It’s no wonder Virgin Media Cup boss Rob McElnea introduced this year’s series to the competitors and press by claiming: “We’ve proved the Cup is the best youth development road racing series ever.”
The stats are there to back up his claim.
Tommy Hill, Billy McConnell, Tom Grant. All three Yamaha R6 Cup champions. All three now full-time members of the Virgin Media Yamaha factory team.
Not only that, Rizla Suzuki’s Cal Crutchlow and Team NB’s Ollie and Tommy Bridewell in BSB and Keiran Clarke – one of the title hopes in National Superstock this year on a Buildbase Ducati 1098 - are also products of the R6 Cup system.
Last year’s National Superstock champion Brendan Roberts is also racing for Ducati Corse in the European superstock series this year.
McElnea, talking at the R6 Cup launch at Croft, said: “It’s a great series and we’ve helped develop some great young talent but we’ve also looked hard how to improve it for this year – not just for the winners but for all the guys in the series.
“There will be more track-time, more one-to-one tuition. Ultimately only the winner gets the team contract for 2008 but we want everyone to get 100 per cent attention.”
To help with the tuition, Niall Mackenzie is back with the team he won three BSB titles with back in the days of Cadbury’s Boost Yamaha.
McElnea said: “We’ve brought in Niall Mackenzie to help the lads.
He’s closely interested in youth development and it’s a real coup to have him in the team.”
The age limit has been upped this year from 22 to 25-years-old.
McElnea said: “We realised that a lot of guys are starting racing a bit later now so we wanted to give late developers an opportunity to take part in the series.”
There’s also the added bonus of two non-championship R6 Cup races at the Donington MotoGP round.
“We have the two-race extravaganza at Donington GP. It’s such a massive and unique experience money can’t buy.
“Only people involved in the R6 Cup are invited and they are looked after by the Yamaha factory team, invited to the Yamaha garage for a tour of Rossi’s pit garage, get a chance to sample some hospitality – and race in front of the MotoGP bosses,” added McElnea.
It’s not just on the track that McElnea hopes to help the riders.
There are also ambitious plans to help the riders with their own preparation, including advice on training, nutrition, and psychological elements.
McElnea said: “We found with our previous winners there’s a huge step from R6 Cup to BSB or BSS in terms of fitness.
“We realised that the winter break isn’t long enough to get riders up to fitness. We want to plan ahead and work the whole year preparing riders for the next step.”
Back on track there’s also a new tyre supplier. In keeping with the Virgin Media superbike and supersport teams, the R6 Cup now has a Pirelli control tyre, replacing the Dunlops that were used last year.
Pirelli’s Jason Griffiths told the young riders: "The Diablo Corsa Three tyres that will be used in the R6 Cup were developed the tyre primarily for European Superstock with a dual compound: a durable centre but with racing compounds on the outer edges of the tyre for maximum grip.
“We’re confident in the tyre but the proof will be when you guys are racing.”