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Robin Miller: How young is too young to compete?

Racing is a dangerous sport, that is part of the attraction whether it be track or road.

The UK possesses some of the most testing, which was the reason behind Christian Iddon’s recent concerns regarding corner speed and how it had grown due to huge improvement in tyre grip. He didn’t comment on the doubling of engine size and the quadrupling of bhp when you might have thought the engine size should be going in precisely the opposite direction - in the last century the FIM was seriously considering a reduction from 500cc to 250cc!

A tyre or capacity formula is easy to change but traditional circuits are not unless completely reconfigured, which has meant goodbye to many of them, not pleasing many traditional fans. But while the elimination of one form of risk has to be welcomed, others have cropped up.


It is now accepted that on world championship circuits, with wide areas of run-off etc., the greatest danger to riders is not crashing into the ‘furniture’ but being hit by following machines. Two teenage riders have been killed this year in similar circumstances - 19-year-old Jason Dupasquier during Moto3 qualifying at Mugello, and the latest 14-year-old Hugo Milan, in a European Talent Cup race at Aragon - which raises the question of how many riders, or any of that age, should be allowed in a race. It is not unusual for 35, often young and inexperienced, to crowd the grid.

While proud of teenagers like 13-year-old Sky Brown winning medals in risky sports - skateboarding gave her several broken bones - for Britain in the Tokyo Olympics, James Whitham declared ”It’s fine to try to produce a world champion at 17-years-old by getting 12 and 13-year-olds onto smaller bikes.”

“But when you think that this is not schoolboy motocross or kart racing, which is a lot safer, they are being put on bikes capable of 130mph. Playing the role of devils advocate why would you put a 13 or 14-year-old kid on a grown up circuit on a bike which, in real terms, is fairly quick when you wouldn’t let him drive a truck or a car or a bike on the road?

“The reason for asking the question is because have you at that age got the mental capacity and maturity to make decisions on your own safety? The fact is, if you put a grid full of 13 and 14-year-old kids on track in a competition on those sort of machines, as close as they are in speed, you are going to get incidents and people hurt. If you’re an adult, who should stop you being a sky diver, a rock climber or anything else as long as you don’t endanger anyone else. It’s your decision. But at that age you have got to wonder whether they have the capacity to consider all the risks involved. The FIM will be well aware of this and I am sure it is a subject of discussion.”

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