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Laverty talks setting up a future for UK talent

As the Petronas pyramid in MotoGP began to crumble in 2021, one ex-rider-turned-pundit saw an opportunity. Step up, Michael Laverty.

With UK representation on the MotoGP grid somewhat lacking after the retirement of Cal Crutchlow - although the Yamaha test rider did enjoy a brief reprise over the summer alongside a two-race promotion for Jake Dixon due to Franky Morbidelli’s knee injury - much has been discussed about the need for support and pathways for young British riders.

Dorna themselves have created the ‘Road to MotoGP’ programme with the British Talent Cup running alongside its European, Asian and American counterparts, Red Bull Rookies and Junior World Championship, as well as the all-new Mini GP series. But it’s not championships that young riders lack, it’s support, funding and education of the sport and its lifestyle.


That looks to be about to change, with Laverty setting up a Moto3 team - VisionTrack Honda - inside the world championship paddock as well as a plethora of additional opportunities from grass roots level for UK talent, all while maintaining his TV star status.

The outfit takes it’s first taste of action this week, joining a private Moto2/Moto3 test at Jerez Circuit- Angel Nieto with former BSB and GP racer Taylor Mackenzie at the helm.

“I’m going to continue in the media job with BT Sport,” Laverty explained when Bikesportnews.com caught up with him in the New Year to discuss his ambitious undertaking.

“That’s why I brought Taylor Mackenzie on board as team manager. He’s going to run the team in GP’s for me. I’ll be the team principal, team owner. My job is really to make sure the sponsors and everyone is on board and the finances are there. Taylor will run the team, the day-to-day running of it and the race meetings. I’ll continue to work with BT Sport.

“The riders will be Josh Whatley and Scott Ogden, two young British talents,” he continued. “I’m still putting all the stuff together. We’ve got a British crew chief on one side and a Spanish crew chief on the other who worked with Scott at Aspar. Our workshops will be based just north of Barcelona, so it’s quite the hot spot for all the training and test tracks.”

Alongside the Moto3 project, Laverty’s MLav VisionTrack Academy is growing.

“The junior team, we’re going to have another twelve riders,” he explained. “We’ve got seven riders in minibikes and the two British minibike championships in FAB and BMB. We’re also racing the FIM MiniGP series. Then in the British Talent Cup, I’ve got five riders as it stands at the moment, maybe a sixth one coming. I think I’ll do a maximum of three Moto3 bikes in the British Talent Cup. We’re currently putting the structure together for the European Talent Cup effort, so probably two bikes in that and then maybe one in the European Moto2 Championship.

“It’s going to be kind of a big effort across everything, but I wanted to build a whole ladder from grass roots in the UK, from the minibike championships into the British Superbike paddock on the Moto3 bike and then have the options in Europe and the Junior GP series with the European Talent Cup, and possibly on the 600, on the Moto2 side as well. So, we’ve got all the steps all the way through to ultimately the GP team.

“In the minibikes we’re focusing a lot on the new FIM MiniGP series and trying to win that. The British Talent Cup, that’s quite an important one for us as well, that’s the standard Honda Moto3, and the European Talent Cup again standard Honda Moto3. So, that will be quite a focus for us. They’re the three main championships, really. In the FAB series we’ll have young kids on two-strokes. We’ll have all sorts of bikes across the range, really.”

With such an ambitions and all-encompassing project springing up relatively quickly, the most important focus for Laverty was the funding, and it’s no small ask.


“North of two million Euros. It’s a fair undertaking across it all,” Laverty confirmed before revealing the key to his master plan.

“I met Simon Marsh, who is the CEO of Vision Track, during the lockdown in 2020. We both have a very similar vision and didn’t like the fact that the route wasn’t there for British youngsters. How difficult it was to get onto that ladder and to make those steps. We thought we’ll start from the bottom. We did start it very modestly with the minibikes in 2020, then last year we added minibikes and the British Talent Cup.

