24 riders from all over the world compete in the Red Bull Rookies Cup –the first stepping stone to MotoGP – on KTM Moto3 Production racers. Former 125cc GP winner Noboru ‘Nobby’ Ueda (46) takes care of two Japanese young talents in the series. We met the friendly Japanese, twice 125cc world championship runner-up and owner of 13 GP chequered flags to ask a few questions…
You oversee the progress 17-year-old Yui Watanabe from Saitama and Soushi Mihara from Motegi, who is 15 years old. How it is going?
Yui is the only girl in the Red Bull Rookies Cup and in Japan, she rode the national 125 championship. She is very talented. I think both can achieve something. 2012 was her first season with the rookies, now she is in her second season. In 2012 she unfortunately fell too often and injured herself.
Also this year, in Austin she had a big crash and lost 2 months to recover. Now she has to catch up in terms of riding time. She is very motivated, enjoys learning and is keen to learn. Instead of pushing, I prefer to give her some sort of homework to analyse lap times and sectors, to make comparisons with others to find potential for improvement. In the beginning she spoke no English but this winter she learned a lot and now it works quite well.
Soushi is still very young. I’ve known him since he started with pocket bikes. He was remarkably fast. He is now in my team. He has applied for the Red Bull Rookies selection event and was accepted. It is perhaps a little early but here he can collect a lot of valuable experience. How else could he come to Europe? Also he can gather early experience with a Moto3 bike. He gets better and better. The KTM RC 250 is very well done; a great bike. All of them have the same performance, which is extremely motivating for the riders and what makes this Cup for young ones so valuable. I really like the concept of the Red Bull Rookies Cup.
The Red Bull Rookies Cup races take place in the context of selected GP events. Do you have a base in Europe for all the travel?
No, we are flying in to each race from Japan. Otherwise it would not work because both youngsters are still going to school. Education is very important and should continue to be in the foreground despite the demands of racing.
You run your own racing team in Japan?
Yes, since 2007, it is called ‘Team Nobby’. Overall, I support nine kids in different categories. The whole thing works a bit like a racing school. I also work at Nippon TV as a commentator. I am the official commentator of the Moto2 class. My former competitor, Kazuto Sakata, does the Moto3 races and for MotoGP we have Takuma Aoki, who also raced in the class.