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Laverty and how he'll marshal British talent into MotoGP

Spain and Italy have become the driving forcing in motorcycle racing over recent years with the number of Brits making it to MotoGP dwindling, fast.

Bikesportnews.com caught up with Michael Laverty to discuss what’s missing in the UK and how he hopes to harness a blossoming youth programme for the future with the development of his MLav VisionTrack Academy and introduction of VisionTrack Honda Moto3 team

“I used to receive some funding from the Sports Council of Northern Ireland, it was lottery funded,” Laverty explained, reflecting on his own start in the sport alongside his brothers, current WorldSBK and ex-MotoGP rider Eugene and former BSB front runner John.


“That was quite a good step up for us to go and race in Europe. We could submit a request each year and put a proposal together. I don’t know if that’s even still available. It would be nice if some of the [current] riders did have support from governing bodies, but as things stand, it’s up to the riders to go and try and find a team or find sponsors and brand themselves, but there’s no real assistance from the ground up.”

European structures sees support, funding and track opportunities for Spanish and Italian riders open from a young age, with riders up to speed and harnessing their own individual brands as teenagers. Clear paths from national and junior world championships allow talent to perform Infront of the world’s best teams with managers and manufacturers spotting the next big potential early in their career. It’s something Laverty is hoping to emulate with his own set up as he builds a route from minibikes through to the MotoGP paddock with his VisionTrack sponsored Academy and Moto3 team.

“Definitely. Obviously, even Valentino Rossi took over the Italian Federation. He can certainly attract the big corporates and the funding to do it, but he’s got such a good structure there in terms of the junior race teams and the training facility. So, I guess I’ve just stolen a leaf out of the book of how the Spanish and Italians do it, and try to do it ourselves.

“If I can figure the commercial aspect of it out and get enough backing, then it gives the kids the opportunities and I can run it as a business and attract support from the UK. It has been quite well-received and so many have said as soon as we announced we were going to do it that it’s what’s missing.

“We don’t have a British MotoGP rider. We’ve got the talent. We’ve got the Taylor Mackenzies and Bradley Rays, who should have been in a structure that we’ve got now. They should have been nurtured through that interim period when they were 18, 19, 20. They were bursting onto the GP side, but they got lost and had to jump about to championships, to classes.

‘Hopefully I can put the structure that we get the kids at 14, 15, 16. We give them a few years of school and of knowledge of racing in those tracks against the GP riders of the future. Then when they’re 18, 19, 20, the factory teams will look and pitch a British rider and all of a sudden we’ve done our job and it’s a success. That’s the plan or the end goal.

“I think because the British Superbike series is so strong, it’s a massive pull,” Laverty continued, on why the British path can sometimes prove more difficult. “It keeps the young riders here and there’s teams prepared to give them bikes and opportunities to go race, whereas those opportunities in the European Championship and the like are really difficult to come by without bringing a load of money.

“You’re joining a Spanish team. You don’t speak the language. The team don’t seem to want you there unless you’re bringing in money. So, I think having the structures there to allow to open those doors hopefully will entice more young riders to bet on themselves, to take a few years out of the British paddock. The British Superbike paddock is a fantastic championship, but it’s almost so strong that it will keep you there. They’ll stay there and they’ll win Supersport races, British Superbike titles. To get that next step into GP’s, that’s the hard bit.

“So, you’ve won a BSB but you go to World Superbikes and that’s where we’ve got Jonathan Rea, Leon Camier, Chaz, Eugene, everyone that gravitated towards that and had the potential to be in the grand prix paddock, like Cal Crutchlow achieved. Obviously, because it’s such a long path to get there, going through the British Superbike scene, World Superbike scene, you’re almost too old for the factory teams to consider you. Hopefully now, if we can do a good job, we will provide opportunities for kids that could go to Europe and almost draw them away from the national scene here in the UK.


“I think the new age rules imposed from 2023 will help British riders because you can’t join the world championship until you’re 18, and we tend to mature a little bit later. The kids now expected to jump on a factory bike at 16, now they’ve got two more years to progress in the junior ranks. So, I think it will benefit the young British riders and we can spend a bit more time nurturing them ready for those steps up into GP.

“I do think it’s a good thing,” he admitted, reflecting on the new FIM rules. “I know some riders are just going to get caught out by the rule change. They followed the current path and they were ready to make a step up and now they’re going to have to wait a little bit longer. I think there’s enough youth championships to cater for them between 13 and 18 years old, and it will be a little bit safer without the pressures of a 21-round MotoGP schedule and the pressure of racing in that series. I think it will just give them a few more years to mature, to get that experience, and understand the risks a little bit better and just be an adult when you jump on a grand prix scene so you’re a little bit more accountable.”

A major sticking point when working with young riders, especially for some teams - as seen in 2021 with Dennis Foggia - is the inclusion, or not, of parents and family.

“It’s a tough one,” Laverty said cautiously. “It is a mixture. It all depends rider to rider and parent to parent. For the most part, if the parents are keen and want to be involved, in the talent cup side, they will be allowed to be there as the support. If they’re competent in terms of a mechanic, then we’ll let them mechanic. If they’d rather just be there to go and get tires changed or polish the fairings or support their kid, they will be involved. If they’re a nuisance, we’ll pull them aside and ask them just to bring their kid and provide a support package, but we’ll remove you out of the team environment. Each one is different.


“In the GP side, we just purely take the kid and the parents are allowed to come and spend their time in the hospitality. We just want the rider. On the junior ranks we need to include the parents, because they are the nutritionist, they’re the coach, they’re the hotelier. They bring them around everywhere. They’re the transport. So, we’ve got to include them as part of the whole team.”

Previous years had hinted of the potential for British support, with the introduction of the British Talent Cup but for riders such as Rory Skinner, the promise failed to match the reality.

“Yeah. That’s the thing. Obviously, the British Talent Cup was set up for that reason, to filter through the top talent. It didn’t quite work out for Rory. Max [Cook] did get the opportunity to race in that British Talent Team, and Rory ended up with nothing at the end of it. Now Eddie O’Shea is in there. You’ve got Casey O’Gorman and various riders coming through that on the next platform. For next year we won’t have a runner in the Junior World Championship but I would like to say that for 2023 perhaps we would be able to have that option, for the British Talent Cup winner to come and ride with us in the European Talent Cup and Junior World Championship and have all those options available.

“It’s good that Dorna still have that one bike available, that Eddie O’Shea is on, but obviously if we can add a second then it gives more opportunities as well. The British Talent Cup, obviously we’re going to be quite a good force in there with six riders, and we’ll have a nice, big professional race team and race trailer. Not quite what it was when it was all the bikes in one trailer, but we’re trying to create a similar thing but for a smaller number of riders.”

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