New Zealand has a proud history of young, and not so young, racers venturing out into the world to take on the best motorcycle racers on offer. From riders like Rod Coleman, to Graeme Crosby, Aaron Slight, Simon Crafar, Shane Richardson, Damon Rees and many others who have not garnered as much attention.

2023 has been no different. Except perhaps for the ages of the new generation of racers!

Back in the day, riders might have headed overseas in their 20’s or 30’s. Now, riders are heading away to take on the world in their early teens!

The leader of this new generation of racers has been Invercargill’s Cormac Buchanan. At the ripe old age of 17, he now has three seasons of Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, and one season each of Oceania Junior Cup, British Talent Cup, European Talent Cup, and Junior World Championships (Junior GP) behind him. With a ride in the world championships seemingly right within his grasp in the near future, he is currently back in NZ to defend his 600 Supersport title before another tilt at the Junior GP title in 2024.

After arriving home, we got in touch and asked Cormac if he could share any insights with us on his time in Europe and the future. He told us,

“Competing in Europe has been a massive learning curve. It’s crazy to think I’ve only been racing for five years and I’ve spent three of those competing against the world’s best over there.

“To go from being at the back of the grid to now fighting for poles and race victories in the Junior World Championship [Junior GP] in such a short space of time has been rewarding. The flip side is it’s really showed me how hard you have to work and the many sacrifices it takes to make it in this sport. I wake up every day with the only goal of being a better rider.

Cormac Buchanan, AGR Team Junior GP.                                Pic: R Marrodan, One Percent Magazine

“2024 for me will be a huge year. I’m going to go all in and give everything to achieve my goal of being the next kiwi on the grid in the MotoGP world championship.”

However, 2022, 2023 have seen, and 2024 will see, a new group of young Kiwi riders take on the challenge of following in his footsteps and making their own successes.


The OJC in Australia will have official ASBK championship status in 2024 and is also one of the official ‘Road to MotoGP’ programmes. It has now developed into the first ‘big bike’ stepping stone for young racers from this part of the world.

Oceania Junior Cup 2023 in full flight!                                                                     Pic: Oceania Junior Cup

11 year old Wellingtonian Nixon Frost ventured to Australia in 2022, and again in 2023, to compete against Australia’s best young racers, in OJC. Nixon, now 13, indicated that his:

“Involvement in the OJC has literally been life changing for me. If it wasn’t for the MNZ scholarship we stumbled into last year, I still wouldn’t know how to race a motorcycle. At the time we couldn’t race in NZ all that much. So having the opportunity to be involved with such a professional operation, racing alongside some supremely talented young riders, sharing data, training, learning the craft from the best in the business really created a buzz.”

Nixon Frost, OJC.                                                                 Pic: Action Sports Photography Australia.

Nixon will be competing as the youngest competitor in the 2023/24 NZSBK 300 Supersport Championship. While he is aiming for the Top 10 by the end of the series, at NZSBK Rd 1 he was running regularly in the top five!

Also competing in OJC 2023 have been Cambridge’s Haydn Fordyce (15) and Christchurch’s Hunter Charlett (13). With one round of three races to go this season, Haydn was in third place in the championship hunt, with a few great performances under his belt. While the final round did not quite go his way, he finished the season with an awesome third place and showed that Kiwi riders can be at the top!

Before he left for the final round of OJC, Haydn gave us some insight into his season and preparation.

“Competing in the OJC has been an absolutely amazing experience for me as a young rider. It has taught me the equivalent of two years of full riding in just one season. There are so many talented riders with whom I’ve had great battles on the track, making the whole experience even more enjoyable. Many different things can and have happened, teaching me how to adapt to situations and learn from them. For instance, at Phillip Island I was run way off the track into last place. But I had to adapt, keep my head down, and managed to secure a 4th place in that race!

Haydn Fordyce, OJC.                                                                                                       Pic: Oceania Junior Cup

“Racing overseas has demanded a lot of effort and extensive training. I’m at the track almost every single weekend, either participating in a track day at Hampton Downs, Taupo or Manfeild. When I’m not at a local track day, I’m racing in the South Island King of Canterbury rounds. And if I’m not there, we head down to the Tokoroa kart track for practice on my Yamaha R15. Additionally, I’ve been incorporating sauna sessions at the gym, spending 40 minutes in the sauna followed by 15 minutes on the stationary bike in full race gear, aiming to prepare myself for the Asia Talent Cup selection.”

Over the summer of 2023/24 Haydn will be competing in NZSBK 150 and 300 Supersport categories on Yamaha machinery. Look for him at the front of the field!

2022/23 NZSBK 150 Supersport champion Hunter Charlett joined OJC this season as a learning season and will return in 2024 to give it another good go. Hunter told us

“It has been great fun racing in OJC! My favourite part was learning all the new race tracks in Australia. But I found it quite hard competing against international riders.”

