Features 4 Jul 2017

Industry Insight: MotoStars' Damian Cudlin

MotoStars founder on the road racing series and events.

Well-known Australian international racer Damian Cudlin is currently in the first full season of operating the MotoStars Road Racing Series, working closely with some of the country’s most youthful two-wheel talent and creating an enjoyable family-orientated atmosphere to be a part of. Considering his Endurance World Championship commitments and with around 40 events on the MotoStars schedule – made up of a six-round series and many practice/coaching days – it’s a mammoth task that Cudlin has set out, but so far, it’s proven to be immensely satisfying and also increasingly successful for those involved. CycleOnline.com.au tracked down Cudlin following round three at Toowoomba in Queensland last weekend to speak all about his fascinating MotoStars project. To learn more about MotoStars, visit www.motostars.com.au and be sure to Like their Facebook Page @motostarsaustralia.

Source: Supplied.

Three rounds into the inaugural MotoStars season, how’s it all going?

We’re three rounds in, which is halfway through the season now. If we look back at the three rounds we’ve had, you could say it’s been a real success – we’ve gone better than what I anticipated, to tell you the truth. I’ve competed in a lot of races and experienced how a lot of events are run, but I’ve never run one myself. When you get on the other side of the wall and actually see what goes on behind the scenes, there’s really a lot involved. From that side of things, I’m really happy with how MotoStars and the team that we’ve surrounded ourself with have coped through it all. We’ve just gotten better and better in each race that’s gone along, and I think in terms of the popularity, our classes really cover a big range of riders, so there’s something there for everyone. There’s something for juniors, something for seniors, something for supermoto and even minimoto riders too. I think we have a really good spread that encourages a lot of riders. Hopefully we can get MotoStars publicised more so it’s better known – the more it’s out there the more riders will be inclined to give it a go.

One thing that stands out with the series is the professionalism and presentation. How important is that aspect of running the events?

I’m a big believer in looking professional in this sport, the only way we can appeal to outside of the industry sponsors is to look professional – if you look at other sports that are mainstream like rugby league, cricket and tennis, the level of professionalism when they’re doing their press releases or interviews, it’s easy to see why they attract attention from mainstream media and sponsors. I want to instil that into these guys early – and with the juniors – as it’s good for these guys to see that this is a professionally run series and that there are media responsibilities. It’s all sort of part of getting them ready for bigger and better things in the future, such as a bigger series if they progress – it’s just laying that groundwork early. That’s our idea, we want to think of it that way and encourage outside sponsors to get involved.

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You’re from a junior road racing background yourself, so is that where the motivation came from to create MotoStars?

Yeah, you know, it is. I think I was lucky enough back in the day when Tony Hatton introduced those Moriwaki 80s along with Wayne Holland – they put that little series together. Myself, yourself Al, and a bunch of other riders such as Broc Parkes, Anthony West, Chris Vermeulen, Wayne Maxwell – the names in that series at the time sort of went onto make professional careers out of racing. I don’t think that was a coincidence – I don’t think it just happened to be that we all just turned up on the same day. I think the reason we were able to make careers out of it was because we were exposed to it before anyone else was – we had that head start on everyone else. I was aware of how big a difference that made, and as I raced around the world, I became more aware of how some of these Aussie kids were coming over and sort of being left behind by the Spaniards, Italians and the rest of Europeans who are exposed to it so much more. I can’t tell you how many times when I was riding MotoGP that parents would introduce themselves to me with their young son who had won some Australian dirt track titles, they’re giving Red Bull Rookies a go and the parents have sold their house and put everything they own into it – the poor kid is thrown in the deep end on a bike he’s never ridden before on tracks he’s never been exposed too, and you know, riding against an Italian or Spanish kid who’s already been riding for four or five years. They would often get beaten and discouraged, and go home deflated with the wind out of their sails. I used to see that all the time, and I really think they were kids who were slipping through the net. It was through no fault of their own or lack of talent, just a lack of exposure. When I decided to move back from Europe to Australia, I wanted to make sure we started something that allowed the talented kids out there to have a stepping stone – something to lay the groundwork so when they get those opportunities to move onto bigger and better things, they’re more prepared for it.

And one thing that you’re doing within your series is hosting the events at some of the country’s most quality kart tracks. Is that the best way to learn on these junior bikes?

