Is this the future of UK racing talent?

Danny_Kent_Moto2-2015It’s the British GP at Silverstone this weekend. Although the home-crowning fairytale is mathematically impossible, Danny Kent is edging towards bringing the first GP title back to Blighty since Barry Sheene in 1977. Even without clinching the championship, Kent is already the most successful British rider since Bazza’s era and has a medley of 2016 MotoGP contracts at his disposal. But where’s the next world champ coming from?

Patrick Allen – Silverstone’s new managing director – is asking the same question, and 44Teeth got the chance for an exclusive tête-à-tête with the bike-riding businessman at the recent Catalan GP.

“We’re blessed with UK racing talent at the moment but where does the next wave come from? It’s something that I’ve been chatting about with Dorna, as I’m keen to make sure we keep on this trail of up and coming riders but fed into MotoGP. I don’t think there’s a natural route for it currently, so we’re talking about how we develop our version of the Asia Talent Cup and various other 250-type routes. Dorna are helping us out. How we fund it, we haven’t decided yet, but one of the thoughts I’m having is if we can get fans to support the British GP, then we can take an element of that profit and put it back into rider development for British riders.

“When you look at what the Spanish do, and how the podiums are often mostly Spanish, or Italian; it’s been like that for years. There’s a constant stream of riders. It’s not the work of a moment but somebody has to start it somewhere and I think we’ll be starting it at Silverstone in the near future.”

It sounds utterly ridiculous to even mutter the words, yet some could say that, potentially, there are too many British riders in the MotoGP pipeline for ’16 – seven, possibly more. Not for us fans, not for the riders, not necessarily for the teams: for Dorna and associated sponsors. As always, being the best/fastest in the business doesn’t always count towards bagging a seat. However, passport flavour and the how big the wedge of cash that comes with the rider does, and the organisers require an extensive directory of pilots from a variety of countries to satisfy commercial prerequisites.

But Patrick’s proposed strategy and the task of working with Dorna isn’t about the here and now. It’s about creating a tangible path for UK talent to manifest in coming years. Of the current crop of British riders in MotoGP, only Cal Crutchlow (and Laverty to some extent) plied their trade in the UK. Redding, Smith and Moto3’s Danny Kent spent their youth in Spain, rather than doing bongs in a bus stop and competing in Britain’s production bike culture.

“Where are our top riders coming from? Cal’s doing a good job and I’m a big fan of Scott Redding – I don’t doubt that he’ll be on the podium soon. Bradley Smith is also doing a fantastic job, and we’ve got Sam Lowes and Danny Kent coming through. But where’s the next batch? It concerns me that we don’t have an obvious rider development program in the UK, and I would be very keen to start that with Silverstone. And if that means putting some of the profits we make back into a program.

“British fans supporting British riders – not of the current day but of the future. There’s a lot of work still to do with the ACU, we need to get accreditation for our development schools and so on, but I think everybody who I’ve had round a table has a willingness at this stage to make it happen. It’s my job to make sure that willingness is crystallised and that we have a legacy of brilliant riders.”

It sounds extravagant but the suggested formula is simple, and that’s enough of an initiative to go out and buy some tickets. Patrick is a straight-talking Yorkshireman who also wants to banish some of the “arrogance” associated with Silverstone and we wish him well…

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