A team from the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup travels to the final MotoGP race of the year in Valencia, Spain for the second of two Red Bull Riders Cup competitions this weekend. The hottest young racing talent from North and South America will take on a team from the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
The top ten riders in each series will attempt to win the Red Bull Riders Cup, a unique team competition that was last won by the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup team at Indianapolis earlier this year.
“The Red Bull Riders Cup is going to be a big challenge for our team,” said Rider Coach Kevin Schwantz. “There are a bunch of unknowns for us this time out, but I think our kids are up to the challenge. We’re backed into a corner a little bit but that’s what racing is all about — seeing who can respond to adversity and tough situations. At Indy, we had the weather. This time, it is getting up to speed quickly. Only two or three of our kids have even seen the track in person before, so we’ll have to do double duty this weekend. When we aren’t riding or talking about it, we’ll be watching other riders getting their laps in so we can learn something. It’s a great opportunity for our kids to apply their experiences from this season and get another shot to race the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies.”
The Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies are looking to capture the Riders Cup after a disappointing performance earlier this year at the Red Bull Indianapolis GP that saw them outpointed 114 to 26. Despite the score, the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies were much closer to taking the Cup than the score indicated. That race, held in difficult wet conditions, saw a handful of crashes from runners in the top ten alter the final outcome.
This time, the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies are looking for a different outcome. Hayden Gillim of Owensboro, Kentucky had a spectacular race in the last Riders Cup event, leading and running up front in the rain until a late crash.
“We’d like for things to be different this time but it will be a tough challenge,” said Gillim, second in points and winner of two races. “After Indy, I’m looking forward to getting to race the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies and hopefully I can keep it on two wheels this time. I got a bad start at Indy, so I’ll be looking to improve on that. I raced at Valencia a while back but it was on a smaller bike and I have improved a lot since then, too. Hopefully, the Americans can get up to speed quickly like the Europeans did at Indy.”
Leandro Mercado of Argentina, who finished third in the points this season and also won twice, echoed that sentiment.
“It will be a very interesting race and a challenge because most of us don’t know the track,” said Mercado, the Laguna Seca race winner in September. “For me, racing in the Rookies Cup this year has taught me to learn the tracks quickly because I haven’t raced at about 80 percent of the circuits before. I’m getting better at learning the tracks quickly. I am happy the way the season ended when I earned another victory at Laguna Seca and I am very motivated to keep doing well.”
“We want to do better than Indy because we did not get much of a result in that one,” said Benny Solis, Jr., of North Hollywood, Calif. Solis won four races on his way to capturing the series championship in 2008. “I’m hoping it is a dry race. For me, the key is getting the suspension set up quickly and then pushing the bike and learning the lines. We’ll have a great time in Spain but we also want to do well as a team.”
Jake Gagne of Ramona, Calif., says it will take a team effort in Valencia. “I’m excited. It’s cool to race out of the country and at a MotoGP race,” said Gagne, who won two races and finished fourth in the points. “We’re happy to get another shot at winning the Riders Cup. The last time didn’t go like we wanted at Indy and the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies did a great job to win. It was our first race in full-wet conditions and we didn’t have the good race we wanted to have. This time will be tough but we’ll work together to learn the lines and get up to speed as quickly as possible.”
Rounding out the Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup team will be Tomas Puerta of Medellin, Colombia, Austin DeHaven of Los Angeles, Calif., Joey Pascarella of Vacaville, Calif., Emerson Connor of Burlington, Ont., Canada, Bryce Prince of Bakersfield, Calif., and Huntley Nash of Marietta, Ga.
The 2.489-mile Ricardo Tormo circuit is a unique stadium venue featuring a great view for spectators and a nice collection of corners. The Red Bull Riders Cup will support the final MotoGP race of the season.
The 17-lap race will be held on Saturday, October 25 at 4:20 p.m. local time.