Well you know, I think there’s a lot of positives in using karting tracks. For me, I think that the type of tracks in karting, there’s no rest – you’ve got be working all the time. There’s no sort of rest between corners, so that keeps the kids really busy. The other thing is that the speeds are relatively low, so in terms of crashes and that sort of stuff, it’s pretty safe. It’s a pretty controlled environment, and it gives the kids a chance to experiment with their style over the limit without big consequences. So that’s a positive part of it, the other thing is that I can incorporate supermoto into it as well. Supermoto is another discipline to me that is fantastic and a relatively cheap way to go road racing. Australia has a tendency where the top road racers come from dirt track, so I wanted to do something where these dirt trackers could swap tyres, or even use their wet oil track setup, and you know, come give the black top a try with the bikes they already have. That was my whole idea with the karting circuits, but obviously there’s karting circuit all over the place and some are better than others, but we’ve been adamant on trying to get the best ones around. I think the ones we have on our calendar are some of the best in the country.

What are the primary regular categories with the series?

There’s four groups really, juniors have a couple of different age groups and machine categories, so there’s MotoStars Junior and MotoStars youth – they’re on 12-inch wheeled bikes, then we also have a 150cc production class. The reason we introduced that is for people who are already out there on Yamaha R-15’s in the GP Juniors Cup for example, or for people who aren’t necessarily on a Yamaha – we have guys on Suzukis and Hondas too. I wanted to have a 150cc production class where all the manufactures can get involved, and that seems to be pretty popular. That’s the junior side of things, we’ve also got supermoto – that’s a main category of ours, it’s starting to attract some of the best riders in the country too. At Port Macquarie, we had the likes of Jamie Stauffer, Ben Attard, Luke Richards – a multiple dirt track champ – Aaron Watson – a multi supermoto champ, and you know, guys like Andy Macleish – they’re contacting me now about getting involved. We’re attracting some of the top racers in the country already which is great. The other side of it is minimotos, at the moment it’s just adults, but the idea with it is to have younger kids on them in the future. Obviously the size is a good starting point for them, hopefully we can progress and lower the starting age to add a junior minimoto class to it. Finally, we have a senior road category, which is aimed at hobby/enthusiast riders – guys who want to have a cheap way of going racing, without the fear of missing work on Monday. Just on the safety side of thing, it’s a lot safer at our events. It’s just a cheap way to go racing, our bikes for example you can be bought brand new from just over $3500, that’s an entry level price where two mates at a pub can convince each other to have a go. At the last round, we had three fathers racing who have sons in the junior categories – the dads had been spannering at the first two rounds and thought they should have a go themselves. It was actually one of the best races of the day – the dads were going at it! That’s another category that we’re trying to grow, the bikes eligible for that are ones like Honda Groms, Kawasaki Z-125s and of course the Kayo. That’s growing in popularity as well.

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At the events it’s not simply about the racing from what we understand, as there’s the coaching side of it and also the social side as well. They appear to be a good time!

We wanted to make the Saturdays a relaxed atmosphere, so they’re kind of a practice and coaching day. People can come practice and get their bikes setup, the serious guys will experiment with settings and stuff. Those that are just getting into it can do some coaching and learn more about the way to ride these bikes. They can get themselves licensed – that used to be a daunting task – a tedious and time consuming one. Now you can come to our events on the Saturday with no prior experience or licence and we can cover all those sort of things for you, so that you can get licensed, endorsed and ticked off by an accredited coach to race on Sunday. We do that on the Saturday, and that proves to be really popular. I remember when I was a kid, mum and dad never had much money, we used to go around in a Toyota Troupe carrier and caravan top to camp everywhere. Some of those camping trips were so much fun, we used to all hangout together and skid around on our pushbikes while our parents had a barbecue and a few cold ones. There was a lot more comradery than what there has been recently, the way the sport has gone, everyone is doing motels and their own dinners, they’re not socialising as much as what we used to. I wanted to bring that back, so one of the big things with the venues that we chose was camping – I wanted to have camping involved at them all. Everywhere that we go, we can camp at the race track, so more and more people are now starting to bring their pop-top caravans to stay on the Saturday nights. To encourage that, we’ve been putting on live music, bands and stuff like a free sausage sizzle on the Saturdays, just to create a bit of a social atmosphere there. It’s proved to be pretty popular and I want to try and keep that going so it’s not just the kids that are having a good time, it’s the parents too who have a good time with the family.

It definitely sounds like a blast and you’re doing great things for the sport, so well done mate and we will stay in touch.

Thanks Al, I appreciate the support that CycleOnline.com.au has given and the exposure we’ve had, I think that’s the number one thing now, to get people aware of what we’re doing so they know about it. We really do need our numbers to increase, we’ve got a good solid crew of riders who are coming all the time now, but we really need more and more numbers to help it grow and take it where I want it to go. The more exposure we can get the better, and we appreciate you putting it out there for us.