Race Fea­ture

Other coun­tries have done it, other fed­er­a­tions have been very suc­cess­ful at do­ing it, we in the UK have even tried it be­fore, but with the in­tro­duc­tion this sea­son of the Bri­tish Tal­ent Team and the Bri­tish Tal­ent Cup, there is now a real plat­form for su


Cast your minds back to the early 1990s and you may just re­call some young up­starts by the names of James Hay­don, Karl Har­ris and Nick Hop­kins among oth­ers aboard red, white and blue liv­er­ied TZ250s, men­tored by the likes of Ron Haslam and the late Robert Fear­nall whose aim was to un­earth ‘the next Barry Sheene’.

Pa­tri­ot­i­cally cham­pi­oned as Team Bri­tan­nia ini­tially, the pow­ers that be de­cided that a more se­date ‘Team GB’ was more ap­pro­pri­ate, even in those non-PC days, and while the con­cept was good (pri­mar­ily funded by the ACU), the flame flick­ered for a while be­fore be­ing ex­tin­guished for good when the cash (and per­haps the en­thu­si­asm) ran out.

Har­ness­ing tal­ent

Var­i­ous ini­tia­tives have since fol­lowed to cham­pion tal­ent in the UK, mainly through pro­mot­ing race se­ries rather than spe­cific projects (Yamaha R6 Cup and Su­per­teens for ex­am­ple), but apart from a cou­ple of sig­nif­i­cant ex­cep­tions, it’s more or less been a case of get on with it your­self, folks, if daddy’s rich then all well and good, and if you can flog your granny on eBay, all the bet­ter. And from Barry Sheene’s swan­song in the mid-1980s, that’s how it was for 20 years. Not a lot to shout about re­ally.

Leav­ing World Superbikes out of this par­tic­u­lar ar­gu­ment, it’s re­ally just been over these past 10 years that Brits have come to the fore in Grands Prix and as well as reg­u­lar GP win­ners these days, we have rid­ers ca­pa­ble of chal­leng­ing for, and in­deed win­ning World Cham­pi­onship ti­tles. Many of them have come through the tra­di­tional prov­ing ground of BSB, oth­ers via the Span­ish CEV route and some a mix­ture of both. And while the mainly Span­ish and Ital­ian dom­i­na­tion con­tin­ues at GP level (and the rea­son for that is the con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment by the re­spec­tive fed­er­a­tions in or­der to nur­ture do­mes­tic tal­ent), here in the UK there have been rel­a­tively slim pick­ings. But all that has changed with a new An­glo-Span­ish con­cept with one fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence, and that is it has the of­fi­cial sanc­tion­ing of Mo­toGP™’s pro­mot­ers, Dorna Sports. And if Dorna say they’re go­ing to do some­thing, you’d best lis­ten up!

The men be­hind the team

In­deed, the Bri­tish Tal­ent Team and Bri­tish Tal­ent Cup, launched in Lon­don a cou­ple of months ago, has one of the sport’s most

in­flu­en­tial names be­hind it. Al­berto Puig (pro­nounced Pudge) has guided many a prodigy to the top, in­clud­ing the likes of Casey Stoner, Dani Pe­drosa and Toni Elias and with the grand ti­tle of pro­mo­tion di­rec­tor, the Spaniard is the key link to mak­ing this lat­est ini­tia­tive a suc­cess.

It’s all part of Dorna’s Road to Mo­toGP™ and is de­signed as a step­ping stone for rid­ers from the Bri­tish Isles to get onto the world stage, pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity like no other for young tal­ent to grow and progress, while out­lin­ing Dorna’s com­mit­ment to the fu­ture of mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing in the UK and Bri­tish Isles.

As well as Puig, there are two fun­da­men­tally Bri­tish el­e­ments to this, and like a good joke, it starts with an Ir­ish­man and a Scots­man. The vastly ex­pe­ri­enced Ul­ster­man Jeremy McWil­liams, him­self a Grand Prix win­ner, and tal­ented young Scot John McPhee, who has also topped the podium in Brno last sum­mer, hold the key to its fledg­ling suc­cess. McWil­liams acts as tal­ent scout for the project while FIM Moto3™ World Cham­pi­onship rider McPhee has al­ready shown this year he is ca­pa­ble of chal­leng­ing for the cham­pi­onship with, at the time of writ­ing, a cou­ple of podi­ums to hold an im­pres­sive sec­ond po­si­tion in the stand­ings. “I’m re­ally happy to have this op­por­tu­nity in the team and I’m look­ing for­ward to the sea­son to see what we can do,” says McPhee.

“We’ve made a good start and it’s im­por­tant to con­tinue this on and be in a po­si­tion to chal­lenge for the cham­pi­onship. Rep­re­sent­ing the UK and Bri­tish Isles on the world stage, as well as the Team and Cup, is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity but I’m work­ing hard to get the kind of re­sults we’re aim­ing for, and I’m de­lighted we’ve got this new project off to the best start. Thanks to ev­ery­one for the op­por­tu­nity.”

McWil­liams adds: “It’s fan­tas­tic to be part of this project and to play a role in the fu­ture

of mo­tor­cy­cling in the Bri­tish Isles. It’s an im­por­tant project to be in­volved in and I’m look­ing for­ward to show­ing what kind of tal­ent we have. John has made a fan­tas­tic start to the sea­son and holds sec­ond place in the ti­tle race al­ready so we are ab­so­lutely de­lighted, we just need to keep it up.

“The Bri­tish Isles has a long his­tory of mo­tor­cy­cle rac­ing and mo­tor­sport that I’m proud to have been part of and it’s an hon­our for me to now again play a role in it, just with the dif­fer­ence that this time, I’m not on the bike.”

