Billy Van Eerde’s Red Bull MotoGP Rookies campaign underway

After a pre-season like no other for Billy Van Eerde, the youngster has now embarked on a busy 2018 that will see him racing across the globe in not only the Red Bull Rookies MotoGP Cup, but also back on our side of the world for the Asia Talent Cup.  What an adventure!

Helping the teenager along in this brave new world on the other side of the world are a few Aussies based in Andorra.  One of those countrymen giving Billy a hand while on unfamiliar territory is none other than Pramac Ducati rider Jack Miller.

Billy has been riding Trials bikes, Supermoto bikes, mountain bikes and pretty much anything that has wheels on it in the company of Miller in recent weeks. Van Eerde also had his first blooding in the Red Bull Rookies ranks when the opening round of the 2018 competition got underway at Jerez last weekend.

His weekend started off steadily as he gained track knowledge and up to speed across the opening two practice sessions, concentrating more on himself than changes to the machine and eventually qualified 15th despite a crash half way through the session.

Billy Van Eerde
Billy Van Eerde

While for the majority of the field this is their second year in Red Bull Rookies, Van Eerde is one of a handful of newcomers that made it through the qualification process to join the big game for season 2018.

Nerves on the big stage alongside the Jerez MotoGP event that the Rookies was part of got the better of Billy in race one, but he made progress in race two and is looking forward to the next bout at Mugello early next month.

Billy Van Eerde

“The first race I rode really nervous and not my best, so I was making silly mistakes during the race. I got a good start in race two and made my way up to 12th. Once again I rode a little nervous though and dropped back before then finding some rhythm to start  catching the group in front of me which included riders up to 7th place. In the second half of the race the gap stayed at around 2-3 seconds and I crossed the line just out of the points in 17th place. Overall it was a pretty good weekend with a positive ending. Looking forward to mugello and will keep training hard.”

Billy Van Eerde has had help and encouragement from Jack Miller
Billy Van Eerde has had help and encouragement from Jack Miller

2018 Red Bull Rookies Round One

Qualifying & Race Reports

Carlos Tatay sits in pole position for his first Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup race after a brilliant 25 minutes of qualifying on his Moto3 Spec KTM. The 14-year-old Spaniard bettered Cup favourite, 14-year-old Turk Can Öncü, by 0.132 seconds, with 16-year-old Japanese Ryusei Yamanaka completing the front row.

Ryusei Yamanaka
Ryusei Yamanaka leading onto the straight

Peetu Paavilainen, the 16-year-old Finn, shrugged off his injured right thumb from the preseason test and put himself in fifth. With just two seconds covering the field except for 15-year-old Colombian who upset his elbow in an FP2 fall, it is almost certain to be a tight battle as usual when the grid lined up to start season 12 on Saturday.

Aussie Billy Van Eerde was 15th in qualifying, 1.561s off pole-sitter Tatay.


  1. Carlos TATAY – SPA
  2. Can ÖNCÜ – TUR
  3. Ryusei YAMANAKA – JPN
  4. Deniz ÖNCÜ – TUR
  6. Filip SALAC – CZE
  7. Matteo PATACCA – ITA
  8. Dan JONES – GBR
  9. Yuki KUNII – JPN
  10. Meikon KAWAKAMI – BRA
    …15 Billy VAN EERDE – AUS

Race 1

Can Öncü confirmed his status as favourite for the 2018 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup with an impressive victory in the first race of the season in Jerez. The 14-year-old Turk had to work hard for it though, only getting the better of first timer Carlos Tatay, the 14-year-old Spaniard, with two immaculate final laps.

Tatay and Yamanaka leading the field
Tatay and Yamanaka leading the field

It had been an eight-man battle for the lead and only the last quarter of the sixteen laps saw Tatay and Öncü get away. Czech 16-year-old Filip Salač closed them down though and chased them home with Deniz Öncü, twin brother of Can, taking a close fourth.

Can Öncü

“Yes that was a fun race, it was a clean race all the way, the guys were fast and we really enjoyed it. I had a great battle with Carlos and I think it will be even more fun tomorrow. I bet the pace will be quicker, the race will be tougher. I’m happy with the bike and I have to say thanks to everyone involved who gives us the chance to do this.”

Carlos Tatay

“I’m happy with that. It’s OK for my first race. I pushed hard, I didn’t want to make any mistakes in my first race and I am happy with second. Can was quick, when it came to the last lap I pushed hard in the first two sectors to try and catch him but then I realised that it wouldn’t happen unless he made a mistake and he didn’t.”

Red Bull Rookies at Jerez
Red Bull Rookies at Jerez
Filip Salač

“It was a good race but in the middle Yamanaka made a bit of a mistake and we lost touch with Can and Carlos. I went after them, worked hard to catch up but doing that wrecked the tyres and I had nothing left for the last laps. Tomorrow will be different, there is nothing much wrong with the bike, I just have to be in a better position towards the end.”

