THE SUPERBIKE UPBRINGING

DSC01931Aside from being enviously young, talented and athletically fit, Kyle Wilks is also ambitious; focused whole-heartedly on reaching the pinnacle of two-wheeled racing. That means arguably one destination: MotoGP. But there’s a problem; Kyle is not, as his name may suggest, Spanish – an apparent prerequisite for any budding MotoGP star.

Hailing from the not-so-sunny Costa Del Warsash-near-Southampton, Kyle, like so many British aces aiming for MotoGP, is at a distinct disadvantage; while the domestic racing scene in Great Britain is second-to-none, thanks largely to talented new-comers like Kyle and the spectacular tracks that play host to them, the equipment on offer doesn’t best prepare them for the technologically advanced world of MotoGP.

Wilks is a rider in the adolescence of his career, working his way up the ladder, currently competing in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship and seemingly destined to become a named player in the vastly popular British Superbike Championship in years to come; be it Superstock or Superbike however, they simply don’t cut the mustard when it comes to preparing a rider for MotoGP.

“In this country you work your way up to Superbikes because that’s the best there is on offer, and because they’re softer and the electronics are different it doesn’t best prepare you for the prototype ‘bikes in MotoGP”, believes Kyle.

“In Spain though, the first thing you do is jump on a 125cc Moto3 ‘bike, so straight away you’re on the right sort of equipment, that’s why you get so many Spaniards succeeding in MotoGP”.

To aim for MotoGP, Kyle believes, would perhaps lead him to lose focus on more attainable levels of success – the no-less prestigious or impressive World Superbike Championship.

Often looked down upon by members of the MotoGP fraternity, World Superbikes are no-less dramatic and challenging; regardless of MotoGP’s arguable status as the sport’s pinnacle, WSBK still offers a ‘World Championship’ and it’s no surprise that British riders have a better recent track-record there than on the prototype series dominated by Spaniards, thanks to their respective domestic racing upbringing.

Four British riders – Carl Fogarty, Neil Hodgson, James Toseland and Tom Sykes – have won eight World Superbike titles between them since Fogarty’s first in 1988. Tom Sykes, the Yorkshire-man with a history of riding Supersport and Superbikes, is the reigning WSBK champion, and for 2014 is joined by no less than seven fellow Brits (if you’ll allow us to claim Irishman Eugene Laverty), most of whom have a fair chance to challenge for the title.

Compare that to MotoGP and it seems Kyle Wilks’ points on the British domestic racing scene compared to that of Spain appear justified; Cal Crutchlow – having come from a Superbike upbringing – has been Britain’s best hope of a MotoGP race winner since Barry Sheene’s hay-day in the early 1980s, yet still we wait.

Bradley Smith and Scott Redding compete too but wins, for now, seem reserved for those of Spanish descent, who have grown up racing stiffer prototype Grand Prix machinery – Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and the sublime Marc Marquez.

So while Kyle Wilks and other, like-minded, ambitious racers forging a career in Great Britain may find themselves destined for the “lesser” World Superbike Championship, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the likes of the National Superstock and British Superbike Championships have prepared them to stake a claim on a genuine World Championship nonetheless – that it isn’t in MotoGP shouldn’t matter.

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