Racers don’t grow on trees. Budding talent needs to be nurtured and encouraged with care on what is hopefully an upward career trajectory. The European Junior Cup is a fresh showcase for emerging skill. In this one-brand cup – where riders take to the track on identical KTM Duke 690 bikes – nearly three dozen youngsters from all over the world fight for podium places and attention – under the gaze of Superbike World Championship crowds and many team bosses…
The European Junior Cup (EJC) takes place within the framework of the Superbike World Championship. KTM riders and their Duke 690 racing machines are easy to find in the paddock, housed in an orange camp with several workshop tents and a large hospitality area. You can hear it too since the whole site is filled with the sound of rock and pop music. It’s really lively here.
As is usual in one-make cups, all competitors ride identical racing machines. The EJC cup package, comprising the KTM Duke 690 racing machine, all entry fees and a comprehensive equipment package for 8 races and a spring training event costs € 19,950. It also includes tyres, fuel, tools and bike transportation from track to track. Competitors really only need to bring along their protective clothing and the odd helper or two, because it’s all go in the pit lane.
The same material for everyone guarantees equal opportunities. Costs are also kept in check. The EJC is organised by the company “Racedays Promotion” with support from KTM. Everything is taken into account regarding event organisation and supervision. Ex-racers are at hand as advisers with tips and tricks. Provision of spare parts is controlled and courses are held to convey useful knowledge for tuning work and refining riding technique.
The EJC is open to young riders between 14 and 19 years of age. Races are held on internationally renowned tracks that every racing fan is bound to have heard of: Assen in Holland, Monza and Misano in Italy, Aragon in Spain, Brno in the Czech Republic, Silverstone in England, the Nürburgring in Germany and Magny-Cours in France. A spring training event for everyone is held in Spain in Cartagena.
The Duke 690 has been prepared for racing with a clear and reasonable amount of fine-tuning. Akrapovic exhaust, multi-adjustable electronics box and targeted refinements boost the power of the world’s most powerful single-cylinder from 70 to 79 hp. It weighs only 140kg (without fuel). WP suspension components optimise cornering, while lightweight Marchesini wheels and Pirelli race tyres enable breath-taking lean angles. Other ingredients include: brakes, front spoiler, crash bars, footrest system, seat and handlebar from the KTM PowerParts range.
Free training takes place on Friday at every race event, followed on Saturday by the qualification session. The EJC race itself is held on Sunday before the second Superbike race, i.e. when the stands are always at their fullest at World Championship meets. The race distance is 35 to 50 kilometres. After the chequered flag is waved, a victory ceremony takes place on the same podium where trophies are presented to World Championship heroes. Bubbly is handed over after the silverware, because these youngsters need to learn how to spray champagne as well.
Seven out of eight races in the 2012 season are already history. The final event in Magny-Cours is set to decide who will be crowned with the EJC championship title. Lukas Wimmer from Austria is in the lead after bagging three race victories, but he can still be overhauled by Spaniards Gaston Garcia and Javier Orellana. Behind them, half a dozen pursuers still have hopes of a top-five final placing: Christian Vidal (ESP), Arthur Wielebski (POL), Lamie Patterson (NI), Adrian Pasek (POL), Jean-Francois Demoulin (FRA) and Brandon Kyee from the USA.
Regardless of who wins the final EJC race or the title in France, all the youngsters who have managed to demonstrate their riding skill and fighting spirit outstandingly during the season can be assured of attention from team bosses and talent scouts in the World Championship paddock. It’s hard to imagine a better way to start a racing career. Not to mention the riding fun and adventures that all EJC riders will have experienced in the saddle and in the paddock during the season.