In 2017, Johann Zarco (Esponsorama Racing) was the first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup rider to make the leap to MotoGP ™. The Frenchman, who 10 years ago won the first edition of the young talents competition (2007), had just won two Moto2 ™ world titles. In the beginning, number '5' did his talking on the track, achieving three podiums in his rookie year to finish 6th overall and as the best independent rider. He followed this up in 2018 with three more rostrum finishes for Tech 3 M1 before making the jump to KTM, where he continued to shine.
After a somewhat turbulent year, the Frenchman has found a new home at Esponsorama Racing, as he claimed a historic pole position and subsequent podium in Brno. Victory still eludes him, despite having experienced it in the past with Yamaha . After starting to make the most of his Desmosedici GP19, he is dreaming big again, with one eye on Andrea Dovisioso’s soon to be vacant seat in the factory Ducati team.
KTM: The long road from Red Bull Rookies to MotoGP™
The second Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup rider to join the elite of the premier class was Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), who finished 2nd behind Jorge Martín (Red Bull KTM Ajo) in 2014. Like Zarco, the Mallorcan has not yet had the privilege of winning in the premier class, although his last performance in Styria strongly suggests that it is a matter of when rather than if. The 2017 Moto3™ World Champion finished 12th last year in his MotoGP™ rookie campaign.
It was far from a disastrous result for the rider who wears '36', particularly when we take into account that he missed track dates in Austria and Great Britain due to an accident in the Brno post-GP test which caused a pulmonary contusion.
After returning to Misano, he continued to improve day by day, race after race. After maintaining Top 10 finishes for the rest of the year, and his excitement about the GSX-RR was palpable in pre-season. So far this season he has seen consistent improvements, reaching his first podium at the myWorld Motorrad GP in Austria before seeing victory and a podium finish slip away from him due to a red flag with 12 laps remaining in Styria.
Another premier class racer who ranks among the alumni of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup is Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech3), MotoGP™’s newest race winner.
However, the Portuguese rider's journey has been as straightforward, as his team were new to working with the RC16 and he also missed three races due to a shoulder injury.
The Pragal rider, who will join the KTM factory team in 2021, is a product of the Red Bull-KTM partnership, which has been making its mark in all categories of the World Championship.
Who is Brad Binder?
The same could be said of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), another rider who forged his reputation in the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. Like Oliveira, the South African -5th in the Road to MotoGP ™ program competition in 2010- has been part of the Red Bull KTM family since his time in Moto3 ™. A partnership which is already reaping rewards at the top level. Number '33' was even crowned world champion of the light category in 2016 and, after a competitive stint at Moto2 ™, his start could not have gone any better in the premier class, leaving his mark in the early rounds, earning his first victory at Brno in just his third race, where he has found himself in elite company as a rookie to win a MotoGP ™ race alongside the likes of Dani Pedrosa, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Márquez.
MotoGP ™ World Championship has the privilege of currently having four riders who have taken the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup to the highest level.
The question now is who will be next on the list? Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racing Team) and Jorge Martín (Red Bull KTM Ajo) are just some of the candidates.
Don't miss a review of the current riders in all categories who have fought their way through the competition in the Road to MotoGP ™ program!
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