The debut year of Red Bull and Honda Racing’s partnership in the British Superbike Championship series has been extremely successful, having already claimed several wins and podium finishes with Eugene Laverty and Steven Neate in 2004. Red Bull Rookies Honda is aiming to continue its impressive record with the help of what they consider to be the brightest young prospect in the sport.
The teenage hopefuls – 11 male and one female – were chosen from across the UK to attend a selection event at Mallory Park yesterday (Tuesday 16 November). Each one hoped to be selected as the British 125GP Championship contender for one of the biggest and most professional teams in the paddock.
The event, which was organised by Red Bull and Honda Racing, entailed a rigorous selection process. This included two one-hour sessions on the track, an interview with representatives from the two companies and a tough fitness assessment with personal trainer Darren Roberts – current strength and conditioning coach for the Red Bull-backed competitors.
Despite an overall incredibly high standard, two youngsters shone out from the process – Bradley Smith and Chris Jones. However, with just one ride available, a tough decision needed to be made. The pair were interviewed for a second time with their parents before the final choice of Chris Jones was announced.
Jones, is aiming to become the youngest ever champion in the series with the help and support of Red Bull Rookies Honda. He is also hoping to remain with the team in future years to progress his road racing career into the higher capacity Supersport and Superbike classes.
The teenager, who is the 2004 MRO 125GP Champion, was the fastest rider on the track in both sessions and also excelled in his interviews, making him the unanimous choice of the panel of experts. He will now join Red Bull Honda Racing team-mates Jonathan Rea and Eugene Laverty as they embark on their pre-season test schedule.
“Red Bull’s partnership with Honda Racing enables us to give the best teenage riders in the UK a once in a lifetime opportunity to potentially progress from a Honda RS125 to the British Superbike Championship,” said Red Bull’s Motorsport Manager Linda Pelham. “Chris Jones is certainly already among the best, and we hope to be able to help him reach the pinnacle of his profession in the future.”
Honda Racing Race Team Manager Neil Tuxworth said: “Young motorcycle racing talent receives the attention and encouragement that it deserves in other European countries and Honda Racing believes that that should also be the case in the UK. It is important to provide the talent to replace experienced racers like Michael Rutter when he retires in order to protect the future of the sport.”
“It’s a dream come true for me to be chosen today,” said Jones. “I was quite nervous when I saw the standard of the other riders who attended. The team seem really friendly though and the Red Bull Rookies Honda RS125 looks amazing. I can’t wait to start testing. I want to win the championship next year and my long term ambition is to go to MotoGP.”