Asia Talent Cup winner on his exceptional first season competing overseas.
This year has been a mega one for 16-year-old Australian rising star Billy van Eerde, embarking on an international career contesting the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup and Red Bull Rookies Cup series – both official paths to the world championship. First year in, van Eerde clinched the Asian title at Sepang on Sunday, while he finished 19th in the European-based rookies series with a best result of ninth in Austria. CycleOnline.com.au spoke to the talented teenager on return home this week to reflect upon his Asia Talent Cup success and what was a major step forward in his career in 2018.
Congratulations on winning the Asia Talent Cup, which was an awesome result and you must be really satisfied with the title!
Yeah, it was an awesome result to win it my first year in the cup. It’s been a great year, I’ve learnt a lot along the way and I’m just stoked.
When you first went over for the trial and began the journey in Asia, did you ever expect that victory in the first year would be possible?
Maybe not the championship, but I always wanted to be up the front. I wanted to battle at the front, but didn’t think I’d be able to win the championship, nah…
What was going through your mind in that last race when battling for the championship? It was an incredibly tight fight in the lead group and track position was crucial.
Race one was a bit of a disaster when I crashed out in fourth – just pushed a bit too hard into turn seven and lost the front. I was pretty disappointed in that, so I went into race two even more nervous than I would’ve been [laughs], but I stayed in the front group and put the quickest lap of the race in on the last lap. It wasn’t quite enough to catch the front two, although they had that incident across the line and I ended up getting the win so it was good.
Following the race, did you have an idea that [Haruki] Noguchi may have had a penalty applied and that you still had a chance of winning the cup as a result?
As soon as I saw that they hit across the line and that there was a big crash, I knew something would happen and that I still had a chance at the title, but I wasn’t quite sure.
This year you were also part of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup, which is European based and on KTM machinery rather than the Honda you’ve been on in Asia. How was that series for you?
It’s been really difficult in the rookies. I struggled quite a bit, even though I had really good pace at some tracks and had a few crashes. The bike is completely different and it was a bit tricky going from Asia Talent Cup to the Red Bull Rookies, but next year we will just have to try again and hopefully I can get up toward the front.
You are confirmed to be retiring to the rookies in 2019, but aside from that is there anything else planned yet?
Nothing’s confirmed yet, but I’d like to race in the Junior Moto3 World Championship. We’ll just have to wait and see if something comes up.
Tell us about your friendship and relationship with Australia’s MotoGP racer Jack Miller. I know you have been involved with him quite a bit this season and he’s often there by your side at the races you’re in…
It was a great year and without him where we stayed in Europe wouldn’t have been possible. Jack helped us out a lot all year with bikes, training and accomodation, so it couldn’t have happened without him. He treats me like a friend, he is a great friend, so it’s definitely good.
That kind of experience offers a really direct insight into what life’s like as a MotoGP rider as well, doesn’t it?
Yeah, it’s good to know what they’re doing to prepare for races, how hard they train and all of that. It definitely helps!