Few would deny that Britain is one of the great motorcycle racing nations. Over the years, the country has produced Grand Prix greats like Mike Hailwood, John Surtees and Phil Read, but we have to look back to 1977 and Barry Sheene to find the last time a British rider on top of the world.
Sure Carl Fogarty and Jonathan Rea have dominated superbike racing in recent years, but Brits have fallen behind in the Grand Prix paddock. Cal Crutchlow’s win at the 2016 Czech Grand Prix was Britain’s first premier class victory since Sheene in 1981, while his victory in Argentina earlier this year marked the first time a Brit had led the title race since 1979.
It’s not just in Britain, of course. Eras of American and then Australian domination have come and gone and these days Italian and Spanish riders have what seems to be an insurmountable lock on top level motorcycle racing.
Thankfully MotoGP’s owners, Spanish company Dorna, have identified this. Keen to get riders from around the world into the top levels of the sport, they’ve created a Talent Promotion division aimed at identifying and nurturing the best young racers from the world, and helping them get to the top of a sport in which historically contacts and big sponsors have been crucial.
The Red Bull Rookies MotoGP Cup started over a decade ago and in 2014 they started a regional programme with the Asia Talent Cup, providing opportunities for youngsters from the declining nations of Australia and Japan, as well as the important emerging nations like Indonesia and Thailand.
Now it is Britain’s turn, with the first ever British Talent Cup taking place this year. The championship sees a field of 23 riders, all hand picked X Factor style, aged 12 to 17. The second round took place alongside world superbikes at Donington Park last weekend and saw two fantastic races fought out between up and comers Max Cook and Rory Skinner, who took a win apiece, and Thomas Strudwick, who leads the championship. The next round takes place alongside British Superbikes at Snetterton, with the last three races taking place at the MotoGP tracks of Assen, Silverstone and Valencia. If the Asia Talent Cup is anything to go by, the top riders from the first season are likely to be parachuted into the Junior Moto3 world championship en route to the full Grand Prix series.
Entries for next year’s series are already being taken, with a selection event due to take place at Silverstone in the week prior to the MotoGP round there in August. Aspiring racers are expected to have some motorcycling experience, although not necessarily in road racing, and be within the age range. If you think you have what it takes, go to www.britishtalentcup.com before June 17 to apply.