the season in Qatar for the Red Bull KTM Ajo Motorsport team, the reigning World Champions.
It is the likes of Salom, his team mate Arthur Sissis and host of other ex Rookies who are now battling for glory in the Moto3 and Moto2 classes that are the lead for this year's Rookies.
Not just Hanika, but 17-year-old Dutchman Scott Deroue, 2nd in last year's Cup, plus 15-year-old Spaniard Marcos Ramirez and 17-year-old Austrian Lukas Trautmann who tied for 5th on points last year; they are just a few of those who could win in the US. Then there are the newcomers like Italians Manuel Pagliani, 16 and Enea Bastianini, 15, they were 4th and 5th quickest in the 2nd Jerez Test.
The Italians may be newcomers to the Rookies Cup but they have exactly the same amount of track time as the others on the Moto3 spec KTMs after the 4 days of testing. They also have the same amount of COTA track time; zero.
Those hoping to see local heroes on the podium in Texas will be stretching the meaning of local to include Californians Joe Roberts and Anthony Alonso. 15-year-old Joe Roberts is already a Rookies Cup race winner having taken victory at Brno in the Czech Republic in 2011, he was 2nd there last year. Joe was 10th fastest at the 2nd Jerez test.
Alonso, the 14 year old from Fremont makes his Rookies Cup debut here. He was 18th in the 2nd preseason test but is learning fast and was the 2012 WERA West Moto3 Champion. The new track and the new bikes are a great leveller and anyway the Rookies have a great habit of burning up the form book at the first corner.