“Get them while they’re young” — it worked for the cigarette industry, and the maxim holds true for motorcycle racing as well. Creating an effective system to cultivate and train young riders is the single largest reason that today we see Spanish riders dominating Grand Prix racing.
A system built in large part by the Godfather of Roadracing, Kenny Roberts Sr. himself, Spanish riders have enjoyed a federation that supports young riders and paces them throughout their career. The process has been so effective that the Italians have recently set to copying it, with their star pupil being Moto3’s Romano Fenati.
For the 2014 season, Fenati will be aboard the SKY Racing Team by VR|46, so it should come as little surprise that the personal brand of Valentino Rossi is lending its weight further to finding the next G.O.A.T. As such, the VR|46 Riders Academy has been established by Rossi and a crew of top-level instructors.
For its inaugural class the VR|46 Riders Academy will support six riders: Franco Morbidelli, Luca Marini, Andrea Migno, Nicolò Bulega, Romano Fenati, and Pecco Bagnaia. Riding at Rossi’s “Ranch” in Tavullia, Rossi will work with each rider to develop both physical and psychological curriculums for their racing development.
Helping Rossi will be a team of experienced coaches and professionals, who will manage the camp’s relationships with motorsport teams, the rider’s racing logistics, and the contractual support come silly season time. These same individuals will also be responsible for all of the physical and administrative needs of the racers.
In essence, these six racers will have every aspect of their career assisted by Valentino Rossi and his staff — a huge boon for any aspiring GP star. We expect future slots of the VR|46 Riders Academy will be highly competitive for young Italian racers, but those who enter the Academy to be well-placed for a career in racing.
If only the AMA, or another American entity, could create such a program for the deep wells of talent that we have racing here in the United States, then young American motorcycle racers could truly be on an equal playing field with their European counterparts.