Is your child the next world champion? That question is being asked in all seriousness by the founders of the SA Motorcycle Racing Academy, a non-profit organisation dedicated to finding and nurturing young motorcycle racing talent.
The academy does that by running its own one-make racing series for children from eight to 14 years old, using identical 100cc racing motorcycles provided by Honda SA, so that the only criteria for success are the talent and will to win of the rider.
On race days, parents aren’t allowed anywhere near the bikes, each if which is tuned and set up to exactly the same specifications. The riders draw their bike numbers out of a helmet, so not even the organisers know ahead of time who is riding which bike.
And it makes no difference if your child has never ridden a motorcycle; most academy rookies so far have been just that - rookies. That’s the way founders Neill Forbes and Neil Harran prefer it, because full training by top SA Superbike racers is part of the deal, during “Boot Camp” weekends at Red Star Raceway in Gauteng, where the emphasis is on making sure the kids have as much fun as possible, while learning the elements of racecraft.
EXTENDING TO THE CAPE
The academy has been running in Gauteng since 2009 (current Grand Prix rider Brad Binder was one of that first class) and similar programmes using the same type of motorcycle have been underway in Japan since 2006 and in Italy since 2008.
Now Forbes and Harran are extending the SA Motorcycle Racing Academy programme to the Western Cape, under the guidance of ‘racing dad’ Lance Jonas, himself a former competitor, whose son Hayden has just won his second consecutive Regional title - at 14!
There are 18 places available for the Western Province NSF Cup Series, over a minimum of nine rounds. The cost is about R2000 per round, and includes everything except the rider’s helmet, leathers, gloves and boots - even crash damage is covered by the organisers. All the riders have to do is pitch up and ride.
At the launch of the Western Province series Harran admitted that motorcycle racing is never cheap, but said this was the least expensive – and most hassle-free - way to get a budding Rossi or Lorenzo started in circuit racing.
GENUINE RACING BIKES
The NSF100 is a purpose-built racing motorcycle, designed and made by HRC, the competition arm of Honda Motorcycles; there is no road-going version of this model.
It has a short-stroke 99cc single-cylinder engine, delivering 6.2kW at 9500rpm and 7.4Nm at 7000rpm.
It runs a compact wheelbase of only 1074mm and chunky tyres on 12” rims, giving it a seat height of 681mm and making it ideally suited to riders of 8-14 years old.
Dry weight is 73.6kg and the NSF100 has a top speed of about 110km/h – fast enough to make it seriously exciting on a tight, twisty kart circuit.