Well, difficult it may have been, but that level of competition has helped bring his lap times down and improve his overall racing craft. We wish Hunter all the best in 2024 OJC, but before that is the small job of defending his NZSBK 150 Supersport NZ #1 title. Missing one round, to go to OJC, already makes that job a bit tougher. But his OJC experience might just make the difference he needs to topple all the other young riders in our NZSBK entry level class.

The OJC 2023 squad, Hunter Charlett, front row third from left.                  Pic: Oceania Junior Cup

Asia Talent Cup selection

There are other championships for junior racers around the world who seek racing glory. In the Oceania region, the next step beyond OJC is the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup. The IATC sees young racers compete at GP circuits across the Asia region, from India to Japan. Young Kiwi racers have been attending the IATC selection event for several years now. With many IATC alumni now competing in the world championships, the level of competition for seats is extremely high. This is something that the two NZ racers who attended this year, discovered.

16 year old Cantabrian Harrison Shanks and Haydn Fordyce both attended IATC selection this year, in the heat and humidity of Sepang, Malaysia. While neither rider was successful in being selected, Harry told us that it was an amazing experience, learning about the world of high-level racing. He said “The list of training I did would bore you, but the main extra help for IATC was lots of cardio, time in a sauna/steam room and watching on-board video of the Sepang Kart track. I found the heat quite different and fatiguing if I didn’t look after myself. I found the day ended quite early and I only had two track sessions. I really enjoyed meeting new people and being among much higher competition in the different groups. My complete lack of Kart track experience and aggression was clear and possibly the telling difference for me getting selected or not.”

Haydn suggested that “Everything I’ve learned from the OJC has significantly improved my riding and prepared me perfectly for the IATC selection. At the event I encountered a bit of bad luck, being caught up in a crash a couple of laps into the warm-up session. That hurt my hip and hindered my ability to ride to my full potential in the selection session. Despite not being able to ride as fast as I would have liked, it was still an amazing experience. The extreme heat, coupled with the 90-plus percent humidity, presented a significant challenge. It made it much harder to maintain focus while riding. But it was incredible to witness the talent these kids have in Asia and to observe their style compared to riding in New Zealand.”

Harrison Shanks, IATC selection invitation.

Both Harrison and Haydn are amping up to compete in the NZSBK 300 Supersport class this summer (and 150 Supersport for Haydn). Both riders, with their overseas experience and winter training are looking good for championship glory this year.


British Talent Cup

One of the more important “Road to MotoGP” programmes is the British Talent Cup in the UK. Cormac spent his 2021 European season there with the Microlise Cresswell Racing team. In 2023 Tyler King (17) from Silverdale took the leap and entered two wildcard entries at Oulton Park and Donnington Park with that same team, run by stalwart John Cresswell. Racing the Honda NSF250 Moto3 machine was quite a departure from the Yamaha R3 he has been racing in NZ.

Tyler gave us some great insights into his adventures this year.

“This year I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to compete in the British Talent Cup in the UK as a wildcard entry. The team principle, John Cresswell was awesome to deal with and quickly put any worries we may have had, to rest.

“The bike I was to ride was a Honda NSF250, a small lightweight GP style race bike with a water-cooled high horsepower high revving engine. It had all the bells and whistles included, telemetry rods, data computers, full race suspension, super lightweight race components throughout, sitting on Dunlop slick racing tyres.

Tyler King, BTC 2023.                                                                                                      Pic: British Talent Cup

“The first ride I had on the bike was at Oulton Park Raceway. The bike felt super small and at first, took a while to get the “tuck” riding position sorted and comfortable. Once I did, I was away! The bike was much quicker than anything I had ridden in NZ and could corner so much faster than the street bikes we race here. Where usually I would scrub speed off under brakes on the straight before the corner, on the NSF I would roll off the gas and tip into the corner, on full throttle. It took me a few laps to get my head around it all whilst trying to learn the most difficult track I had ever been on to date.

“During the week before the next race at Donnington Park, I had some coaching from Danny Webb on a supermoto bike at a kart track. I learnt about rear brake control and various cornering techniques. All this from a world champion!

“Donnington is a huge track with thousands of spectators. We had really made it to the big stage!

“We had torrential rain for Sundays race which suited my riding style much better. My gentle application of throttle and slower movements around the bike proved to be beneficial in the rain. I passed 11 or 12 bikes and worked my way through the packs finishing 18th. I was in the top 10 for laptimes for the race. John and the team were stoked with my improvements and said that with more time on the GP style bikes, I would see even bigger improvements.

Team Microlise Cresswell Racing, BTC 2023.                                                                         Pic: S King

Some cultural and racing highlights were pointed out by Tyler.

