Grudge all that cash you spend on BT Sport for the bike racing? Curse them for spending it all on over-hyped EPL ‘soccerball’? Well you can watch the direct debit leave your account with pleasure from now on, as BT, together with Dorna launches a brand new British Moto3 race team and entry-level talent-spotting series.
The new British Talent team will run Scotland’s John McPhee on a proper Honda in Moto3 this year. And the ‘British Talent’ brand will also headline a new-for-2018 UK race series, aimed at finding the plucky British kids that will turn into the UK’s next generation of MotoGP aliens.
The British Talent moto-show was launched at the BT building in London. Is the ‘BT’ moniker a coincidence? Well, yes, since Dorna launched an Asian Talent series a while back, so it’s not a subliminal marketing coup from the British Telecom folks. The Moto3 Team was unveiled first, and in many ways, it’s a fairly straightforward story. John McPhee had a tough year in 2016, thanks largely to a bike that was properly toilet in several vital ways. Despite the machinery setbacks, he managed a win at Brno, which cemented his reputation as a solid contender, and well worth a punt from Dorna.
Of course, the big bosses there want some Brits in the pipeline for when Crutchlow, Redding and Smith drift away from the front line – vital to maintain interest in their premier bike race product in this important market. McPhee, and the much younger Rory Skinner, are two of Britain’s top prospects here. So, McPhee will be the single rider (for now) in the Dorna and BT-backed British Talent Team, running a Honda NS2F50RW in Moto3 this year.
Perhaps even more interesting though, is the new British Talent Cup race series. On the face of it, it’s pretty straightforward – a one-make series, starting in 2018, for riders from the British Isles, born between 2001 and 2005. Alberto Puig and Jeremy McWilliams will be spotting the talent, and coaching the riders, with the ultimate aim of getting riders from the British grass roots racing into MotoGP.
There’s an application process which kicks off May 5 till 18th of June this year, then there will be a final selection event in the week before the British MotoGP round at Silverstone. Puig and McWilliams will be on the lookout for talent – but they were keen to say it’s not about experience and money. Of course, riders who’ve done a lot of racing will have an advantage, but the British Talent folks reckon they’ll be on the lookout for kids with raw talent and lots of potential as well.
Once the series is rolling, expect the best prospects to be whisked up to the next level of racing – probably the CEV championship in Spain, or the Red Bull Rookies series. The British Talent route isn’t a direct route into Moto3, rather a starting point for young riders to get onto the required pathway.
There was a tiny elephant in the BT HQ’s basement though – the massively successful, powerful BSB establishment in the UK. Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta went out of his way to emphasise that Dorna has massive respect for BSB, MSVR and the existing structures in UK racing. But the fact remains that there’s no space in BSB for the new Talent Cup at the moment, and the series will be run at the British WSB events, as well as other meetings which are still to be announced. You’d assume there’ll be a spot in the MotoGP weekend for the Talent folks, of course, and Dorna also reckons there will be races run at Spanish circuits too.
So – an exciting story, and no doubt bound for success, with the backing of Dorna and BT Sport cash (despite the telecoms firm having a very low profile – there’s no BT logo on the bike or on McPhee’s leathers). But it’s fair to say that a few gaps remain to be filled in the overall picture, in terms of where the races will run, how the series will fit in with the likes of the BSB Motostar series, and where the Talent Cup riders will end up being promoted to after the series.
By the time you’re watching it on your BT Sport app though, it’ll all be ironed out, and all we’ll need to do is cheer on our favoured rider, as they head towards the stratosphere of MotoGP racing…