Young Cormac Buchanan has become the first New Zealander to get the call-up to contest the Red Bull Rookie Cup, the motorcycle racing equivalent of motor racing's Red Bull Junior Team.
The Rookie Cup was established back in 2006 and next year the series will have 26 riders from 16 countries. Mimicking the success of developing young talent on four wheels, the two-wheel Rookie Cup has built a reputation as a pathway to MotoGP.
Over the last 14 years ex-Rookies have won seven world championships including this year's MotoGP world champion, Joan Mir, and graduates have dominated in Moto3 and Moto2.
"I've been working really hard on developing my riding and to finally be able to achieve this goal is fantastic," Buchanan told the Herald.
"I got woken up at midnight when everyone came into my room and told me I had been selected. When I saw my name as one of the selected riders on that press release I was very happy that's for sure.
"It's taken a few days for it to sink in but I think it has now. It's awesome and I can't wait until next year."
Buchanan started his two-wheeled career on the dirt ovals of solo speedway at the tender age of seven and only switched to road racing in 2019. During his short, but spectacular speedway stint, the now 14-year-old won nearly every junior title in New Zealand and was named Junior Solo Competitor of the Year at the Speedway New Zealand Awards in 2017 and 2018.
"Doing speedway has helped me road racing. I'm always ready for when the bike starts to slide or drift. The road bike does move around a lot and if you're not ready to catch that and handle it, it's not going to be pretty.
"You do get good skills from speedway and if you look at [Valentino] Rossi he's got all his junior riders out doing flat tracking and speedway to learn throttle control.
"I decided to switch to road racing after my dad took me to a MotoGP race in Australia and I told him that's what I wanted to do, and it's been a success since then."
Being too young to road race in New Zealand, Buchanan headed to Australia to contest the inaugural Oceania Junior Cup. Fighting it out at the pointy end of the field proved Buchanan had the pace and in round two he qualified on the front row in P2. As the season progressed he continued to improve, regularly earning top five finishes.
Following on from this success, Buchanan was one of two riders selected to represent Oceania at the Red Bull Rookies Cup selection event in Spain and went up against the best young riders from around the world. He was good enough to make into the final 30 racers but missed out on the final cut for a place in the 2020 series. "I knew I had a few things to work on and I knew it wasn't my last chance as I knew I was young enough to have another go.
"I still had a fair way to go with my riding style as the bikes are quite different to what I'm used to. I also had to get into the gym and get much fitter and a few other little things.
"Missing out made me even more determined because I really wanted that spot, so I knew I just had to come harder this year and knew I'd have a good chance of being in the frame of being selected.
"Then Covid hit. I had to show them that I was good enough to go in 2021 and it worked out," he said.
Buchanan has had a strong 2020 race season winning the SuperSport 150 championship, the New Zealand Grand Prix and the New Zealand Tourist Trophy. He's also a rider at the Yamaha Motor New Zealand Racing Development Team and part of the Moto Academy NZ, and is being mentored by founder Dr Steve Bagshaw.
"Steve's just about taught me everything I know on a road bike. Without him I wouldn't be where I am now. He's pretty much gone everywhere with us and is very much part of the journey. Big ups to him."