Deniz Öncü

“I wasted time saving my tyres, a big mistake. I spent the first ten laps just sitting in the slipstream of the others planning for the end. Then Yamanaka and Salač made a mess in front and I lost the group. I got past Yamanaka and went after Salač but by then it was too late and though I put in some quick laps it wasn’t enough,” commented the new lap record holder. “I will make a different race tomorrow.”

Deniz Öncü
Deniz Öncü

Ryusei Yamanaka lost fifth to 14-year-old Spaniard Xavi Artigas at the end and the 16-year-old Japanese was less than impressed.

Australian Billy Van Eerde was 19th.

Race 1 Results

  1. Can ÖNCÜ TUR
  2. Carlos TATAY SPA
  3. Filip SALAC CZE
  4. Deniz ÖNCÜ TUR
  5. Xavier ARTIGAS SPA
  6. Ryusei YAMANAKA JPN
  7. Barry BALTUS BEL
  8. Sean KELLY USA
  9. Adrian CARRASCO SPA
  10. Meikon KAWAKAMI BRA
    …19. Billy VAN EERDE AUS

Race 2

Carlos Tatay turned the tables on Can Öncü and won the second race of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup at Jerez. The Spaniard, who turns fifteen on Monday, had chased the 14-year-old Turk home on Saturday but this time took victory with a perfect out-braking move at the final turn.

Red Bull Rookies Race 2
Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Race 2

Öncü thought there was still another lap remaining as did his twin brother Deniz and 16-year-old Czech Filip Salač who’s KTMs flashed across the line together, third and fourth. They had seen an official lap board showing 2 laps-to-go the previous time round and didn’t see a chequered flag.

Tatay had made no such mistake but almost blew his chances when he outbraked himself at the back straight on that final lap.

Carlos Tatay

“I knew it was the last lap from my own pit board and I braked late, to get ahead of Can, I braked too late, a Rookie mistake. The rear wheel came up and I went wide, Can got back in front.”

Carlos Tatay
Carlos Tatay

Can Öncü’s face in the parc fermé left no doubt as to what he thought of the result but half an hour later he had put it in perspective.

Can Öncü

“These things can happen, Tatay rode a great race, he is very fast and I enjoyed racing with him. I am happy because both my brother and I are on the podium and we have good points for the championship. We will both work even harder training for the next race and come back even stronger.”

Third and fourth also swapped from Saturday with Deniz Öncü crossing the line just ahead of Salač.

Deniz Öncü

“It was a better race today, the track was more slippery but I kept pushing. My start wasn’t so great but I managed to get into the lead group. In the middle of the race I just made a few small mistakes and Tatay and my brother got away a little. Still I am happy to be on the podium and at the next races I will do better.”

Deniz Öncü
Deniz Öncü

Salač holds joint third in the Cup points with Deniz Öncü and was not thrilled with the way the race went.

Filip Salač

“I think I was running the wrong gearing compared to the others. Accelerating on the straights, the early changes we were making together but as we changed up they would be changing earlier than me and I just couldn’t get in a position to try and pass on the brakes. There was a bit more wind and it was hotter than yesterday. I was just planning for the last lap and how I might pass Deniz, I saw 2 laps-to-go but the next time round it was the end of the race, I lost my chance to pass him.”

It was two Japanese who came home fifth and sixth with 16-year-old Ryusei Yamanaka placing one better than yesterday but still frustrated after qualifying third.

Improving from his Race 1 result, Billy Van Eerde took 17th in Race 2.

Race 2 Results

  1. Carlos TATAY – SPA
  2. Can ÖNCÜ – TUR
  3. Deniz ÖNCÜ – TUR
  4. Filip SALAC – CZE
  5. Ryusei YAMANAKA – JPN
  6. Yuki KUNII – JPN
  7. Sean KELLY – USA
  8. Steward GARCIA – COL
  9. Matteo PATACCA – ITA
  10. Adrian HUERTAS – SPA
    …17. Billy VAN EERDE – AUS
Can Oncu, Carlos Tatay and Deniz Oncu
Carlos Tatay, Can Oncu and Deniz Oncu

Standings following Jerez

  1. TATAY Carlos SPA 45
  2. ÖNCÜ Can TUR 45
  3. ÖNCÜ Deniz TUR 29
  4. SALAC Filip CZE 29
  5. YAMANAKA Ryusei JPN 21
  6. KELLY Sean USA 17
  7. KUNII Yuki JPN 15
  8. BALTUS Barry BEL 14
  9. ARTIGAS Xavier SPA 12
  10. GARCIA Steward COL 8

It was a great start to the 12th Rookies Cup season and Sunday’s earlier three GPs showed what the ex Rookies are now up to with more than half the nine podium places going to alumni.

Barry Batlus and Adrian Carrasco
Barry Batlus and Adrian Carrasco

Ex Rookies finished first and third in Moto3 with Philipp Öttl and Marcos Ramirez, there a Rookies one-two in Moto2 thanks to Lorenzo Baldassarri and Miguel Oliveira, new 2019 Red Bull KTM signing Johann Zarco finished second in MotoGP.

To cap a great day, ex Rookie Josep Garcia presented the Rookies trophies, he is 2017 Enduro World Champion and also 2017 ISDE winner for KTM.


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