Buriram (Thailand): Former Moto GP rider Tomoyoshi Koyama, who is coaching the Honda Indian riders for the ongoing Asian Road Race Championship, feels they should start at an early age to compete at the highest level, a provision which is not there at present due to license rules.
Riders in the country cannot get a license before the age of 13 as defined by the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI).
Auto major Honda, which has been competing as a team on the Asian Road Race Championship (ARRC) since last year as Idemitsu Honda Racing India, have requested the FMSCI to reduce the age cap by atleast a year or two for better development of their riders as they aim to make a mark at the Asian level.
"In other countries, they start (with) the motorcycle very young. For me, I started at the age of three. (Marc) Márquez also started at five," Koyama told IANS on the sidelines of ARRC round 3 at the Chang International Circuit on Saturday.
"I think they should start racing from an early age. Maybe five years or like that. That's how they can get better. If you start at 13 or 14, its difficult to understand," said the 36-year old Japanese who was roped in as rider coach on a full time basis this year.
India currently have two riders -- Rajiv Sethu and Senthil Kumar -- at the ARRC. In round 2 which was held in Australia, promising 21-year old Rajiv scripted a maiden top-10 finish.
The 21-year old Rajiv continued his good form here as well, setting a personal best lap time of 1:55.146 at practice on Friday before finishing a brilliant seventh in qualifying with a timing of 1:53:573. In race 1, however, the Chennai lad failed to keep the momentum going by finishing 22nd. Race 2 is on Sunday.
Among the young riders, 15-year old Mohammad Mikail and 19-year old Kritik Habib are also competing in the Thailand Talent Cup (Honda's development program for Asian riders run on NSF250R) as part of Honda's India talent hunt initiative.
"Since we have some talent which are just under 13, so we want to utilise that talent. We want to provide them opportunity," Prabhu Nagaraj, vice president - Brand and Communications, Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India Pvt. Ltd, told IANS.
"So for those specific cases, we are discussing with FMSCI. We have also studied other countries and provided information to them. They are positive. Hopefully, we should get some result in terms of reducing it by a year or two," he said.
Asked how optimistic Honda about the proposal seeing the light of the day, Nagaraj said: "The talks are at the racing commission level. We have already requested them and they are discussing internally.
"We have told them to reduce it to 11 but for specific cases we have as we have 12 year olds (waiting in the wings). I am not sure what consideration they will have. But even if it is reduced by a year, we can have opportunity for the young ones which we have already identified.
"We are expecting, maybe they will consider it this year itself."
Koyama also made no bones about the fact that Rajiv should first focus on getting better on the Asian circuit as the world championship is a different ball game altogether.
"Step by step he is getting better. In Australia, he finished in top 10. He needs more experience." said Koyama who currently races in the MFJ All-Japan Road Race ST600 Championship and the Asia Road Race SS600 Championship.
"World Championship is still far. He needs more Asian Championships and more experience.
"Maybe his next step is the Spanish Championship CEV (Campeonatu d'España de Velocidá) Repsol International Championship, Moto 3, or Asian Championship 600."
Further talking about the areas he can get better, Koyama said: "He needs to stay on the track more. There were problems with suspension setting, also engine problem. Top riders can adjust riding even if setting is not very good. But he cannot. This year, he tried to adjust."
(Debayan Mukherjee can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org)