“Then Simon suggested I speak with IRTA and Dorna about the possibility of a Moto3 team maybe two or three years in the future. I spoke with Mike [Trimby, CEO and founder of IRTA]. He said ‘Obviously for 2022 the spots are quite full, and you’re already a little bit late’. So we said, ‘We’ll look at it in ’23 or ’24’. Then a week later he gave me a call and said, ‘Actually, with Petronas and Gresini both pulling out, we could fast-track it if your sponsor is prepared to fast-track his plan.’ So, I went back to Simon and said, ‘We could do this now. What do you think the chances are?’

“Once I had the initial conversations with Simon and he agreed to be the title sponsor, I knew that I was 70%-80% of the way there. I just needed a few more secondary sponsors, obviously they weren’t confirmed at that time, but I had to greenlight the effort before the deadline. So, I committed to it and then went to work on finding the rest of the budget. I’m not quite there. I’m still working on it. Obviously, I’ve put a bit of my own money in. I tried running it as a business and to supply a package to sponsors and companies that want to get involved.


“Because of the breadth across, the GP’s are a good sell because you can entice people into the MotoGP paddock and give them a good experience. We’ve got the British Superbike we can sell, the European Championship if they’re really interested in the structure of motorbike racing. They might be fans. If they’re not, then truly they’ll be attracted to the weekend at MotoGP. So, I’m excited to sell it on that side. So far it’s gone quite well. Obviously, I’ve got to keep pushing, keep working at it, because as we want to keep expanding we’re going to spend more money. So, it’s an ongoing process.

“It’s cost me a fair bit just getting off the ground this year. I’ll obviously have to contribute again next year, but if I can use my contacts and build up good sponsors then hopefully it will start to break even.”

The task is a daunting one, and one the ex-MotoGP rider didn’t need to undertake. He is already more than busy with his tv work for BT Sport, track day training with brothers Eugene and John and the burgeoning academy.

“Honestly, I don’t quite know how I’ve ended up here,” he admitted. “Obviously, I talk about it on television every weekend, about the development path of how well the Spanish and Italians do it and the fact that we don’t have it. I think it just kept hammering and then the option or the opportunity was there to create that myself. It was like, ‘nobody else is stepping up to do it, and I do have the contacts and the possibilities to make it happen’. So, I thought, ‘Right, let’s go.’ I know Chaz Davies is retiring. Maybe in the future I’ll get the likes of him and my brother Eugene involved and I’ll use the people who have freshly come out of the sport and their experience and I think I’ll grow it in the future.

“I had to have a little bit of a vision without quite being there and not having the finances there, but I sat down and thought, ‘You know what? I could do something really good here’. The motivation wasn’t really there initially. I didn’t sit there and one day thought, ‘I want to do this’. It all fell into place through various conversations. Obviously, I didn’t really have that vision or it wasn’t a project that I wanted to get my teeth into. It sort of fell in my lap and I thought, ‘You know what? I can do this, so let’s step up and make it happen.’

“If it hadn’t have been for Vision Track’s CEO, Simon, and his passion, his belief and his commitment behind it for a few years, if it wasn’t for that, without the title sponsor it really wouldn’t have been possible. So, once I had Simon backing the project it gave me such a good springboard then to launch everything else.

“Still every day it’s working on contracts and staff and sponsors. The bones of it is almost there. The GP team have pretty much got everything in place, the riders, the staff, the workshops, the parts, the equipment, the race truck. Everything’s there.

“British Talent Cup, I’m almost there. I’ve got the race truck. I’m just looking at new workshops. I’ve got the majority of the staff. I’ve got the equipment on order. The European Talent Cup is the next step. I need to get my teeth into that, but it starts a little bit later. At the moment, it’s been a one-man band for the last few months and I’ve got staff all joining now. Taylor Mackenzie started first of November, so I’m starting to get some assistance and just get everything together. I’ve pretty much got it all mapped out. It’s all in place and will take shape. Hopefully from early January we’ll take over our new workshops in Spain and we’ll start with some good camps down there with the kids. Get them riding on all the practice tracks there. So we’ll get to work straightaway from the new year.”

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