“We had a break from the fast pace, relaxed in Valencia at the beach and ate all types of local food and swam in the ocean, which was warm and super salty. It was great! Then we headed to Alcaniz and Motorland Aragon, to watch Cormac race in the Junior GP. He was one of the fastest riders there that weekend. He showed that ‘never give up’ attitude that we expected from a Kiwi. He battled from the back to the front, crashed, picked it up and got back to 10th position. We were so proud of him!

“The trip was the most action packed month of my life. I saw how the other side of the world lives, eats and races. I learnt so much about mentally preparing for a race, warming up my brain and body and speeding up reaction times. I learnt about visualising and going through laps of the track in my head before a race. I learnt about data capture and how to use the data to improve results. I learnt about the team environment, communication and I learnt a lot about myself!

Asked what is on the cards for 2024, Tyler replied,

“We have started fundraising the money required to complete the whole season in the British Talent Cup next year which starts in March. I can’t wait to see what 14 rounds of GP style riding will teach me.”

Wow, another Kiwi on the BTC grid!! Fantastic! Can’t think of a better team to be with either!

BTC is a really great step up for young riders from NZ and Australia who may want to try the GP racing route. With similar cultures, language and food, and the lower costs being an amateur series, it makes it much more accessible as a first step than trying to jump straight into Europe. There are also other great series in the UK that riders might think about such as Junior Supersport (300/400) and the ever green SuperTeen Cup which over the next few years will use the new Kawasaki ZX400RR race bikes). Casey Stoner is but one of the former champions of the SuperTeen Cup.

Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup

The pinnacle programme for young racers seeking Grand Prix glory is the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup. Rookies Cup alumni now make up a huge proportion of the Grand Prix paddock. Over 50% of all Rookies alumni have now made GP starts and several are now world champions. A growing group of young kiwi riders have trialled for Rookies Cup over the years. Many more, from all over the world, relocate their lives to Europe (Spain in particular) from their homes in order to train for and compete in Copa d’Espagna, European Talent Cup, Junior GP and Rookies Cup.

Cormac has just completed his third and final season of Rookies Cup, with several stand out rides. Those include leading a couple of races and being within literal centimetres of the podium on several more occasions. No Rookie has ever ended up as high as he did, from his starting position in 2021. He has certainly opened plenty of eyes with his talent, dedication and speed.

In 2023 two young Kiwi racers braved the extremely high levels of competition to take on the Rookies Cup. With the assistance of Moto Academy NZ, Keiran Mair (15) from Upper Hutt and Tyler King were selected to attend the final selection event in Spain in October. The level of competition at Rookies Cup selection is the highest in the world, with the best young racers from around the world representing their teams, nations and themselves. The Moriwaki MD250H Pre-Moto3 machines used in the selection event are also very different to the production bikes the boys race at home. Unfortunately neither of the Kiwi riders made it into the final day of the selection this time round, but both gained important experience from the event.

Keiran had been riding the Moto Academy NZ IMD iM250 Pre-Moto3 bike in preparation. However, perhaps not quite enough, as he indicated.

“I found the Red Bull Rookies selection event to be a fun but challenging experience. It was incredible how the other riders adapted to the bikes and the track so quickly despite being unable to change anything on the bikes. I struggled quite a lot with getting used to the bikes, and I never really did. I really needed to spend more time in the iM250, but finding the time to do that is difficult. But I still enjoyed the event heaps. It showed me the level at which riders from around the world are now riding. It is extremely high!”

Keiran Mair and Tyler King, Red Bull Rookies Cup selection, Guadix Circuit, Andalucia, Spain.                                                                                                          Pic: S King

When asked to describe his experience, Tyler replied,

“It was a stinking hot day reaching temperatures of 32 odd degrees. Each group was given two 20 minute sessions to go out and show what we were capable of. In my group of 8, I was the 3rd fastest. The two in front of me were selected for day 3 while the rest of us missed out.

“The trial started with over a hundred riders and a total of 13 or 14 were selected, so it was very hard and competitive. It became noticeable how much faster the Spaniards were to everyone else in the world. I believe this was mainly due to how they had ridden GP bikes since they were of a young age.

“The trial was an amazing experience and it was useful to see where I needed to work on my style and techniques if I was to want to ride GP bikes for a living.”

Both Keiran and Tyler will be in action this summer in NZSBK 300 Supersport racing on a Yamaha R3 and the new KTM RC390 respectively. Keiran will also be in action in 150 Supersport for extra track time and racing development.

Keiran Mair, Rookies Cup selection 2023.                                                               Pic: S Bagshaw

Tyler King, Rookies Cup selection 2023.                                                                                   Pic: S King

Preparing the Rookies Cup selection bikes (Moriwaki MD250H).                                  Pic: S King

We thank all of these young riders who have decided to put their best feet forward and brave the high levels of international competition out there in our sport.

We wish them all the best for this summer and for whatever 2024 will bring them, their supporters and families.

Meri Kirihimete tatau, Merry Christmas everyone!

Full noise!!