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By Peter Clifford

Racing Together: Youth Club

Peter Clifford delves into youth development and the paths to racing glory

Tags MotoGP, 2018
Following the release of Dorna Sports’ Racing Together book dedicated to the history of the MotoGP™ World Championship, is running some extra features contributed by some of the paddock top journalists this week. For more, check out Racing Together, which is available at Evro Publishing.

Being a kid is all about going to school and sitting behind a desk for five days each week and homework when you want to be having fun. It is about TV and video games, being told by your parents that you have to tidy your room and to get your elbows off the table when you are eating.

Being a kid is about wanting to be a MotoGP star.

Being a kid is about chasing your dream and if you are very fortunate and very talented, taking some incredible steps towards MotoGP through series like the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, Asia Talent Cup, the FIM CEV Repsol Championships or any of the other paths that lead to the World Championship.

From the Asia Talent Cup to MotoGP™

Being a kid is about rubbing elbows with another teen at well over 200kph, in the middle of a pack of ten Grand Prix spec motorcycles with all the live action broadcast worldwide then viewed and replayed on computers and mobile phones.

Being a kid has never been more exciting and you still get time between races to go to school, hang out with friends, learn a foreign language or two... and don’t forget to train. Train because racing is hard work, the other kids are training and if you want to win you have to push everything.

The intensity of the competition belies their age, when I have been commentating on a Rookies Cup race I am frequently shocked to go down to the podium for the post race interviews where, with their helmets off, I am reminded just how young these kids are, they might just be 13 or 14.

The ten years of Rookies Cup has been a blast and the greatest thing about working with the young riders is their wonderfully refreshing enthusiasm. We all love racing but those of us who have been involved for a few decades sometimes need reminding just how lucky we are, how much fun it all should be, that’s why we got involved after all.

That is not to say that these kids are newcomers to racing, some have already been riding for a decade and competing for much of that. Some are far less experienced though and the huge differences between the riders is another fascinating aspect.

Many are from racing families, a very few are driven by a father who hopes their offspring can achieve what he did not, but apart from those rare unfortunates, those who have been brought up in a motorcycle household obviously have an advantage. There are plenty though whose parents know nothing about racing and some remain totally bewildered as to why their child should be so excited by it.

Series like the Rookies Cup and the Asia Talent Cup take riders from incredibly diverse backgrounds and then give them equal opportunity, the same machinery, the same support. That puts the focus as much as possible on talent and hard work. All the tools and support are there, it is up to the young riders to make use of them.

One of the big successes of Rookies Cup in my mind has been giving the chance to talented non road race specialists. We saw Jake Gagne come from motocross and became Rookies Cup champions in 2010. The Californian won the AMA Pro Daytona Sportbike Championship in 2014 and MotoAmerica Superstock 1000 Championship in 2015. The rider he bettered in the Rookies Cup by just a single point was Danny Kent, the 2015 Moto3 World Champion.

Arthur Sissis came from Speedway to the Rookies Cup and the Australian won four races on his way to second in the 2011 Cup table. Other riders have come from countries where they have very little chance of a road racing apprenticeship. Lyvann Luchel came from the island of Martinique where he had been successful hillclimbing.

The road from Red Bull Rookies to MotoGP™

Many riders do come from the more obvious path of other road racing championships, from the Moriwaki 250 Junior Cup, Aprilia Superteen Challenge, KTM RC390 Cup, ADAC Cup and most recently the Asia Talent Cup. In Italy and even more so in Spain, there are a plethora of feeder series and thousands of youngsters wanting to be the next Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez.

It is hard to beat the numbers and no matter how wide a net is spread by the Rookies Cup the statistics are in favour of future champions being Italian or Spanish. That makes the World Championship winning success of ex Rookies Johann Zarco from France and Kent from Britain so delightful.

Of course, not all the riders who have come into the Rookies Cup have been successful but all have benefited from it. Many do go on to the Moto3 World Championship as their next step and it is great to follow their success. Others, like Gagne and fellow American JD Beach, who won the Cup in 2008, have great National success. Beach won the MotoAmerica Supersport Championship in 2015 and is also a great dirt tracker. All four 2015 MotoAmerica champions; Gagne, Beach, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts are ex Rookies.

Whether it leads to ultimate racing success or not it is certainly a life changing experience, some remain in the Cup for three years and grow tremendously both internally and externally. They change from kids to young adults and when you see the likes of Bo Bendsneyder become not only a champion but a great mentor for the younger Rookies and as well as an excellent ambassador for our sport that is something special. Especially when he conducts himself better than some of the established stars.

The depth of the young rider’s commitment can be seen in the blogs that they write for the Rookies Cup website, talking about their training but also revelling in their love for racing and the fun they have with friends and family.

Make it or break it in the British Talent Cup

If we are missing anything in the Rookies Cup and the other series that give us our future stars it is still diversity, it would be great to see more girls, more riders from the nations where racing is less established. Series like the Rookies Cup, the Asia Talent Cup, the CEV Repsol Championships cannot bridge every gap, they are so successful and competitive that they are just too much of a jump for riders who don’t have a decent grounding on high performance motorcycles.

Grand Prix racing is never going to be attainable for everyone but these series do make it a realistic dream for thousands and provide us both with fantastic racing and future stars.