Motorsport: Italian team snap up Wellington teen

New Zealand motorcyle trials champion Jake Whitaker has signed with a European team for a full crack at the world youth championships in 2008.

Wellingtonian Whitaker, 16, has signed a one-year contract with Italy's Future Trial Racing Team and will campaign on a 125cc four-stroke Honda Montessa.

He won his first New Zealand championship when he beat seven-times champion and mentor, Levin's Warren Laugesen, at the nationals in Hawke's Bay in October.

Whitaker heads for Italy on January 9 for the team's base in Bergamo, near Milan, and will have Karl and Debbie Clarke, also from Wellington, to act as minders for him.

Karl Clarke, also a trials rider of note, has joined the Italian team as a mechanic.

Trials riding involves guiding the bike over and around rugged terrain and obstacles, man-made and natural, such as huge tyres and waterfalls and rocks.

Riders incur penalties if they place a foot on the ground or stall their bikes.

Whitaker who contested three rounds of this year's world youth trials championships, is excited with his opportunity for a full campaign.

"I've only been riding a four-stroke bike for about six weeks now but already I'm flicking it around like I could with the two-stroke Gas Gas machine," he said.

"I learned a lot during my brief time in Europe this year and came back a better rider.

"It was a bit nerve-wracking, riding in front of thousands of spectators in England.

"My best result was a 12th placing but that's not bad considering I was up against the best riders in the world."

Whitaker, whose world championship campaign will take him to the United States and Japan, is also down to compete for the Italian title.

"Hopefully, I'll do enough to keep my position in the team, consolidate and gain a place in the team again the next year."

- NZPA

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