Motorcycle racing has one thing in common with all other sports: if we want to produce quality competitors, we must facilitate access to sport from an early age.
The nature of circuit racing, with their higher speeds and physically larger motorcycles, means that they can only be opened to riders as a teenager.
For anyone looking to get involved earlier than that, Junior Motocross, Junior Grasstrack Racing and more recently Minibike Racing have been the easiest starting points. But everything is about to change with two new initiatives.
The biggest change will see the introduction of the first official FIM series – the governing body of world motorcycling sport – which will take place in Ireland, while the second will see support for the Junior Circuit Racing Championship increase, with the introduction of a prize fund for the first time.
The traditional route to Irish circuit racing was motocross and track racing until the last decade, when the emergence of Minibike and Pit Bike racing changed the landscape. Now runners from the age of six can run on paved tracks, with a number of different organizations running races.
As in other parts of the world, each race organizer chooses their own path, depending on the classes and types of bikes used, and this has been recognized as a problem by the FIM, who believe that a more standardized system will serve. the competitors. better as they learn their craft.
To address these issues, FIM and MotoGP promoter Dorna sought applications from countries and regions around the world to compete in their first-ever junior racing championship. The FIM MiniGP World Series would see successful candidates offered the opportunity to compete in a National Series, which would fuel a World Final, alongside the last MotoGP race of the season.
The new championship would be open to young people aged 10 to 14 and would be held with identical bikes, made by Ohvale, and in a standard championship format.
Motorcycling Ireland was quick to submit its application and was one of 14 successful applicants worldwide. Now, for the first time, young Irish riders can compete in a series with a structured progression from off-road races to national and international circuit races.
Under the title of FIM MiniGP Ireland Series, the new championship will be promoted by the Motorcycling Ireland (MCI) Short Circuit Racing Committee and will take place between July and October. Seven events are scheduled at five locations across Ireland. The series will take place twice at the Athboy Karting Center in Meath, once at Louth’s Whiteriver Park and there will also be two highly anticipated appearances alongside the Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship at Mondello Park in County Kildare.
The season will conclude with trips to Kiltorcan Raceway in Kilkenny and Watergrashill in Cork.
Registration for the championship is open to young people aged 10 to 14 who already have experience in Minibike, Motocross or Grasstrack racing. The Ohvale machines used in the Championship were made available to all National MiniGP World Series events at the same subsidized price, which helped the Irish series to generate significant interest from potential competitors.
After the seven events, the first three of the championship will be offered the opportunity to travel to Valencia in Spain to participate in the World Series final, the prize for the winner of which is an invitation to participate in one of the “Road to MotoGP “from Dorna. championships.
“This is a big step forward for Irish motorcycle racing,” MCI shorts committee chairman Daire Lowe said when announcing the Irish series.
âWe have been working in the background on this since the project was announced, so that we will be ready to go once an Irish series has been confirmed. For the first time Irish motorcycle racing is now involved in the Road to MotoGP program led by Dorna and the FIM and this will allow us to offer our best young riders an opportunity to prove themselves on the world stage.
The next level of support for young Irish riders has come from two enthusiasts with a strong history in the sport. Current Dunlop Masters Superbike Championship rider Declan Madden of DM Groundworks and former Masters Superbike ‘Cup’ champion Frank Smyth of FJS Plant will join forces this season to support the transition of future Irish motorcycle racing stars to circuit racing. The two businessmen will jointly support the series to the tune of â¬ 3,000, including â¬ 1,500 distributed among the top three in each of the two junior classes at the end of the year.
Returning to racing in 2019 after a few years away, Declan decided he wanted to put something back into the sport through sponsorship. Following discussions during the cropped 2020 season, a plan to directly support young riders was worked out and in early 2021 Declan was joined by former Masters contender Frank Smyth.
Once the championship was confirmed to start in June, it was decided to support the junior championships with an end-of-season prize fund and this has now become a reality with the announcement of the 2021 prizes.
The introduction of the FIM MiniGP Ireland Series and the addition of a prize fund to the entry-level circuit racing championship means that young riders can now see a more structured and supported route to racing.
#Although still a long way from the levels of support available in some of the best performing countries in motorcycle racing like Spain and Italy, the new initiatives are a very welcome first step towards discovering the next international star of motor racing in Ireland.