Biker kids enrol in Youth GP Academy to get race ready
A handful of children are being groomed as budding motorcycle circuit racers.
The five boys, aged between six and 13, have recently enrolled in a Youth GP (grand prix) Academy run by motorcycle race organiser Singamoto.
The aim is to train young riders to race on the international stage, according to motor sports governing body Motor Sports Singapore (MSS).
Said Mr K. Thamodharan, vice-president for motorcycle sport at MSS: "The key takeaways of having such a programme include having the ability to create new interest in motorcycling sport... and a structured curriculum in a safe environment with the right safety gear so that young riders can be nurtured in the proper techniques and skills to shorten their learning curve."
The plan of an academy did not materialise initially due to a lack of interest, proper training venue and "like-minded companies willing to undertake this together with MSS".
Added Mr Thamodharan: "There is a demand for such events more so now as Singaporeans take on more sporting hobbies."
Singamoto has been running the programme for the last two months while closely watching Covid-19 developments. Unfortunately, the recent enhanced Covid-19 measures meant training had to be suspended.
But the participants recounted the thrills and spills during their training at the KF1 Karting Circuit in Kranji.
Jaden Immanuel, eight, said he loves riding fast on the 960m-long circuit.
"I love both the fast and slow turns, but you must know when to brake," said Jaden, who, like the rest, must wear custom-made suits, helmets and boots.
"The only time I grazed my knee pads (on tarmac) was when I once crashed."
But falling down is part of learning, said Jaden's father, Mr Immanuel Vijay Kumar, 36.
He added: "The right environment, (riding) gear and instructors will definitely help them learn the skills efficiently. Circuit riding is still safer compared to (riding) on roads."
For 11-year-old Xu Zi Hao, track riding makes him a more complete rider after first learning to ride a dirt bike two years ago.
"Circuit riding is different because of the straights and bends," Zi Hao said. "Off-road riding is about jumps, hills and bumpy terrain."
Riding with his son is an excellent way to "bond and develop", said Mr Tony Xu, 42.
He added: "Motor sports itself is a wide spectrum. You can build your character and skills. I hope his passion for motorcycling will grow (with the programme)."
But following your passion can be costly, especially when parents have to foot the annual membership fees of between $275 and $550 depending on the age group.
Weekly track fees vary between $40 and $60, not taking into account the personal gear that the participants must own because of hygiene and Covid-19 safety measures.
While some participants train on their own bikes, it is understood that one day they will all train on small capacity rental motorcycles at the academy.
One parent said he invested about $3,000 to get his son ready for the academy.
Mr Suhirman Sulaiman, the father of six-year-old Haider Aariz, said there is a delicate balance between school education and riding.
"My son's riding takes up a lot of our time as we are at the circuit from Fridays to Sundays," the 42-year-old said.
"Still, his school work is equally important and we are monitoring it."
The academy intends to get the boys race-ready for a local youth race in the last quarter of this year.
And there are even bigger plans.
Said Mr Thamodharan: "While we are not embarking on the FIM (motorcycling's ruling body) Mini-GP programme this year, we are hopeful the right conditions are in place next year so we can participate... and send representatives to the world final to compete against the best racers in the world."