FROM race winners, to support class champions, to British title holders, world superbike race winners, and road racing legends, an arguable majority of the UK’s motorcycle racing greats laid their foundations in one place.
Currently branded the Dunlop Aprilia Superteen Challenge as part of Stewart Events’ Thundersport GB promotion, the series has taken on several marques during its 20+ year history.
Despite the almost purely four-stroke racing hierarchy that has come about after the turn of the century, short circuit and road racing success stories are still being exported from the two-stroke one-make championship.
Ian Newton, series coordinator and Superteens mainstay since 1995, feels that there is still great merit in beginning one’s racing career on the road-going 125.
Chassis and engine-wise, the bike hasn’t changed all that much – other than a complete cosmetic overhaul – since its introduction to the public in 1992.
In the four-stroke dominated world, what makes the diminutive eighth-litre motorcycle so good?
For one, it is significantly cheaper to purchase than the GP-designed Moto3 bikes of the British Motostar standard, even more affordable than the parallel-running standard NSF250R Honda class which commenced this past season.
As a road-legal bike, the Aprilia is meant to run at constant load for long periods without masses of maintenance and between-session cylinder checks like the prototype machinery that was once the grand prix 125 class of the world championship.
Even aside from price differences, two strokes teach clutch control, mechanical sympathy, and corner speed – not to say that four strokes fall short in these areas, but they can impart bad habits like relying on engine torque to make up for lack of cornering confidence.
2010 Superteen Champion, 2013 Triumph Triple Challenge title holder, and now perpetual National Superstock 1000 top-tenner Chrissy Rouse reckons there’s a lot he has carried through his career thus far that the Aprilias taught him in his two-year assault on the series.
“Every Superteen race you always had a bike just in front and at least one right behind,” said Rouse, “so you learn a lot of skills that are useful for fighting in battles… slipstreaming, taking positions, defending positions.”
“Then the experience of leading races, learning race craft and the physiological challenges of fighting it out for a championship.”
Let’s count the successes…
Without a doubt the most famous of all Superteens is 2000 title holder and double MotoGP World Champ Casey Stoner, who lived in Ian Newton’s garden with his parents for a period while inking his name in the history books.
Adding to the prototype prowess is 2015 Moto3 World Champion Danny Kent, who in his 2007 Aprilia series run was bested only by a certain James Folkard.
Welshman and 2011 Supersport World Champion Chaz Davies finished second to Stoner in the Aussie’s millennium charge, and was named ‘Superteen of the Year’ in the season prior.
2013 was a prominent year for the class’s success stories, with the Superbike World Champion of that year, Tom Sykes, contributing to the recognition of the racing ladder’s notable rung.
That same season, twins and ’03 season perpetual podium pupils Sam and Alex Lowes took the Supersport World Championship and the British Superbike Championship, respectively, with the former now a regular frontrunner in the Moto2 Grand Prix class and the latter a multi-time rostrum racer in WSBK.
Even on the roads side there is a case to be made, as Isle of Man TT star, Macau master, and BSB old guard Michael Rutter graduated third in show in the 1991 (jesus) running.
Dropping names would only prove our point at this juncture, but it suffices to at least list the monikers of current BSB boys James Ellison, Peter Hickman, Lee Jackson, Stuart Easton, Danny Buchan, and Martin Jessop, as well as Mountain Course Legend John McGuinness, all of whom cut their teeth with one or more seasons in the Aprilia Superteens championship.
Are the two strokes phasing out slowly and surely as a modern step in racing career progression? We can all agree on that without question, but that doesn’t spell the end of the class by any means.
While the 32bhp-RS125 is open to 12-19 year olds in Superteens, the rising popularity of the four-stroke birthed an equally-powered (with restriction) 450 called the RRV450R, which may be run in the championship from age 12 to 21.
Although not technically part of the series, the RRV450GP Challenge is meant to be a further step, using Aprilia’s unrestricted 450 machine as a basis for racers on the senior side of 14.
If none of this makes sense, ask yourself if a young racer is setting himself up for fear and failure jumping from a minimoto or a Metrakit to a full-blown Moto3 machine.
There are most certainly other British racing series that provide great stages for advancing a budding racing career, but we challenge readers to name one that has the history, storied success, and proven penny-consciousness of Aprilia Superteens.
*Main image by Colin Port