Southland teenager Cormac Buchanan has made history as the first New Zealand rider to be selected in the prestigious Red Bull Rookies Cup.
Buchanan, 14, is one of nine new riders from around the world invited to join the elite road racing programme for 2021. A total of 26 riders from 16 countries will contest the championship on legendary circuits throughout Europe.
“I was pretty shocked to be honest. It’s incredibly humbling and a massive opportunity for me as I pursue my goal of competing on the world stage,” he said.
Currently riding for the Yamaha New Zealand Racing Development Team, Buchanan won the 150 SuperSport title at the 2020 New Zealand Superbike Championships earlier this year. In 2019 he attended Rookies Cup trials in Spain, earning a spot in the finals.
Unable to run the normal Selection Event this year due to the Covid pandemic, Rookies Cup opted for an online selection process which generated an impressive list of talent for the Selection Committee to consider.
“I’ve worked really hard since I got back from Spain and continued to develop my riding. To finally achieve this goal feels surreal. When the news broke late last night, my coach Steve woke me up so it’s no wonder I thought I was dreaming,” he said.
“It’s going to be unreal to ride in Europe and represent New Zealand and I’m determined to make the most of it. Hopefully I will get to wear that silver fern on my helmet and I just want to do everyone proud.
“I’m under no illusions as to how hard this is going to be given the calibre of the sport over there – I’m up against some of the best young riders in the world but I’m also up for the challenge.
“It’s going to be a steep learning curve with a completely new bike and circuits but we’ve been racing and training hard down here and I’ve been preparing myself for the step up.”
Currently in its 14h season, Rookies Cup is regarded as the Road to MotoGP and has an impressive reputation as a pathway into the sport’s top echelon. Ex Rookies have won 7 World Championships, including Spain’s Joan Mir who claimed the 2020 MotoGP crown last weekend, and dominate classes from Moto3 through to MotoGP.
It’s been a monumental rise for Buchanan who only contested his first road race in March last year after joining the Oceania Junior Cup in Australia for his debut season as he was too young to race in New Zealand.
He has been mentored by Moto Academy NZ founder Dr Steve Bagshaw, of Wellington, since transitioning from speedway.
“Steve has had such a positive influence on me as a person and my riding. I just soak up his advice and knowledge and then apply it on the track. It’s a formula that’s working,” Buchanan said.
Since its inception in 2008, Moto Academy NZ has facilitated a number of young kiwi riders to Rookies Cup selection and Bagshaw was thrilled to see Buchanan become the first to succeed.
“The focus of Moto Academy NZ is on nurturing and mentoring emerging talents. We aim to guide them through their early stages offering training with skills and approach to racing, and then setting them free to learn from mentors further up the food chain.
“Cormac and his family have been committed from the outset to represent the dedication it takes to achieve in the highly-competitive world of motorcycle racing internationally. We will be right there with him as he endeavours to excel in the Rookies Cup environment. Tu meke!”
New Zealand has a proud history of producing world class motorcycle riders such as Hugh Anderson, John Woodley, Stu Avant, Graeme Crosby, Simon Crafar, Andrew Stroud and Aaron Slight.
“Unfortunately, no-one has dominated internationally in recent years which makes this opportunity even greater for not only Cormac but New Zealand motorcycling. He is showing a tangible pathway is possible,” Bagshaw said.
List of invited riders for Red Bull Rookies Cup 2021:
Riders invited to return from this year’s Cup: