Peter Clifford catches up with the stars of this year's Red Bull Rookies Cup at the MotoGP awards ceremony in Valencia, Spain and gets their thoughts on the season and plans for the future.
Standing on the stage with Casey Stoner and the other superstars at the the glitzy FIM MotoGP awards ceremony were the top three in the Rookies Cup; 15-year-old Italian Lorenzo Baldassarri, 16-year-old Australian Arthur Sissis and 17-year-old Frenchman Alan Techer.
As recipients of the Rookies Cup awards, all have their eyes set on the other MotoGP classes and while Baldassarri is still too young and will remain in the Cup for 2012, Sissis is on his way to Moto3 as a member of the Red Bull Ajo Motorports Team riding the new 4-stroke KTM. Techer also has possibilities in the new Moto3 World Championship.
Sissis leaves the Rookies Cup after three years and has no doubt about his feelings for his final season. “This has been the best year of my life. A lot better than the previous two years, I've been on the podium a lot and I've won races races. It's been the funnest racing of my life.”
'This has been the best year of my life' – Arthur Sissis
Prior to joining the Cup, Sissis had done nothing but speedway and hence it took time to get used to racing on tarmac. He was also living far from his home in Australia and existing with his sister and father in an ill equipped van. “There was a time last year when I think for three months we lived off cans of tuna for breakfast lunch and dinner.”
Things improved this year when they had a base in Austria. “This year we've had a little house, a back yard, we can cook, go to the supermarket and buy some good stuff so that's a whole lot better than the last two years. That made a difference, I could train more, because last year I didn't train, nothing. That made a lot of difference this year because I could last all race and be strong at the end, some of my fastest laps were towards the end.”
As for next year and the factory KTM ride in Moto3. “A dream come true, I've always wanted to be in the GPs so if it does come true it will be the best thing in my life. Better than picking potatoes,” he says with a grin referring to one of the few options available back home in Australia.
Sissis knows that his GP chance is all down to the Rookies Cup. “It teaches you a lot of things, the first time I ever rode a road bike was here so it teaches you everything.” As for the step up to the Moto3 class. “I think it will still be a bit scary, new riders and everything but the way the guys ride so hard in Rookies Cup it really can't be that different.”
Sissis had raced all year with Baldassarri, had four wins in his seven appearances on the podium. The Italian only finished outside the top six once, was on the podium six times and scored two victories. His greater consistency gave him the points lead going into the final round and when he and Sissis went for the same bit of road and the Australian ended up running wide it was all over, the Cup was Baldassarri's.
“It was a good year,” asserts Baldassarri. “I learnt a lot and it is a good school and because the bikes are all the same and the difference is from the rider. All the riders are very close, just a second between a whole group of us. We learned to fight very hard.”
He did have road racing experience before the Cup but at a lower level. “I was racing in Spain in 125 PreGP on a Metrakit. The Cup is a big change and a big step forward. I have also learned a lot of different tracks, not just learning tracks but getting the experience of the fast circuits because in Italy young riders are not allowed to race very much on the GP tracks at all. Mostly we race on very small circuits up to 16-years-old.”
'Here [at the Rookies Cup] we can learn everything' – Lorenzo Baldassarri
It was clear that despite his awesome talent and particularly inspired rides at Silverstone in the wet and in varied conditions at Assen he still had a good deal to learn. Like all Rookies he got tutelage from rider coaches Gustl Auinger and Raul Jara. “Raul and Gustl have been a great help, the briefings teach us a lot, here we can learn everything. Sachsenring and Brno were difficult, I didn't know the the tracks and the races were very close, I couldn't ride the lines I wanted to and got held up by the other riders – these were hard races for me.”
Fighting his way out of the pack was clearly a problem and something that might have cost him the title at the final round in Italy. “In Misano I was determined not to let this happen. In Sachsenring and Brno I waited, I didn't want to take too much risk but here I knew I couldn't wait in MIsano, I had to break out of the pack and I did.”
So Baldassarri races again in the 2012 Rookies Cup and he will be under great pressure as the best rider from the season is guaranteed a place in the Red Bull KTM team for 2013. He and the other Rookies will all have an eye on Sissis as he finds his way in Grand Prix racing.
- Red Bull Rookies Cup homepage
- Check out the Rookies' blogs
- The latest from 2012 Rookies Cup selection
- Watch the full Rookies Cup 2011 final race from Misano