The appeal of motorcycle road racing is undeniable. Amazing speeds, acute lean angles, and close racing proximity…what’s not to love? Obviously, for road racing to thrive at the highest level, a strong youth development program must exist – and it does. Just as there are pint-sized motocrossers roosting around the nation’s dirt tracks, there are miniature knee-draggers smoking around the twisting tarmac of America’s road courses.
However, youth road racing has come under fire as of late due to a couple of recent high-profile tragedies. Clearly, a tragic loss like that of the talented 12-year-old racer, Peter Lenz, at this season’s Indianapolis MotoGP sent shock waves throughout the road racing world. However, when we widen our view on youth road racing to the big picture, it is a holistically positive and safe activity. One need only look at road racing families like the Haydens or the Bostroms to see what kind of familial bond racing can create.
So what avenues are available for budding young road racers? One is Youth Road Racing USA (YRR). The organization, which was formed in 2003, states the following as its mission: "As a youth motorcycle road racing education program, Youth Road Racing is dedicated to providing a professional and fun environment for riders of all ages, supporting a progressive advancement of skill and talent that will open the doors to a future in road racing for tomorrow's champions."
Under the YRR structure, there are four stages of development:
Stage 1 - Beginning Pocketbike - Riders learn basic bike handling and racing skills.
Stage 2 - Advanced Pocketbike - Riders build on skills learned in Stage 1 in a faster more competitive environment.
Stage 3 - Beginning Shifter - Riders build on skills learned in Stage 1 and Stage 2 and add shifting and suspension skills.
Stage 4 - Advanced Shifter - Riders build on skills learned in the previous 3 stages and prepare to move up to 125s.
When riders move to the 125cc level, the racing heats up dramatically. At this level there are numerous race opportunities and even chances at national and international championships.
Youth Rider Spotlight
The winner of the 2010 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup was 16 year-old American Jacob Gagne. The speedy Californian edged out British rider Danny Kent for this year’s title. Jacob made the transition from motocross to road racing in 2008 with spectacular results. In this year’s Rookie Cup, Gagne raced to four overall wins and eight podium finishes on his way to the international circuit’s top spot.