To­mor­row’s he­roes

Dorna have been deeply in­volved in young rider pro­grammes since be­fore the turn of the mil­len­nium, be­gin­ning with the FIM CEV Rep­sol and the Mo­vis­tar Ju­nior Cup, be­fore go­ing on to in­clude ini­tia­tives such as the Asia Tal­ent Cup and the Red Bull Mo­toGP™ Rook­ies Cup.

The Red Bull Mo­toGP™ Rook­ies Cup be­gan in 2007, cre­at­ing and con­tin­u­ing to de­velop rid­ers of in­cred­i­ble tal­ent such as Jo­hann Zarco (twice Moto2™ World Cham­pion) and reign­ing Moto3™ World Cham­pion Brad Binder. Both have joined FIM CEV Rep­sol grad­u­ates and sub­se­quent World Cham­pi­ons such as Marc Mar­quez and Mav­er­ick Viñales on the list of young rider suc­cesses to have come from these ini­tia­tives.

More re­cently, the Asia Tal­ent Cup was born in 2014 and is now be­gin­ning to see cham­pi­ons such as Ayumu Sasaki emerge onto the world stage whereby the 2015 ATC cham­pion and 2016 Red Bull Rook­ies Cup cham­pion made his de­but in the Moto3™ World Cham­pi­onship in 2017.

The Bri­tish Tal­ent Cup is the lat­est ad­di­tion to this hon­our roll of young rider sup­port and tal­ent pro­mo­tion, with se­lec­tion set to take place in 2017 and the en­gines ready to fire up next year. De­signed to de­velop Bri­tish rid­ers who would oth­er­wise strug­gle to gain an op­por­tu­nity to show­case their tal­ent, the Cup will race at Dorna-run events in­clud­ing the Bri­tish round of World Su­per­bike Cham­pi­onship at Don­ing­ton Park and the Bri­tish GP at Sil­ver­stone. A range of cir­cuits in the UK and Spain form a ten­ta­tive base for the pro­posed cal­en­dar, and the bike will be a Honda NSF 250R Moto3 ma­chine. Rid­ers com­ing through the new Cup also have the in­cen­tive of see­ing the Bri­tish Tal­ent Team in Moto3™, know­ing there is a pro­gramme de­signed around their jour­ney to the FIM World Cham­pi­onship with Dorna sup­port­ing Bri­tish tal­ent on ev­ery rung of the lad­der.

Tal­ent spot­ting

The first ever se­lec­tion pro­gramme for the Cup will pref­ace the 2017 Octo Bri­tish Grand Prix at Sil­ver­stone, in the week lead­ing up to the event. There, prospec­tive rid­ers will be put through their paces and the best of­fered the chance to race in the Cup’s in­au­gu­ral 2018 sea­son. Then rid­ers are on the Road to Mo­toGP™ lad­der, po­ten­tially to the top. The ap­pli­ca­tion process runs from May 5 to June 18 this year, and rid­ers who will be in­vited to the se­lec­tion process will be in­formed be­fore July 21.

As well as du­ties with McPhee’s bid on track, McWil­liams and Puig are tasked with help­ing to find and de­velop these rid­ers for the fu­ture, with Puig bring­ing his knowledge

and ex­pe­ri­ence from the Idemitsu Asia Tal­ent Cup to the party. Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna Sports, says: “Af­ter the in­cred­i­ble suc­cess of the Asia Tal­ent Cup we are very proud of this amaz­ing ini­tia­tive as part of our Road to Mo­toGP ™. With the long and il­lus­tri­ous his­tory of rac­ing in the UK and Bri­tish Isles, it is the per­fect place and the per­fect time to be­gin an­other

chap­ter of the UK’s two- wheeled story, and we are proud to have John McPhee on board in the Moto3™ World Cham­pi­onship as the first stage in this project.

“His great vic­tory in Brno last sea­son was an as­ton­ish­ing achieve­ment that proves his for­ti­tude. The ex­pe­ri­ence of Dorna, Al­berto Puig and Jeremy McWil­liams will be push­ing to make both the Bri­tish Tal­ent Team and the Bri­tish Tal­ent Cup suc­cess­ful ad­di­tions to our com­mit­ment to tal­ent and rid­ers of the fu­ture.

“I think it’s in­ter­est­ing to cre­ate these kinds of pro­grammes in all sports, that can help young guys get into the sport and de­velop,” says Puig, “es­pe­cially sports like ours, be­cause rac­ing is very ex­pen­sive. I think they are also very wel­come to ev­ery­one who can gain ac­cess to these types of se­ries. We chose the Bri­tish Isles be­cause it has been a key part of rac­ing his­tory, with man­u­fac­tur­ers and rid­ers. We be­lieve now that to do this here is some­thing needed so the pur­pose of the team is to give rid­ers in the Cup a goal. The tar­get is, if they per­form well in the Tal­ent Cup, their fi­nal des­ti­na­tion will be this sup­ported Moto3™ team.”

Fly­ing the flag from Bri­tain, wee McPhee is do­ing us all proud in Moto3.

A right bunch of thum­bers!

It might look like a club rac­ing bike, but the Bri­tish Tal­ent Team’s Honda is caus­ing plenty of up­set on the fancy world scene.

John’s used to be­ing stalked...

The calm be­fore the storm.

It’s not been com­pletely rosy for McPhee. Not fin­ish­ing at Jerez cost him big time.

Danny Kent showed the world us Brits could win in Moto3. Could John back that up?

Jeremy McWil­liams (above) will be keep­ing a watch­ful eye on McPhee in 2017.

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