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Red Bull Rookies Cup

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In my article analyzing the Jerez private tests, which took an in-depth look at the times set by the WorldSBK bikes and the MotoGP bikes, I set out several reasons why I thought Jonathan Rea would not be moving to MotoGP, despite obviously being fast enough.

Though Rea has good reasons of his own to prefer to stay in WorldSBK, a good portion of the blame lies with MotoGP team managers, I argued.

That argument was based in part on a press conference held during the last round of the season at Valencia. In that press conference, the heads of racing of the six manufacturers in MotoGP gave their view of the season.

During that press conference, On Track Off Road’s Adam Wheeler asked Yamaha’s Lin Jarvis, Ducati’s Paolo Ciabatti, and KTM’s Pit Beirer whether they regarded WorldSBK as a viable talent pool, or whether they were looking more towards Moto2 and Moto3 as the place to find new riders.

In our latest look at road racing in the United States, we talked to Jake Gagne about the challenges facing an American rider trying to make his way to Europe. Previously we talked to Wayne Rainey, about how MotoAmerica is nurturing talent. You should give that a read too. -JB

Motorcycle racing needs its next American star. The lineage of world-class US riders has been long and storied over the years. That well of talent has dried up in recent years and the nation has been left waiting patiently for their next star.

From the days when King Kenny Roberts first left the US and went to Europe, there has been a constant torrent of talent from the West, but that torrent became a stream and most recently a shuck.

With the flow of racing talent having been directed off-road over the last ten years, it seems as though MotoAmerica might have once again given American riders a setting upon which to build their careers.

“I grew up racing motocross, and I was able to win some amateur championships,” said Jake Gange prior to the Magny Cours round of WorldSBK.

It is terribly fashionable in some circles to regard Dorna as a blight on the face of motorcycle racing. Their alleged crimes are both heinous and manifold. They have dumbed down the sport by exerting an ever tighter grip over the technical regulations. They killed off the two-strokes in favor of four-strokes. They have aggressively pursued copyright and trademark claims, at the cost of broadening the appeal of the sport. They have been relentless in their pursuit of financial gain over the spirit of the sport. They have meddled in the sport to favor one rider, or one nationality over the rest. Most of these complaints are either baseless, or an expression of anger at how the sport has changed over the years.

It was fitting – some might say inevitable – that Colin Edwards chose the Grand Prix of the Americas in his home state of Texas to announce his retirement. He had just spent the last couple of weeks at home, with his growing kids, doing dad stuff like taking them to gymnastics and baseball and motocross, then hosted a group, including current GP riders and a couple of journos, at his Bootcamp dirt track school.

He had had time to mull over his future, then talk it over with his wife Ally, and come to a decision. There wasn’t really a much better setting for the double World Superbike champion to announce he was calling it quits than sitting next to former teammate Valentino Rossi, the American he fought so memorably with in 2006, Nicky Hayden, the latest US addition to the Grand Prix paddock Josh Herrin, and with Marc Marquez, prodigy and 2013 MotoGP champion. It felt right. Sad, but right.

You can read the full story of Edwards’ retirement here, but his announcement highlighted two different problems for motorcycle racing. One local, one global, and neither particularly easy to fix.

The loss of Colin Edwards sees the MotoGP paddock, indeed all of international motorcycle racing, robbed of its most outspoken and colorful character. Edwards was a straight talker, with a colorful turn of phrase and uninhibited manner of speech.

His interviews were five parts home truths, five parts witticisms and a handful of obscenities thrown in for good measure. He livened up press conferences, racing dinners, and casual conversations alike.

With Edwards gone, motorcycle racing is a much blander, less appealing place. Though Edwards was always careful not to upset sponsors too much, he refused to toe the line and just spout the politically acceptable line handed down by his corporate paymasters. He spoke his mind, complained when he was annoyed, gave praise where it was due, and always, always entertained.

That the Red Bull Rookies Cup has been a huge success goes without saying. Former rookies now fill the front of the Moto3 grid, and are starting to make an impact in Moto2. The goal of the Red Bull Rookies Cup, of bringing young riders from around the world into Grand Prix racing, has clearly been met.

So successful has it been that two years ago, the World Superbike series set up a similar project. After a modest first year, the European Junior Cup is thriving in its second year, and providing some fantastic racing for talented young riders.

At Jerez earlier this year, we had the opportunity to talk to Red Bull Rookies Cup supervisor Peter Clifford about the series he is involved in, as well has the European Junior Cup. He gave us his view of the rival series, but also on a range of other subjects.

The interview covered the difference between four-strokes and two-strokes, the range of nationalities participating in the Rookies Cup, the complementary role of the European Junior Cup, and the approach the Rookies Cup is taking towards female riders in the series. As always, Clifford provides plenty of food for thought.

The Thursday before the start of the Grand Prix of the Americas, Asphalt & Rubber was part of a quick event put on by Dainese and Ducati Austin, which allowed fans to meet Kevin Schwantz. Before the start of that evening’s meet-and-greet, I got to sit down with the former 500cc World Champion, and pick his brain not only about the current events happening with the Circuit of the Americas, but also about what was occurring on a larger scale within the American road racing scene. It is a bit of a long read, but I think you will enjoy the exchange and perspective he shared during the interview.

This is part 1 of a new series entitled ‘Under the Radar’. In it, we will be looking at stories we believe will have a major impact on MotoGP and World Superbikes in the next season, but which are not currently receiving much attention. Everyone can guess the big names that are likely to make an impact in MotoGP in 2013: Marc Marquez will clearly be an exciting rookie to watch, Valentino Rossi should be competitive on a Yamaha, Pol Espargaro looks set to dominate Moto2, and Maverick Viñales and Luis Salom will be major players in Moto3. But look beyond the obvious candidates, and there are a number of candidates who could cause a surprise in 2013. Here are some of the riders to watch this season.

The FIM and Infront Motorsports announced Wednesday the launch of its own European Junior Cup, a support series racing alongside the World Superbike series, for fourteen to seventeen year old riders. According to a press release from the FIM, “riders will compete on identical race prepared Kawasaki Ninja 250R motorcycles,” racing in the time between the two WSBK races at Assen, Monza, Aragon, Silverstone, Nurburgring, and Mangy-Cours.

Riders selected to compete will also attend a training camp before the season begins in Guadix, Spain. Riders will be eligible if they “have held a competition license for at least one year in either road racing, motocross, enduro, supermoto, trials or minimoto.”

After previously leaving 250GP racing and the Dakar Rally, KTM has announced its withdrawal from another race series: 125GP. Choosing instead to focus its 2010 racing efforts on the RC8‘s upcoming World Superbike debut, KTM cites financial difficulties as its reason for leaving the GP scene. KTM will continue to be involved with the Red Bull Rookies Cup, which features talented young riders racing around on spec KTM 125cc race bikes.