In 2001, the pioneering Red Bull Rookies team was formed to focus on nurturing and training young and promising motorcycle racing talent in the UK. The overall aim was to enable young riders to have the best possible training and experience in the 125cc class and help to provide the route through to Supersport, Superbike and possibly the world championships.
This season, all the team's hard work is realised as Red Bull Honda and Jonathan Rea begin their first ever British Superbike Championship campaign. The 18-year-old rider from Ballyclare in Northern Ireland joined the team as a Red Bull Rookie in 2003 and after finishing 15th overall in the National 125cc Championship, he quickly progressed to the world class British Supersport Championship the following season.
Although his debut Supersport campaign was cut short due to injury in 2004, Rea achieved some good points-scoring finishes. He finished an impressive sixth at Thruxton and eighth at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit aboard the Red Bull Rookies Honda CBR600RR after a mixed start to the season.
Following a break away from racing to aid his recovery, the Ulster teenager is determined to make his debut Superbike season a success. The Red Bull Honda star plans to showcase his talent on the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy track at the Kent circuit this weekend.
During a pre-season test in Spain, Rea made significant progress and adapted to the larger capacity Red Bull Honda. Then, at subsequent tests at Knockhill, Donington Park and Brands, the emerging talent finalised his preparations for what should be an enthralling 13-round championship.
Jonathan Rea: "I’m really excited about returning to racing and even more so because of my Superbike debut. The Red Bull Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade is awesome and I hope to be able to do it some justice with the help of the team. All I can aim for in my first season is to do the best I can."
Laverty seeks Supersport stardom
As Jonathan Rea discovered last year, the British Supersport Championship is ultra-competitive and the 2005 season will be no exception. Although often considered as a support race to the British Superbike series, the Supersport class is by no means inferior. It has traditionally been home to a wealth of motorcycle racing talent – none more so than Honda Racing's own Karl Harris.
This year, Red Bull Honda rider Eugene Laverty is hoping to follow in Harris' footsteps and claim the highly sought-after British Supersport title. The Toomebridge teenager is making his debut in the British Supersport Championship aboard the Red Bull Honda CBR600RR on Dunlop tyres.
The talented Ulsterman dominated some races – achieving four race wins and five other podium places – on his Honda RS125 after joining Red Bull Rookies Honda for the 2004 British 125GP Championship. Laverty finished second overall, narrowly missing out on the title – after an unlucky crash in the final round at Donington Park.
As a reward for his success, the 18-year-old was given the opportunity to make his Supersport debut at the Castle Combe Grand National last October. To prove his capabilities, he claimed victory in the first race aboard the Red Bull Honda CBR600RR. Like team-mate Rea's progression, Laverty's graduation from the British 125GP class also signifies the success of the Red Bull Honda project.
Laverty is keen to go back to the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy track where he finished runner-up last season. He has already emerged as a frontrunner on the Red Bull Honda CBR600RR during pre-season testing and is ready to accept the challenge of the notoriously challenging Supersport class.
Eugene Laverty: "The British Supersport Championship is always competitive and this year will be no exception. However, I would like to think I could finish the championship among the top six riders. I had a good result on the Red Bull Honda CBR600RR machine at the Castle Combe Grand National in October so I think I am capable of finishing among some of the best in the class. We'll have to wait and see."
Rookie Jones ready for 125GP debut
Just as Jonathan Rea's move to the Superbike class has paved the way for Eugene Laverty’s Supersport debut, Laverty's progression to the next stage in his motorcycle racing career has left his British 125GP Championship mantle free for a new prodigy. After a series of tests, 14-year-old Chris Jones was selected in November to join Red Bull Honda, as the latest rookie for the 2005 season.
The Worcestershire youngster has been racing motorcycles since he was nine years old and has already sealed a number of coveted championship titles. As the 2000-02 British 4.2 Mini Moto Champion, the Southern Champion in both 2001 and 2002 and the 2004 MRO 125GP Champion, Jones is certainly no stranger to victory. He was also awarded the New Era Rookie of the Year prize at the tender age of 12.
Jones is contesting the British 125GP series on the two-stroke Red Bull Honda RS125 machine on Dunlop tyres – the same machine campaigned by Red Bull Rookies Honda graduate Laverty last year. Jones is aiming to kickstart his championship challenge with his first ride at the 1.2-mile Brands Hatch Indy track for Red Bull Honda at the weekend. He hopes to follow in Laverty's tyre tracks and maintain a sustained bid for championship glory.
The rising Droitwich star has already adapted to the bike well and impressed at the team's recent test session in Spain. He followed up that performance by establishing himself as a leader in the class during the official pre-season tests at Donington Park and Brands Hatch.
Chris Jones: "It's such a great honour to be chosen to ride for the Red Bull Honda team. Naturally, I found it difficult to acclimatise to my new surroundings at first, but everyone has been great. I'm just ready to go out there and show everyone what I am capable of."
Circuit length: 1.2 miles
Superbike lap record:
J. Reynolds 0:46.189
2004 BSB race one result:
1. J. Reynolds;
2. M. Rutter;
3. Y. Kagayama
2004 BSB race two result:
1. S. Emmett;
2. M. Rutter;
3. J. Reynolds
Supersport lap record:
S. Andrews 0:47.782
2004 BSS result
1. J. Vincent;
2. L. Quigley;
3. S. Andrews;
DNF J. Rea
125GP lap record:
S. Owens 0:48.993
2004 125GP result:
1. M. Wilcox;
2. E. Laverty;
3. A. Beech;
7. S. Neate