I spent a good proportion of my youth convinced I was going to make it to MotoGP. Unfortunately, I didn’t even come close, for a number of reasons. But now I’m older and wiser, I’ve got half an idea what those reasons were. And because I don’t want anyone else to make the same mistakes as me, on their journey to MotoGP stardom, I’ve put together this list of instructions. If you nail every last one of these, there’s every chance you might just make it to MotoGP…
Start racing young
If you’re not racing by the time you’re six years old, you’ve probably left it too late. And if you’re a teenager by the time you first throw your leg over a bike, forget it. No, your racing career really needs to start as soon as possible, preferably after a couple of years wobbling round the garden on a P-Dub, or similar.
Starting young doesn’t just give you the advantage of having more time to make it to MotoGP. What it also does is tune your bones, your muscles and your senses, syncing them with the action of riding a motorcycle, whilst they’re still developing. If you start young enough, your body will grow into everything it needs to be to race bikes. Probably.
Practice, practice, practice
If you seriously want to make it to MotoGP, you have to dedicate your life to it. You’ve got to get good and stay good. And stay fit. That means racing every weekend, whatever the weather, and practicing during the week.
If you go to any race circuit or kart track in Spain, you’ll see kids of all ages flying round on mini-motos, pit-bikes, and everything in between, every weekend and every night during the week. They’ll be fast, and they’ll only be getting faster. One minute they’ll be riding round cones, deliberately ‘tucking the front’ to practice their Marc Marquez style saves. The next minute they’ll be battling for position with their mates, perfecting their race-craft. That’s why more than a third of all the riders in the MotoGP paddock are Spanish. Well, it’s one of the reasons, anyway.
Have wealthy parents
Racing motorcycles is an expensive sport. Very expensive. Even doing it on the tightest, shoestring budget isn’t cheap. And because, to make it to MotoGP you’ve got to start young, you’ll likely be relying on mummy and daddy footing the bill. The more you ride, the better your chance of making it is… but the more you ride the more cash you (or someone) needs to throw at it.
And not only do they have to be wealthy, they’ve got to have a lot of time on their hands too. Because you’re not going to be putting the bike in the back of the Tranny van and driving it to the circuit yourself, when you’re six. And even if you did, you’d need a parent or guardian to ‘sign on’ for you. If your parents are too busy working and earning all that wealth to take you racing, well there’s not a lot of point in them having it, is there?
Move to Spain
If you do have the talent, the money and the dedication, the UK isn’t the best stepping stone to MotoGP. And that’s for a number of reasons. Nobody really cares about bike racing in the UK; but they do in Spain. It’s almost like a national sport out there. All the MotoGP riders are household names and finding sponsorship, and somewhere to ride is nowhere near as difficult as it is back home.
And as a kid, where do you practice on your mini-moto? Once a month when they open the local kart track up for bikes? That’s not good enough. You could always set up some cones in your local Asda carpark, but it wouldn’t be long before the old bill turned up. No, if your from the UK it’s always going to be an uphill struggle, so you’re best off getting to Spain as soon as you can. Like Brad Smith. And Scott Redding.
Win, win, win
For some, starting young, and practicing every hour god sends, still won’t be enough, whether you’re in Spain or not. Some just haven’t got it. To make it to MotoGP, you’ve got to be fast. And you need to be winning races.
If you’re any good, it’ll soon get to a point where mum and dad’s coin wont stretch far enough. You need opportunities to materialise. Opportunities to meet the right people, work with the right people and ride the right bikes. Those opportunities tend to materialise after winning races. The more races you win, the more opportunities you’re likely to come across.
Right place, right time
But remember, opportunities don’t just come from winning races. I would wager that every rider in the current MotoGP flock has, at some point, had a bit of luck on his side. All through you’re racing career, you’ll be on the hunt for sponsors, your next factory contract, or whatever it may be. A lot of these deals happen because you’re in the right place at the right time.
And whilst that’s partly to do with luck, I’d argue that you make your own luck. Because if you never put yourself out there, you’ll never be in the right place at the right time. Don’t be shy, speak to people, get to know them, and always introduce yourself. Because it might turn out to be the best thing you ever did.
Play the corporate game
If you’ve bagged yourself a decent ride, or a lucrative sponsorship contract, make sure you keep hold of it. Winning races will certainly help, but so will knowing how to behave off the bike. A photo of you snorting blow off a hookers backside might be really funny to all your mates, but your team manager and your personal sponsors probably wouldn’t see the funny side of it.
You’ve got to do your bit to promote your personal and your team sponsors, and the higher up the racing food chain you go, the more they’ll be investing in you, and the more demanding they’ll be. Some sponsors will see you as a racer; they need you to win races. Others will sponsor you as a personality, so remember to have one. But be nice, because you need people to like you.
Or learn to be a truck driver
The easiest way to make it to MotoGP is probably to get your Class 1 HGV license and apply for a job as a truck driver with one of the teams. Because they all need truck drivers. There may be more exciting ways to be part of the action, but you’d be a lot nearer to it than you would be watching it at home.
Successful applicants will have experience driving articulated goods vehicles on the continent as well as the rest of the world, be hard working and prepared to ‘muck in’ with the rest of the team, and be happy to spend long periods of time living in the cab away from home.