At this weekend's Red Bull US Grand Prix the Moto2 and Moto3 classes are absent but there could be just as much Rookies success. At most GPs around the world ex-Rookies are to be found in the Moto3 and Moto2 classes with Luis Salom heading the Moto3 World Championship.
There is no Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race at Laguna Seca and yet the GP has plenty of Rookies past and present. Current Rookie, Joe Roberts, the 16-year-old from Los Angeles is competing in the SuperSport 600 race while ex Rookies Cup champions Jake Gagne and JD Beach contest the Daytona SportBike category.
Gagne ready to GoPro
The GoPro Daytona SportBike race is likely to feature both Beach and Gagne who finished second and third in both races at last weekend's round in Mid-Ohio. They ride for the RoadRace Factory team and are thrilled to be at Laguna. “It's a fantastic event, so great to be racing in front of the huge crowd,” enthuses Gagne, the 19-year-old native of Ramona, California. “I think myself and the bike will work pretty well at Laguna, last year we did pretty well (5th) and I am looking forward to it and I think coming back again we should be in pretty good shape straightaway.”
“It's great to be back at a Grand Prix, that was one of the cool things about the Rookies Cup, mixing it with the GP stars in the paddock every weekend. I loved my years in the Rookies Cup and it is what made me the rider I am today, it is where I started and where I learnt so much and became the race I am now,” concluded Gagne who was Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup champion in 2010 and now lies second in the SportBike points chase behind another ex Rookie, Cameron Beaubier. There are ten races remaining in the season.
Beach thinks back
Third in the points is Gagne's teammate JD Beach who beat current Moto3 World Championship leader Salom to the 2008 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. The 21-year-old who hails from Philpot, Kentucky also recalls just how important the years in the Cup were to him. “It taught me a lot about racing because we were all on the same bikes so we had to ride really hard. Also I think it taught you how to present yourself because we all had to look good and there were certain things we had to do like write our race reports after the races so it not only taught you to be a good racer but also taught you how to be good to sponsors and things like that as well.”
Roberts thinks ahead
Now in it's seventh season the Rookies Cup continues to develop young races including Roberts who is contesting his third year in the series and naturally looking at his next career step. Between Cup races he made his SuperSport 600 debut on the M4 Team Hammer Honda CBR600RR at the Barber Motorsports round in June entered by the California Superbike School and Roadracingworld.com and dominated the weekend. He was fastest in every practice and qualifying session, he won both races and was under the class lap record. Not bad considering the change from 250 single-cylinder Moto3 to four-cylinder 600cc supersport machine.
Team Owner, John Ulrich was impressed: “He is the most impressive just-turned-16-year-old I've ever worked with. He's fully engaged with the team and concentrating on the task at hand 100% of the time, with no tendency to wander off like you often see with some young riders."
Roberts will need that 100% concentration again at Laguna, he knows the bike now but the track is new. “Well I did two sessions on a 125 a couple of years ago but it was pouring with rain, there was water and gravel streaming across the track so I've still got a bit of track learning to do,” said Roberts who's teammate in the M4 Team Hammer squad is another ex Rookie, Benny Solis.
A different challenge
The change of track is also likely to effect the motorcycle as Roberts explained; “Coming from Barber which is a completely different track we might have to make some changes but we've got a really great team and they know exactly what they are doing so that's a big help,” he added and also commented that he finds the racing in the US a little different. “For me, riding in the in the AMA, I would say I am more aggressive than some of the other riders in the paddock, there are only two or three I have to battle with. Rookies is quite unique, everyone is so close, the same skill level and also pretty smart about racing, if I make make one mistake in a Rookies Cup race I'm likely to get passed by ten riders.”
So while Rookies advance through the racing classes around the world another band of young riders might be sitting at their computers entering the Selection Process for the 2014. It's the first step on the Road to Rookies Cup.